Dancing the school uniform fandango


DadblogukIn just a few weeks my eldest daughter, Helen, will be starting school. I’m sure all of us parents that have kids starting in reception class this September are wondering where the past four years have gone. I certainly am.

In this household we’re also wondering what to do about the school uniform. Isn’t it such a palaver? Not just a palaver, but an expensive palaver.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think school uniforms are a brilliant idea. They are a fantastic leveller; once in uniform you can’t really tell whether a child is from a country estate or council estate. That’s my theory anyway. I suspect more experienced parents will tell me I’m being very naïve.

We’ve been given the option of buying the uniform from a reputable online supplier who would deliver direct to the school in early September. The only thing is, Helen’s nursery has decided to hold a Wear your School Uniform to Nursery event during August.

To try and solve this dilemma, I took a look at some supermarket websites because they seem to have a monopoly on this market. Unfortunately the £4 dresses on offer were all 100% polyester.

I know this will make me sound like a snob, but I just can’t deal with that much polyester. This is because of a phobia against the fabric kindly given to me by my sister who refuses to come within half a mile of the stuff (yeah, thanks sis).

I looked online again and found a high street retailer that sold 100% cotton dresses that were only a touch more expensive. I bundled the kids into the car and off we went with the intention of buying five dresses, one for each day of the working week.

Oh no, that would have been far too easy. On arrival at the store looked like a bunch of shore-leave-happy Royal Marines had paid a visit. Every other parent with reception aged-children within a ten mile radius had obviously been there already as the clothes were all over the place and small sizes were very hard to find.

After a major search operation we left with two 100% cotton, school-uniform compliant dresses. This’ll do for the nursery’s purposes, but we’ll need to buy some more before school starts.

I tweeted about my dilemma and received a message back from Clare Mackintosh (@MTJAM), author of a rather fantastic blog.  Clare pointed out that she has three children and each of them needs four pairs of shoes solely to comply with the school uniform. I’ve checked and, sure enough, we’ve got to buy three pairs of shoes too.

I appeal to the more experienced parents. What hints and tips do you have for us reception newbies when it comes to buying uniforms? Are there any fantastic, hidden suppliers you can recommend? Do you buy the clothes online or second hand? Crucially, am I the only polyester snob out there?

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About John Adams

John Adams is a married with two young daughters. He has been a stay at home dad for almost four years. John started blogging back in 2012 after being invited to one-too-many "mother and toddler groups." This inspired him to write about the issues he faced as a stay at home dad and the gender barriers men face as parents. John continues to write about lie as a stay at home dad. He also writes about every aspect of parenting; schooling, education, pregnancy and birth, childcare and so on. Over time he has broadened the focus of his blog so he now writes about family finances, photography and occasionally covers men's style and fashion. John was originally a journalist. He concedes, however, that was a long time ago.

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11 Responses to Dancing the school uniform fandango

  1. Ginny Carter 19 August 2013 at 16:22 #

    Hi John, as a mum to two kids aged 10 and 8 I’ve had a few years to perfect this annual ritual. I go to M & S some time during the last half term of the summer to get school uniform for September – it gets it over with and they always have their school uniform offer then (it tends to shut down by mid July). I choose what I want, then order it online to save the aggro with not enough sizes in stock. Bingo.

    I’ve reconciled myself to the polyester dress situation, it’s not worth worrying about. Sometimes you can’t beat the system. And I’ve never bought 5 of anything, they can usually rewear stuff and if you wash mid week you can get away with 3.

    Hope that helps!

    • John Adams 22 August 2013 at 18:57 #

      Brilliant advice about doing the shopping in the last half term of summer. I will be keeping this in mind next year. In fact, for the next 20 odd years as my children pass through school!

  2. hannah 19 August 2013 at 18:28 #

    John – I too am a polyester snob – it is hard to get decent hard-wearing school clothes that aren’t totally revolting.

    For me I try to match the school colours (for us is is navy and white) and buy clothes from retailers where the quality might be a little superior.

    Last year when my youngest started reception I managed to find a lovely cordrouy pinafore dress (in navy blue) from Jojo Maman Bebe – they also did a lovely soft cotton white blouse – all of this was perfect although that company only goes up to 5 years old.

    Since then I have just tried to think outside the box and always check GAP and John Lewis to try and find quality clothes that aren’t made for school – but that fit colour wise.

    Hope that might help!

    Bon chance

    • John Adams 22 August 2013 at 18:58 #

      Gap and John Lewis you say??? I would never have considered either of those two retailers.

  3. Dolly O 19 August 2013 at 20:23 #

    Nice post. My main tips are: for new items, buy as soon as you see shops begin stocking uniform. This might mean buying summer dresses in Feb but you’ll get the size you want. Better still, schools often sell off lost property, an excellent source of extra bits esp. pricier items like sweatshirts. Lastly, network amongst friends with older kids because hand me downs are always a great source….

    • John Adams 22 August 2013 at 19:03 #

      I have no objection to buying school uniform in February! To be honest, I’d rather do it then and avoid the hordes. I went to Clark’s a couple of weeks back to buy the school shoes and it was already operating a ticket system in the kids’ department.

  4. Jac 20 August 2013 at 11:12 #

    Make friends with people with older children. I’ve been passed lots of great stuff from people grateful it’s gone to a good home. I don’t do polyester either. Buy one good set (for school photos etc) and then get familiar with second-hand sale days. Again, amazing what you can buy for a £ or two. I’ve tried every permutation and perhaps my children are very messy but their uniforms are washed every night based on the food stains from lunch alone. I do buy good shoes and trainers from Sports Direct (based on reductions)

  5. John Adams 21 August 2013 at 05:59 #

    Jac- I love the tip about having a good set of clothes for the school uniform! Will definitely keep that in mind. I’ve also no objection to buying some second hand stuff. I have seen some second hand dresses for sale at the school and they looked pristine. I guess that’s because children grow so fast that some of this stuff hardly gets worn.

  6. Carly 21 August 2013 at 09:36 #

    I have 2 boys and will be in Year 1 and Year 3 at school come September, our school has decided to change the whole colour of the uniform (but has allowed us a 2 year transitional period)…we’re have a dilemma, I will have to buy the new colour jumper for the older boy as he will have grown out of his when he will need to wear it, however the younger boy could technically wear the hand me downs from the older boy…but this would mean they would be in different colour uniforms and the school pics would look weird! So I guess i will be spending out on new uniforms for the both of them…Look in charity shops in your local area, you’ll find that some are donated through there, or even ask your school PTA, they may have a stash of left over clothes that get left year on year.

    • John Adams 22 August 2013 at 19:01 #

      As it happens I think the PTA sells second hand uniform. I haven’t yet had a chance to weasel my way in to the PTA Inner Circle but it is on my “to do list”.

      • Helen Dilworth 30 August 2013 at 15:38 #

        No weasling required just volunteer to help with something…..anything they will bite your arm off I promise!