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School Uniform Basics: Your Style Syllabus for Girls' & Boys' Uniforms

School Uniform Basics: Your Style Syllabus for Girls' & Boys' Uniforms

Back to school is a whole different game for parents whose kids wear school uniforms every day. Traditionally, the goal is tidy instead of trendy. But stuffy styles and boring wardrobes are a thing of the past under any school policy. From comfortable fabrics and modern cuts to accessorizing  key pieces with personal flair, here is a crash course on school-approved clothes and how to keep them fresh and fun. 

Kids in School Uniforms

Lesson 1: Do Your Research

First and foremost, know the school rules and make sure you're buying pieces that comply. Do you need to stick with certain colors? Can she switch up skirts and pants on a whim, or can he wear shorts when it’s warm outside? Then, look at options for where you can shop. If boys' polo shirts or jackets need official emblems, you'll probably be ordering those items from the school. If not, shop department stores or go to brand websites to find the best prices and widest selection of styles.

Extra credit: Many budget-savvy families find uniforms by shopping resale or participating in swaps.

Lesson 2: Form an Outline

Not sure which pieces or how many you’ll need? Buy enough basics for the start of the school year, focusing on short-sleeve shirts, long-sleeve shirts and layering essentials like sweaters and vests. You can always replenish as the months progress — and you’ll probably need to as your child continues to grow.

Extra credit: To help prepare for inevitable growth spurts, buy larger sizes that build in extra room. Hem pants or skirts and tailor the waistbands, then later let out the seams to make better use of each article of clothing.

Lesson 3: Incorporate Comfort

You want your child to look polished for class but also to feel at ease. If you’re shopping in stores, try different styles and sizes. Classic khakis and button-down shirts will tend to be straight and roomy, while modern cuts could be more fitted. Fabrics are also a major factor in how your student’s clothing will feel. Cotton fibers stay soft and breathable, but synthetic blends might contain more stretch or hold up better to everyday wear.

Extra credit: Look for easy-care characteristics. Stain-resistant and wrinkle-resistant pieces are time savers worth considering.

Boy heading to school

Lesson 4: Fine-Tune the Fit

Thoroughly inspect how each item fits to avoid any unforeseen wardrobe violations. For girls, shirts and blouses should reach the waist without showing the midriff, and skirts must reach the knee or comply with school regulations on hemlines. Boys should be able to tuck in their shirttails, and shorts must also meet school rules for length. Pants cuffs should always rest at the top of shoes.

Extra credit: Avoid low-cut collars and low-rise waists. Examine shirt buttons to make sure they fasten securely. For pants, a mid-rise waist or higher is designed to fully cover the backside. And remember, skinny and slim cuts usually go against uniform policies.

Lesson 5: Be Creative

Now that you have conformity covered, it's time to consider an individual touch. That's right! As long as an outfit meets dress code criteria, it's okay to show a little personality by mixing in a few fashion extras. For girls, add a scarf, belt or cute hair accessory. Depending on what is allowed at her school, she might also want to customize her look with ankle socks, knee socks, tights or leggings. Supplement her backpack with a stylish purse or wristlet, and swap her Mary Jane uniform shoes for ballet flats with a little embellishment.

For boys, try a wristwatch and a sleek modern necktie, or a geek-chic look with a bowtie and glasses. Statement socks set a playful tone with a preppy sweater and Oxford shoes. Last but not least, he can rock a cool backpack or a messenger bag for his laptop and gadgets.

Extra credit: Shop early to beat the back-to-school rush. You'll have much better luck finding the colors and sizes you want before they sell out.