Clothing kids for less: Today’s fashion at an affordable price

The end of the summer season marks the excitement of back-to-school shopping for kids — and back-to-school shopping battles for many parents. Because fashion is an important part of a child’s self image, a new wardrobe often comes at a high cost.

But with advance planning, your kids can still get their look at a price you can afford:

Out with the old?

Keep costs down by making the most of your child’s current wardrobe. Eliminate outgrown or outdated articles, and save basic or classic pieces that still fit. Inspect these pieces and replace missing buttons, mend seams, patch tears, and remove stains.

If shoes still fit, increase their life by replacing worn heels, broken eyelets, and dingy shoelaces. Then freshen them with a good shoe cleaner and brightener or polish.

Style is important, so create new, fashionable outfits by pairing an old basic shirt with a new pair of jeans and stylish belt. Or mix a pair of old-but-good jeans with a shirt in one of this fall’s new colors.

Determine what garments have something to match and which are incomplete, then carry a list of needs when you shop.

Secondhand savvy

Today, families in all income brackets are reaping the benefits of secondhand shopping. Depending on your child’s age and personality, you may need to alleviate her fears and objections. Be sure your child understands no one will know the clothing is secondhand unless she discloses it. Also, point out the savings could result in a bigger, and possibly better, wardrobe.

When you shop secondhand, inspect clothing thoroughly for stains, tears, broken zippers and snaps, frayed pant cuffs, and other damage. Check for body odor and mildew smells that are unlikely to wash out.

And try on clothing before taking it home because it may not be returnable.

Secondhand clothing can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, consignment and resale shops, and even online. Prices vary, so explore all the options in your area. Children’s shirts typically range between $2 and $10 and jeans between $4 and $15 depending on size, condition, label, and the particular store.

A no-cost option is to form a back-to-school swap with several friends and neighbors. Each person should label the boxes of clothing according to size. Then get together for the exchange, and watch your child’s new wardrobe grow.

Clothes that last

Make your kid’s new wardrobe last by following these tips:

Pay attention to washing instructions. This is especially important for teen girls’ clothing. Some fabrics will shrink beyond recognition if not laundered correctly.

Boys are especially hard on knees. Give pants extra wear by sewing a fun patch on each knee (after you make sure your child is okay with it).

Have your kids approve all purchases. That is, unless you’re shopping for the less-choosy younger set. Otherwise, the duds will hang in the back of their closet.

Go up a size for some items. Purchase articles such as rain gear or dress shoes that will get seldom use one-half to a full size larger to get through an extra season. Regularly worn shoes should fit properly, though, for the sake of your child’s feet. When selecting rain gear in this manner, choose a style that will not cause your child to trip or obstruct her view.

Scouting for deals
and other retail tips

Begin by changing old thinking patterns. The mark of the new school year is not always the most practical time to replenish your child’s wardrobe.

If your kid didn’t hit a growth spurt over the summer, wait until winter to shop after last year’s clothing is fully outgrown.

The best back-to-school prices are found a couple of weeks later or beyond into the new school year. Since the beginning of the school year is often too warm for the new fall wardrobe, your child’s summer clothing — along with a couple of last year’s pieces — should suffice until the best sales hit.

Before you shop, go over your list and explain the budget to your kids. If designer label battles start, offer your kids the option to pay the difference above what has been budgeted for that particular item.

Avoid buying clothing sets; instead, select versatile pieces.

Look through flyers that come in the weekend edition of your metropolitan area newspaper. Learn what’s on sale and compare store prices before heading out.

Kimberly Blaker is a realtor, author, and freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in more than 200 newspapers, parenting and women’s magazines, and other publications throughout the U.S.