Do kids have to have new back-to-school outfits?

I feel like a Grinch but I really don’t want to go and buy new clothes for school.

Here’s the reason: When we were little and school started after Labor Day your mom would buy you fall clothes and so that was different from what you wore all summer.

But with school starting in August they are pretty much wearing the same things they have been wearing all summer and from the spring. In our case, Rose had a growth spurt and got a bunch of new outfits last spring.

Walsh also got new shorts and shirts in the spring so I don’t really feel like he needs much.

But I feel bad not getting them anything new to mark the beginning of a new school year. My compromise may be to get one special outfit for the first day so they can have maximum confidence.

I would rather wait and take them in October and get them new stuff for cooler weather and then again in April for spring stuff.

Do you feel with school starting in hot August less compelled to buy new things for the start of school? Is there an expectation of new outfits to start school? In warmer climates does the October, April shopping trips make more sense?

34 comments Add your comment


July 28th, 2011
11:18 pm

Never knew there were certain months in the year to shop for school clothes..:) I usually buy my two at least enough new clothes for the first couple of weeks..I tend to hit the outlet malls when they have their big year end sales, so at the beginning of each year, they already have 2-3 new outfits that have not been worn yet..

Welcome back Theresa..Enjoyed having Andy as a guest, but it is nice to have you back..Glad to hear that y’all had a great time..

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

July 28th, 2011
11:20 pm

thanks Becky – that is sooo nice! I really do appreciate that!


July 28th, 2011
11:35 pm

The stores are rockin’ some really really good sales right now. You can shop nearly guilt-free. If you don’t buy for now, buy for next spring.


July 28th, 2011
11:48 pm

When I was little we started school in late August, and I’m fairly certain the only reason we went ahead and bought some fall clothes was because Mom was a teacher, so we could easily drive the hour from our little town to Macon on a weekday rather than squeeze it in one weekend after school started. I never got to wear any new stuff before October — weather was too warm. So if you don’t feel like shopping, wait. Back to school means you have plenty to do getting everyone settled in — why add clothes shopping to the list if there’s no reason to? Get one new hot weather outfit each for the first day and wait on the rest.


July 29th, 2011
12:16 am

Actually back-to-school shopping is yet another (albeit a small one) reason I’m glad my kids go to school at home. I have many memories of my mother getting so stressed out by buying clothes for the school year, and the all-important first day outfit, for me and my brother. Looking back on it, I wonder why in the world it was so important.

I’m looking forward to school starting back, if nothing else than to get back into the routine of things. I hope everyone has a good transition back into it.


July 29th, 2011
12:19 am

I used “back” 5 times. I didn’t even know I liked that word so much! I must really be tired. Oh well, back to bed. (couldn’t resist)

[...] (RELATED BLOG: Do you have to buy new clothes for new school year?) [...]


July 29th, 2011
12:52 am

Hubby and I just had this discussion. We aren’t buying new clothes until the weather changes. Daughter is in uniform dress and she is growing up, not out so all her shorts and skirts fit fine. I have a ton of stuff sitting in a shopping basket on the Lands End website waiting for a major sale or coupon code to hit. Son is only 3 and he can wear his shorts and tee shirts to pre school. We’ll be buying plain white long sleeve shirts to go under his tee shirts and jeans for the fall/winter time.


July 29th, 2011
3:55 am

Every year, I have bought my boys one new outfit and new sneakers for the first day of school. This year, my oldest (eight) is horrified by this! LOL! He wants to wear his old shoes and old clothes. My youngest (six) still likes me to buy clothes for him. I think I will get the youngest something this year and leave the oldest alone. Other than that, I don’t do a lot of back to school clothes shopping.

Also, this is a tradition in my family. My Mom always bought me a new outfit for the first day of school. Most years, she still buys me one before school starts in August (I am a teacher). I know it’s silly, but I love going shopping with my Mom for back to school clothes! LOL!


July 29th, 2011
5:45 am

leigh that is sweet!!


July 29th, 2011
7:42 am

No new clothes…..until Satan takes his hot weather back to you know where, we will be wearing the clothes that were bought in the Spring and summer.


July 29th, 2011
7:44 am

@ Leigh…give your Mom a hug! Hoorah for great Moms. Mine used to buy me stuff and then hand me the receipt to be reimbursed. :( She was also into couponing and rebating during my college years. I would get checks ( with my name on them) that had to be cashed and the money sent back to her. They were $2 and $3 checks for crying out loud ( see my life has been far from perfect). I put a stop to that.

I had a co-teacher whose Mom would put a surprise $5 or $10 bill in the pocket of an outfit, hanging in her closet. This when she came to visit. Some days, she would come to school and say, ” Oh, wow…my mom left me this!” I thought it was so sweet. It made me happy too!

No more buying new school clothes here. I have been purchasing things for my daughter’s apartment, in Athens, since Christmas, and we went last night to get a few more last minute things that were needed. No more dorm for her ;). FYI…I know this is a long way out for many but living in an apartment, with 3 room mates, is usually cheaper than the dorm, She does need a new bookbag, as she tells me she has had the same Jansport bag since Freshman year in HS and it is finally about to poop out.

When we start school in August and it it so hot, I would think one new outfit would be suitable and make them feel special on the first day of school. I remember going with my Mom to Woolworth’s and getting a few plaid dresses to start the school year. We always got new shoes too. Mine were ugly as I needed arch supports and they were more like corrective shoes. This is why I love shoes now and have way too many pairs. I did get to wear Keds for P.E.

Hasn’t the summer FLOWN by!


July 29th, 2011
8:16 am

Dress code changed for older girl because of new school, so there’s been a bit of stocking up on the new style for a while. She’ll have a little more freedom with colors now, whereas the younger girl just gets to pick from blue, pink, or white shirt for first day. Not much excitement there. We hit the outlet on the way to Helen last week for basics, but that was the only nod to school for us.


July 29th, 2011
10:40 am

This is one of the reasons I love uniforms. I do tend to buy a few things in June b/c the uniform shop gives 15% off but since everything looks the same, it doesn’t matter whether it’s new or not. I usually hit up the uniform resale in May so I only buy the necessities come June. I did end up having to buy a blazer this year since the boy grew so much and I couldn’t find a used one. But he wore the last one for 2 years so I’m hoping this one will last two as well.

I do remember school shopping being so much more of a big deal when I was younger though.


July 29th, 2011
10:57 am

We (I) purchase new clothes as needed throughout the year so “back to school” clothes shopping has never been needed. If I tried to take my boys clothes shopping specifically for school – they’d both put up a fuss about it “being a waste of money because they don’t need anything.”

As a child I absolutely loved going shopping for school clothes. But, with my parents…we got clothes at Christmas and back to school only (for the most part.) So it was a big deal.


July 29th, 2011
11:25 am

My mother sewed beautifully, and I loved going with her to the fabric store and picking out the materials for my dresses when I was in grade school (”back in the day” – we only wore dresses or skirts to school, we weren’t allowed to wear pants to school until high school.) My uncle traveled somewhere near the Polly Flinder’s factory (in the days before outlets), and would sometimes arrive at our house with an armful of 6 or 7 dresses for me from the factory – it was like Christmas! Plus, I was the youngest granddaughter, so I was the beneficiary of lots of nice hand-me-downs. :-)

My kids were in uniforms from Day 1 of kindergarten — both of them swear they will NEVER wear that color of polo shirt again!


July 29th, 2011
11:42 am

I don’t buy my son new clothes on any particular schedule (back to school, change of seasons, etc). I simply buy him new clothes whenever he outgrows the old ones. We did have to buy new school uniforms this year, but I always buy them a little big so they last longer. He’s actually been wearing the same uniform shirts for 2 years (kindergarten & 1st), although we did have to buy new pants last year. This year he needed new everything. But I save on the uniform shorts, because I just take the pants that are too short and cut them off to make shorts. But he’ll be starting school with the same jeans (for Fridays at private school) and t-shirts he had last year because they still fit.


July 29th, 2011
11:46 am

I don’t remember going back-to-school shopping. I was never into clothes. (I’m just now shopping without breaking out into a cold sweat!) We buy for my nephews. In Baton Rouge, even the public schools wear uniforms: colored polo shirts and khakis. They wear blue pants and shorts. Old Navy always has uniform pants and shorts on sale so I buy some for them before school shorts. The ones they have from the year before should still be wearable. The younger one can wear the older one’s pants from the year before if they are in good condition. We believe in quality hand-me-downs. (I will get hand-me-downs from my friends even today!) We buy the shorts in the summer because BR is so hot. We don’t buy the pants until it cools off because they grow and we’re afraid the pants will be too short if we get them too early. It’s not too expensive if we all put in. (My brother is finally working a job that is paying him decent money but we’ve gotten in the practice of getting the kids’ uniforms; I’ve never spent more than $50 so it’s no big deal.)


July 29th, 2011
12:54 pm

This is one of the reasons I do NOT like uniforms for elementary school! I think they’re great for middle and high school or even after 3rd grade, but I dropped $185 on back to school uniforms for my rising kindergartener last weekend! That doesn’t include the $66 bucks I spent at Walmart for the Dickies shorts and pants they’re allowing them to wear this year. As the weather turns we’ll have to spend even more for sweaters, long-sleeved appliqued polos and flannel pants. I still have to purchase his solid white and solid black tennis shoes. I usually get his ENTIRE fall wardrobr at Target, sales and the outlet stores for $200-$250 or so, and that includes shoes and pjs! Now we’ll have to still buy some decent new shoes for weekends and non-uniform clothes in addition to the uniforms! My main gripe is that we have to purchase from an over-priced uniform shop. I think they should specify colors and styles but let you pick where you get them -at least for public school! ERRRRGGGHH!


July 29th, 2011
1:22 pm

@ JATL…mine never wore uniforms, so I do NOT speak from experience. Your comment illustrates that nothing works** for everyone** and not everyone likes the same thing (s). A lesson I have to remind myself of, often.

I have never really had a battle with clothes and my two. The only thing that really made me crazy was when my son spent $500 ( his own money) on a suit for his interview to get into Pharmacy School. He got it 40% off at Nordstrom’s. I thought it was WAY too much but it was HIS money and he got in, so I guess it was a good investment. I have never spent $500 on one item of clothing…actually, I guess it was 2 items.


July 29th, 2011
4:46 pm

I loved back to school shopping when I was a kid. I lived in IL then so we started school later and the weather turned brisk soon enough. Honestly I’m like Theresa, it’s too hot to think about it. I cannot possible wrap my head around fall clothes when it’s too dangerous to sit outside. I do have to get a few things for my oldest but hesitate on too much since she’ll likely outgrown it before the weather turns cool. The younger child is wearing her sister’s hand me downs until I can determine what we really need. I reminded them both, consignment sale season is soon so we’ll wait for that.

mom of 3

July 31st, 2011
9:09 am

My girls were in uniforms but they attened a private school. I loved uniforms. Parents would share and you could put a huge hem in the elemetary jumpers. They were allowed to were their own choice of shoes so that was where they were able to express themselves.


July 31st, 2011
9:41 am

My kids get new shoes and a new outfit or two but that’s it until the weather changes. Once it starts getting cooler, we pull out all the fall/winter clothes from last year to see what still fits (almost nothing, usually) and then make a shopping list.

Right now we’re concentrating on the ENORMOUS school supply lists for each of the 3 younger ones. I’m not sure why my first grader needs 24 glue sticks and 60 sharpened pencils (or paper towels, copy paper, hand sanitizer, jump rope, stickers, tissues, ziploc bags and dry erase markers) but that’s PART of what’s on his list. The 2nd and 3rd graders’ lists are just as huge. I know teachers pay for a lot of things out of pocket (I’m a former teacher) but I still think these school supply lists have gotten out of control. Anyway…

Thank God the oldest is in college and works full time so she buys her own things.

kindergarten mom

July 31st, 2011
10:08 am

My parents could not afford to buy new school clothes. I usually had 1 new outfit for the first day of school. I remember being ashamed as I looked around at all the other kids in their sparkling white shoes and crisp clothes. You may think your kids are too young to notice or care, but they’re not. with the sales on summer clothes right now, why wouldn’t you go pick up a couple of things? I bought my son several short sleeved polo shirts. when it gets cooler, he’ll wear them layered over long sleeved t-shirts. considering that’s how most of the fall shirts are made, i feel like I’m getting more bang for my buck. Some people say that kids now are spoiled and entitled and that is probably true. However, children were cruel 25 yrs ago. I can only imagine the things they have to endure from their classmates now. If I can save my children 1 ounce of humiliation or shame, I will do whatever I have to do.

mom to four

July 31st, 2011
10:09 am

Theresa, I would buy one new outfit to wear the first day but wait until the weather changes to buy other school clothes. This is a valuable lesson for kids to learn – don’t follow the crowd but do what is appropriate for your own family/financial means.
My kids wear Catholic school uniforms in elementary/middle school. I always buy the sizes larger, so they can wear the uniforms for 2 years or more.They have 2 regular uniforms and 1 Mass dress uniform to wear but these items are usually old uniforms from previous year or hand-me-downs. Only 1 or 2 pieces (usually shirts) are new. They would rather wear the old uniforms than buy new because they don’t like the uniform shop (hot, stuffy, boring, etc.) My friends and I hand down all the time. The kids prefer the hand-me-downs because it takes about 2 years of wash and wear to soften the material of the uniforms. The new uniforms are like cardboard, very stiff and uncomfortable.
This year my middle daughter starts high school and doesn’t have a uniform but is still required to follow a strict dress code. It has been a challenge for us to find appropriate clothes – no t-shirts, no tank tops, bermuda shorts or skirts that fall below the finger tips, etc. I like the modesty of the requirements but finding shirts that are not t-shirts or polo’s (she doesn’t like polos) is proving difficult.
My son will wear anything I buy and put in his room so he is very easy. His dress code is the same as my daughter’s – no t-shirts, only collar shirts, no open-toe shoes, jeans and shorts that are neat, etc. Earlier in the summer Macy’s had a sale on their polo’s – $10 for men’s polo type shirts! I stocked up then.

new K mom

July 31st, 2011
10:57 am

My daughter just had a growth spurt, so I did buy her some new shorts/skorts for kindergarten. I know it is usually warm through Sept/Oct, so I’m not worried about lack of use. I also bought her new shoes because she has been wearing them for about a year and they are almost done.

There are a lot of consignments sales in August, so if you are looking for some good deals on “new” clothes, they are worth a shop.


July 31st, 2011
10:58 am

Lighten up, kindergarten mom. Try not to burden your kids with your baggage.

Ed's Mom

July 31st, 2011
12:23 pm

I’m kind of looking forward to school shopping for my son. He’s worn the same uniforms for K- 1st grades. I’m not finding the great deals that I found when he was starting kindergarten ($2 Cherokee polos from Target and $8 Dickie double knee pants from Wal-Mart), but we got GOOD use out of those uniforms :) And believe me I stocked up with those prices. This year he needs new everything and it’s looking like I’m going to be spending some money considering how much I saves the past two years. Luckily, he really doesn’t wear shorts only pants. I usually layer his short sleeved polos in the fall/winter with a long sleeved shirt. So, once I go shopping I will not have to go back I’m the fall/winter for warmer clothes. The only thing I usually purchase throughout the school year is shoes. I’m not sure how much I’m going to spend, but again looking forward to it.

Sk8ing Momma

July 31st, 2011
1:02 pm

We shop on an as-needed basis; however, we will pick up an item or two if we find a great sale.

We homeschool so I don’t have a need for back-to-school shopping. If my children did attend traditional school, I would not buy them new clothes to start school in August. (I would be open to a new outfit for the first day…IMO, it would be something “fun” and a marker for the start of something new.) I just don’t see the point. I’d just wait to buy them new fall & winter clothes as the weather changes.

Btw, I am a **HUGE** fan of school uniforms. I wore them from K-12 (even when they were optional during my 9th grade). The benefits of school uniforms are underrated…More schools should have them!


July 31st, 2011
1:28 pm

I learned to buy 1 or 2 outfits for the beginning of school when my daughter started middle school. We bought a ton of clothes on sale and they were all “wrong” when she got to school. Thankfully I was able to return most of them. We started giving her money and allowed her to choose where to shop. She surprised us by choosing the thrift stores and discount racks. She learned the value of stretching a dollar and her idea of what she had to have changed when it was “her money”.


July 31st, 2011
2:55 pm

@ TallMom…no one needs 24 glue sticks or 60 pencils. Me thinks you are buying for more than your child. Perhaps the teachers think if 10 parents send in 24 glue sticks, then that will cover those who do not send in?

@ Gail…once yours get to middle school or HS, I think it is a wonderful lesson for them to learn about having their own money to budget. Mine both work now and it is funny when they say,
“WHO can afford that… or WHY do things cost so much!”


July 31st, 2011
6:25 pm

My mom always took us shopping for school clothes. I was a big fan of Garanimals – they still have those too! :-)

I plan to buy a few new simple outfits – by that, I mean a few pairs of shorts and tops and maybe some simple dresses. I’ve been taking my kids to consignment sales since they were babies, so they don’t seem to mind getting “hand-me-downs,” especially if it means more dresses. I like getting 5 dresses for $20 or so. On the other hand, my son is an odd size (shorter legs with a bigger waist), so I usually buy his stuff from the actual stores, and have them altered.

I do think that it makes sense to make minimal purchases because one of my children tends to follow the latest trends of her classmates and want to wear “Princess” shirts (no Beiber allowed)! I can agree to those types of requests without harming her (or my) psyche.

The longer you wait to buy the “Fall/Winter” clothes, the better the prices will be but the less selection will be available. So, it’s a trade-off.


August 1st, 2011
12:33 pm

For those looking for polo shirts, on craigslist someone has a stock of 50 that they are selling for $3 each.


August 3rd, 2011
12:24 am

@ kind. Mom …. I 100% AGREE with you . And that is my mentality all the time when it comes to school. KIDS ARE CRUEL…. so let your kid walk in with sparkly shoes if you can afford… Its going to help them out in the long run.