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School Clothes Need Not Break Budgets
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dressing students for school both fashionably and sensibly does not have to eat up the grocery money if parents have a plan and a budget before they start.
Dr. Betty Fulwood, clothing specialist at Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said parents should determine what the child needs and how these can be met within the budget.
"The first step in getting back-to-school clothes ready is to inventory what the child already has," Fulwood said. "New items often can be added to extend the existing wardrobe."
Summer clothes typically can be worn to school until about October in Mississippi, so all new clothes purchases need not be made at once. Growing children should try on all their clothes so parents can check for proper fit.
More than designer labels or current fads, parents should consider the child's coloring, body shape and size, and personality when choosing clothing. Involve children in the selection process, especially as they get older and develop personal tastes.
"Give them a limited selection. Let them pick between two or three colors and styles rather than a whole rackfull of clothes. This allows the child to be part of the selection process without controlling it or being frustrated by what they can't have," Fulwood said.
Society's fascination with designer labels can make a school clothes budget explode. Peer pressure often dictates a particular brand or look for each item of clothing, and none of these comes cheap. Fulwood said parents can influence a child's thinking on these matters.
"If adults aren't as brand conscious, they can get across to the child the idea that style and quality are not necessarily a matter of brand," Fulwood said. "Many items are as stylish and of a better quality for the money than those with the designer label."
Parents can encourage their children to develop a style of their own rather than letting others dictate what they wear. But wearing popular items still can be important to students.
"Choosing a brand name high fashion clothing item could be one of the limited choices a child is given," Fulwood said. "At school age, students need things that are fashionable, but don't invest a large amount of money in fads that soon go out of fashion."
Dr. Beverly Howell, Extension family economics specialist, said a budget will help determine how much money can be spent on a particular item.
"If what you budget is not enough to cover what the child wants, the child may fill in the difference through saved allowance money, part-time work or gift money," Howell said.
Parents can soften the blow by planning and setting a total amount that can be spent.
"Allocate a portion of each month's income to school clothing so that buying school clothes is not such a strain at one time," Howell said.
Regardless of the item, Fulwood said parents should buy the best quality they can afford. Check clothing construction, seams and patterns that match to learn the garment's quality. Choose sturdy, easy-care, colorfast, washable and stain-resistant items. Comfort is also important.
"Cost per wearing is more important than cost per garment," Fulwood said.
Fulwood said back-to-school styles this year include, denim jeans with very wide, turned up cuffs; pedal pushers and capri pants; sportswear and team looks; high tech fabric; heavy nylon cargo pants; cardigan sweaters; zip-front hooded jackets; mini, maxi and pleated skirts; fake fur; and ski sweaters.