By Rachel Sutherland
Charlotte Observer Style Editor
A timeless favorite takes center stage this year for back-to-school fashion. It matches everything and is always a good investment.
It's a budget.
We're not talking bargain-basement-cheap type of budget, but the kind that means examining your finances, taking stock of what your children have in their closet and shopping smart.
The most important thing is to pick a number and stick to it, says Michele Casper, director of public relations for Lands' End. They sell kid-friendly clothing and gear online and in Sears department stores, including Pineville's Carolina Place Mall.
“Bring your child into the conversation and they'll really learn,” she says. “It's not sky's the limit this season. … The idea is that kids need to prioritize and parents need to prioritize.”
Putting together a stylish, high-quality back-to-school wardrobe is possible, regardless of budget, but you need to start planning right now. The Carolinas' tax-free weekend starts Friday, and erases the sales tax on clothing, footwear and school supplies of $100 or less per item through Sunday. Here are a few tips for getting organized and sticking to a budget:
Identify big-ticket needs first. Shoes and backpacks can have the highest price tags, Casper says. Deducting the costs of those items from the budget will help children prioritize. Are those new sneakers absolutely necessary if it means there will only be enough left for a few shirts?
Involve your children in planning before you get to the store. “Really working together with your children will give them a great understanding,” Casper says. “Children will know the value of money, and it helps parents avoid temper tantrums while shopping. When you've got a pre-established agreement, children comprehend it.”
Pick a color scheme and stick to it. You don't want your child to end up with a closet full of items that don't match anything, Casper says. If your daughter likes pink, look for complementary colors in the same family, add in a few prints or stripes, and you're building an interchangeable wardrobe.
Buy better, buy less. Pay attention to construction and materials and buy the highest quality your budget will allow, says Carole French, owner of children's boutique Magic Windows at Phillips Place. The clothing will wear better and last longer.
Don't get too trendy. Classic silhouettes in natural fibers such as cotton stand the test of time in wear-and-tear and fashion, French says.
Think outside the box. Adding layers over or under clothing is the key to giving a wardrobe legs, Casper says. For early fall, when the weather is still warm in the Carolinas, you could pair a short-sleeve graphic T-shirt with jeans for your son. As the weather cools, put a long-sleeve T-shirt under, a printed woven shirt on top or add a hoodie sweatshirt.
Don't discount used. Not everything needs to be replaced every year. If you're looking to get a few more years out of backpacks and lunch boxes, go for solid colors. Sew on character patches or embellishments to personalize.
Consignment sales (usually held in the spring and fall) are excellent sources of gently used children's clothing at a fraction of the retail price. (See the MomsCharlotte list of consignment sales).