Shopping for back-to-school clothing
By Patricia Gerhardt
River Valley District Extension Agent
Besides picking up the bookbag, notebooks and writing utensils needed for going back to school, most children will need (and want) some new items for their wardrobe. The first step is to look over the clothing and shoes already in the closet. What fits? What's presentable and/or acceptable for the classroom? What items will the child need? What will the family budget allow? Which items are needed now and which can be put on hold until a later payday? (This is also helpful if the child hits an unexpected growth spurt and suddenly needs a larger size.)
When shopping for clothing, be sure and check the fiber content and care label before heading for the checkout stand. Cotton blends (unlike 100 percent cotton fabrics) are extremely practical because they are less likely to shrink or require ironing. If you tend to toss everything in the washer and dryer, make sure the garment can handle that. A garment that requires "dry flat" may shrink to fit a toddler after being in a hot dryer. Check the weave of the fabric also. A garment made from a loosely woven fabric will not wear as well or be as durable as a garment made from a more tightly woven fabric. Loosely woven fabrics also easily stretch out of shape and take extra time when needing to be washed and dried.
If other members of the family assist in laundering, or you don't want to take the time to sort clothing before washing, pick up some color absorbing sheets. These sheets are found near the laundering detergents at your local store. When a sheet is placed in the washing machine along with a load of clothing, it absorbs loose dyes.
Sometimes parents like to purchase clothing that is larger than the child needs at the time. Be careful doing this though. Clothing that is too big can be a safety hazard by inhibiting movement and decreasing a child's mobility and balance. Instead, look for clothing that has growth features such as Kimono or Raglan sleeves, elastic or drawstring waistbands, and seams and hems that can be adjusted. Garments will also fit longer if they are made of a stretchy or knit fabric.
Kids enjoy being independent, choosing what they want to wear and being able to dress and undress by themselves. For young children who tend to mismatch or select inappropriate outfits for the day, aid their selection by giving them a choice to wear "this or that." Encourage the independence of preschoolers by buying clothes with nickel-size buttons, zippers, snaps or simple designs in general.
Pre-teens and teens are the age groups most concerned with current fashion. However, choices made for a teen's wardrobe do not have to max out a credit card. One solution is to teach your teen about the classic styles of fashion and maintain those as the core of his/her closet to be accented with some current fashion fads. The classic pant usually has a straight leg with the most popular being the five-pocket blue jean, followed by the ever popular khaki pant. Classic items also include blazers with jewel or v-neck collars and medium width lapels, oxford cloth button-down shirts with a Peter Pan or notch-point collar. T-shirts, too, have become a mainstay in most wardrobes. A good quality, classic colored T-shirt can be worn numerous times, in a multitude of ways and dressed up or down to fit the occasion. The advantage of purchasing classic items is that they can be interchanged to create a wide variety of outfits that won't be quickly outdated.