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help a mama out – school uniforms

This fall we will be homeschooling our oldest at a kindergarten level, and he will also be attending three abbreviated days a week at a Montessori Academy that has a homeschool program.  The Academy also has a full-time student program and both arms of the school require uniforms. This is completely uncharted territory for me. With the exception of dressing up as Brittney Spears in Hit Me Baby One More Time for Halloween, I’ve never worn a school uniform and I have a gazillionty questions about it. DanO high school’s required uniforms but he was a teenage dude and doesn’t know the answer to most of the questions I pose to him. So, help a mama out?

>>What should I know before I dive in and invest in a wardrobe for this year?

>>Should I look for higher priced items that wear well (thinking Lands End) or just assume that they are going to get worn into the ground regardless so save the bucks up front (AKA Old Navy)?

>>What did you find was needed as far as number of items and outfits? We will only be attending 3x a week so I’m wondering how few items I can get away with purchasing.

>>The parameters are pretty standard- polos, oxfords, and sweaters are the shirt options. Were there tops you found that your kid(s) (specifically your high-energy young boys) preferred over others?

>>How did you store/organize uniform clothes vs. everyday clothes?

>>Did you have any rules on wearing uniform items on non-school days or changing into ‘street clothes’ after school?

>>Did you use clothing labels to mark your kids clothes and which did you find worked well?

>>Are there any tips you have about how to pitch uniforms to OBoy? I don’t anticipate a struggle getting him to wear them per se, but  the idea of wardrobe regulation will be a new concept to him (with the exception of seasonally appropriate choices). How do you talk about uniforms with your young students?

As always, I am ridiculously thankful for you, friends and readers (who are friends I just haven’t met yet). Whenever I think about the wisdom I have gained from some of y’all I get all verklempt. Thanks in advance for your help – I feel so much less clueless with y’all in my pocket.

17 Responses to “help a mama out – school uniforms”

  1. LeighTX

    My daughters have always worn school uniforms and I LOVE them. It makes it so easy to get younger ones dressed–you just present it as “here are your school clothes” and that’s that–and now that my girls are older we don’t have to argue over whether something is appropriate for school or not.

    At our school, they have a used uniform sale every summer, so the first thing I’d recommend is finding out if your school has one and when it is. I typically spend less than $60 to outfit two growing girls for an entire school year! Even if they don’t have an organized sale, just by asking around you might find someone who wants to sell outgrown uniforms.

    The second thing to do is find out exactly what the school requires. Some schools want a monogram, others want only uniforms from specific stores and in specific colors, so that’s something you need to know. Lands End uniforms are very good quality AND they have a very generous return policy. I don’t know about Old Navy’s quality, but I’d assume it’s the same as the rest of their clothes. Target also sells basic uniform pieces.

    Be sure to mark outerwear with his name, as those get mixed up very easily. A Sharpie pen on the tag works just fine. Don’t buy much if he’s only going three days per week; be sure to get a mix of items that work in hot and cold weather though. You might also check with a parent of an older child there for tips; at my girls’ school boys NEVER wear long pants, even when it’s 30 degrees out, and no girl would be caught dead in shorts or pants–it’s skirts all the way. Those kind of things are good to know before you buy, because even kindergartners can be fashion-conscious!

    Good luck, sorry this ran so long. :)

    Reply
  2. Dawn

    We had about 4 years of uniforms (x4 kids, K-7th grade the last year). For my kindergarten boy, I preferred to invest in shorts/pants and treat the tops as somewhat disposable (pretty much my kids’ clothes philosophy period). All of my kids preferred polos to any other style, though one did have a phase where she wanted to wear the same sweater every, every day. If there are a variety of polo color options, get a variety of colors so he still has choices. I would choose darker colors for tops if possible since they are more forgiving of Kindergarten messiness. For three days a week, I would probably do 4-5 bottoms and 5-7 tops, just to give yourself a little wiggle room for laundry. I also would buy up a size if it wasn’t ridiculously huge on them. I did not let mine wear theirs any other time, except to church. I loved uniforms at first – so cute!! – but it got really old by year 3 and 4 when 4 of them were wearing them every day. We have been uniform-free for 3 years now and my kids appreciate it.

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  3. Crystal

    I don’t really have any advice to offer because this is our first year of uniforms also. My son is doing Young – 5’s in the Fall, 5 days a week and is required to wear a uniform. I just purchased his pants online at Old Navy (he’s super tiny and I had to get him a size 4, they only go as low as size 5 in store) because they were such a good price and I figure he will go through them fairly fast. I also got some solid colored polos from Old Navy. The school that he will attend has a website that you can purchase uniforms directly from them and I plan to get some of the long sleeve polos and sweaters for winter months from them (they are a very specific color so it will just be easier). I never wore uniforms either so it’s all so new to me as well :)

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  4. Jen

    I don’t have uniform advice; however, I was at our Costco yesterday and they had uniform pieces out for kids. Children’s Place also sells uniform pieces. I wouldn’t buy too many pants as he will grow like a weed. If it’s only 3 days a week two pairs maybe enough.

    In regards to school clothes vs. play clothes – it honestly comes down to the kid. If Ben wears nicer pants (i.e. khaki’s) to school, I have him change into shorts or sweats to play outside. He does wear sweats or sweat like pants to school – we love Children’s Place for their fleece pants. They wash and wear extremely well.

    Get into the habit with him of showing him which ones are school clothes and which are play clothes. It will fall together seamlessly.

    Good luck! School is an amazing adventure!

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  5. Colleen

    My brothers and I wore uniforms for K-8, and my mom seemed to have a similar philosophy to Dawn: invest in good pants/shorts, and just find what works for the tops. Old Navy polos worked very well for my brothers, and they very much preferred the polos to oxfords; I think it was the material that made a difference for them. I’ve heard good things about Target’s uniform basics as well. We each had 3 pairs of khakis and 2 pairs of navy blue pants, but my mom was also a crazy stickler for laundry, so you might want to invest in more. We never did anything particularly special to keep uniform vs. everyday clothing organized; all uniform clothing was hung up in the closet next to each other, but that was about it. The three us of us had a tendency to change immediately when we got home, but that mainly happened because we played sports year-round, so we had to change to get ready for practice. We never wanted to hang out in our uniform, particularly since our school’s logo was on a lot of our shirts. The khakis were obviously worn outside of school as well, but that was about it.

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  6. Megan

    We homeschool our two boys too and so the closest we’ve come to uniforms is PJs ;-) But. I wore uniforms growing up, from 5-18 years, so I can offer a bit of advice from the kid’s perspective. Our rule was no wearing of uniform clothes outside of school days and that wasn’t hard to enforce…we had those off as soon as we got home. It was actually a nice transition! None of us (two girls, one boy) hated them, and my parents made it just a fact of life. For me, as the oldest, the uniform made me feel somewhat grown-up…but I’m a girl, lol. I agree with the PP that having sturdy pants and less-so tops is a good way to go. Polos are a good option to have because: no ironing (how I hated it when I was old enough to iron my own shirts).

    If we were doing any outside school (I love the sound of your mix of Montessori and home!), I would like them in uniform. Partly because of nostalgia, partly for the philosophy of uniforms and the elimination of clothes-stress for kids.

    Hope that helps a little!

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  7. rebekah

    All good questions. This past year was my first year with uniform purchasing. My now-6-year old wore a uniform 5 days a week last year. I am definitely for the Lands End Iron Knee pants. They are fabulous. They wear well, they have faded some on the knee, but NO holes. Well, I guess 1 pair got a hole. LE sent me a check after they received the pants for return. (only was a check because the style of the pants weren’t in stock anymore) I had a few pairs of Old Navy pants that were from Goodwill, they got holes in about 3 weeks. Not worth the money and frustration. I also bought Lands End polos, but that is because my son prefer the soft cotton shirts rather than typical polos.
    I would recommend 1 pair of pants for each day of school. They usually got dirty enough after one use. I also had him leave uniform clothes on until he chose his pjs. Since it was all day kindergarten, when he decided to change he was fine with being in pjs and being comfy.
    This year I will be back to buying LE for all my uniform needs. I watch for 30% off (or more) before I purchase. I also think, at least with my kids, that LE runs small. I always order one size bigger than current size. Sometimes 2 sizes up. I love that most pants come in slim sizes. LE has great customer service, never been disappointed with them.

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  8. Ashley

    Full disclosure: I work for Lands End.

    That being said, buy Lands End! They will not get worn into the ground, they will hold up, they are hand me down quality, they are comfortable, amazing return policy, they’re just really worth it.

    I would probably include OBoy in the ordering process, you could probably get buy with two polos, an oxford and a sweatshirt along with two pair of pants. Let him choose his color shirts if you have the option, if he’s anything like my little guy he will enjoy having a say.

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  9. Savannah

    I don’t have first hand uniform experience, but my SIL has 5 kids in a school that requires uniforms. She gets great, new/almost new uniform pieces at the consignment/thrift shops in her area. That way she can spend less and get more. Especially sine he’ll only be going a couple of days a week this sounds like a great option for you! I’ve also seen uniform pieces at Target which would be cheaper!

    Reply
  10. bethanyTX

    I wore uniforms all throughout high school. I can’t comment on different brands because we had to wear a specific brand, Parker Uniforms. Parker is expensive but my mom got it from a neighbor with an older daughter and it was still good to pass down after I graduated. I had 5 skirts, 7 polos, 1 oxford, 1 school dress sweater (required on dress days) and 2 school sweatshirts. Definitely figure out trends, like LeighTX said the older boys at my school ALWAYS wore shorts, but the little boys would wear pants too and the girls NEVER wore pants (partially bc of the way they’re cut…weird)

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  11. Kar in Colorado

    My almost-5-year old needs a uniform 3 days a week also (he attends 4 days but Friday is “free dress”). My biggest advice? SKIP THE WHITE SHIRTS! It is a guarantte that lunch will involve tomato sauce, not on the days he wears red, but on the days he wears white. :-) Like others have mentioned, I’ve gotten great deals from other families on uniform shirts they’ve outgrown, or at the annual back-to-school swap at the school (we need specific embroidered shirtst). Then I add pants/shorts from Target or Old Navy. We have a couple of long-sleeved polos but mostly rotate through the same few short-sleeved polos all year. On particularly cold days I’ll layer a long-sleeved t-shirt under the uniform polo. Also, my son is not a fan of the oxfords. Polos all the way. Transitioning to a uniform was not hard for him and now free-dress Fridays are extra-special because he can pick a charachter tee or whatever to change it up. Good luck with this new chapter – exciting!

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  12. Rebekah

    My tips –

    Shop at kids’ consignment stores
    Store school uniforms in a separate drawer
    Uniforms come off when they get home

    Good luck!

    Reply
  13. Esther Plaster

    Our girls went to a private Classical Christian school with uniforms. We learned after 2 years that they really only needed a few items – because I was always doing laundry everyday anyway (we have four kids in total). I would say 2 pairs of pants and 2 shirts + one sweater. I always had the girls change in to “play clothes” (our parents had it right didn’t they?) to keep the uniforms for one more wear and getting rips and stains. The first year we attended, we over bought and I found that we didn’t need as many items. The second year, we got smart and it really was the best. A friend who still attends our old school, is very frugal with her uniform purchases and has been able to pass on the outgrown clothes to her next daughter. Since our kids were too young for “gym” and didn’t ever change at school, we didn’t need to label, except for the sweaters. Hope this helps. Oftentimes there is an annual uniform exchange at schools, where you can get gently used uniforms for a fraction of the cost of new. I also found that trying the cheaper uniforms at Target, Old Navy, or online uniform stores were poor, cheap quality compared to the Ultimate uniform supplier – Land’s End. Soft, durable, good quality – cost per wear – yes a little more expensive but you won’t be hearing complaints of scratchy material, shrinkage or pilling. Its well worth the money. Good luck!

    Reply
  14. Erin

    I wore a uniform 1-12th grade. It’s easy! Come August both my kids will be in uniform, but we’re two years into it with my older.

    My opinion is go cheaper bc they’re boys. Target carries a uniform brand we actually really like, and they’re usually softer and therefore more comfortable than the stiff pricier ones. Go for 2 pairs of pants and then get extra shirts. And make it a non issue for dressing and so will the kids. We keep school clothes in their own drawer and don’t make him change in the afternoon. You only really need to label the sweater/sweatshirt and over did it and bought mabels labels, but ya know what the office recommends? Sharpies! Also check the office, as ours has a closet full that families have turned in as their kids outgrow, and you just have to ask.

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  15. Erin

    I should have disclosed hand me downs are not a concern bc I have a boy and a girl, and they have much different uniforms.

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  16. Katrina

    My daughter has had uniforms for the last two years. We love them. Get enough of them so you have them all ready to go on Sunday . It makes the week easier .

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  17. Jamie (@va_grown)

    I’m a little late to this post, but we had three elementary kids in uniforms for a total of 5 school years (this is our first year without uniforms) 1 girl and 2 boys. We LOVED French Toast. We found their prices excellent and the quality good. (We also ordered through swagbucks and earned a swagbucks rebate.) We found the boys double knee pants to last about two years. 1 yr with son #1, then 1 yr with son #2, and they’d start to really wear by the end of that second year, which was right about the time they were also high waters. {smile} We found their polos to maintain color and size for 3-4 years and then still be in reasonable shape to share with another family. Same with their oxford shirts. Rather than get long-sleeved shirts, we just got short-sleeved polos and then a pack of plain white long-sleeve tees and layered those underneath all winter. We got everyone one navy, knit, zip sweater for an extra layer and those lasted each child 3+ years. With our girl being the oldest, we saved a lot by going with unisex polos so they could still be passed down, the fit was fine, but you might not get away with this with older girls that are more fashion conscious and really want “cute” clothes. We didn’t get many hand-me-downs, but we gave a lot, so I would be sure to ask around at the school. 5 days a week, we went with 2 khaki bottoms, 2 navy bottoms and 6 polos (different colors), plus under tees and a sweater. We also had a white button up short and long sleeve with tie for each.

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