Buying School Uniform – The Beginners’ Guide

Buying School Uniform

So your school place is secured and your feelings are mixed – your baby is growing up and starting school… too soon.  It will likely be a bitter sweet day when you plonk your child on the door step, satchelled up, for their first day of school photo. But the reality is, they are going to school and there is much to do – first and foremost, buying school uniform! And you have to do it now! No, really, you do! So dry your tears and focus!

My daughter is just finishing Year 2, so I’ve had 3 years’ of practice now, and whilst I’m afraid my advice is rather biased towards girl babies, I hope it helps everybody in some way.  The main piece of advice I hear from mothers of sons, is don’t buy anything white, and prepare to go through knees, Teflon or no Teflon!

As for girl babies, here goes…


One thing is for sure, children grow up fast when they start school in hundreds of ways.   So, although buying the size above your child’s age may have them swamped for a time, it will bear fruit in the uniform longevity stakes.  My daughter barely made  it through the Autumn term before her bum was hanging well below her hem line – not a good look!  I did consciously buy some uniform that fit her properly though, because you want them to look the part on their first day, but as a rule, if your child is on the normal to tall side, go big!


Have a good touch and a feel of the fabrics used because there is a vast array of  highly technical, highly durable uniform around at a very good price.  You can be safe in the in knowledge that your child can hurl themselves around the playground to their heart’s content, because these days their uniform is made from super high tech material that would probably withstand re-entry into he earth’s atmosphere.

Most school uniform clothing is so hard wearing it almost shines with manmade-ness! But that can make it fairly unpleasant stuff to handle, especially if like me you insist on ironing it!  Sometimes it is worth spending a little bit more just to pass the touchy feely test – but I have to say, it is totally random!  One retailer can have half a dozen different pinafores, all at the same price, all feeling completely different!  Our favourite pinafore, which has now made it through 2 and half school years, was from ASDA and cost £3!


September, is almost always glorious when the kids go back to school and you will probably find a need for summer dresses – but probably only for a couple of weeks. Just bear in mind that by May next year, when Summer Term officially starts, they will have grown a lot.  You may want to select what size you buy accordingly.


All supermarkets are not equal when it comes to school uniform!  No-one is consistent across the board – no supermarket stands out! I found cardigans in Tescos, from the F&F range, miles better quality than Sainsbury’s where they faded and went out of shape.  But I bought some really nice pinafores in Sainsbury’s and found the Tesco ones quite nasty! So if you can, check things out in person rather than ordering online and hoping.  And remember, there area also other retailers available offering some great quality stuff at great prices, ie. Matalan, Next, Debenham’s, M&S, John Lewis to name but a few.

Check out this consumer test that The Sun have just done, testing the durability of uniforms when washed!

We put Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Sainsbury’s budget school uniforms to the test… so which is really top of the class?


Almost disposable in their cheapness, although from an environmentally friendly stand point, I work mine into the ground!  My surprise favourite polo shirt supplier – Matalan! Soft and pretty and a good price!  We have gone for the odd blouse, but the polo shirt is the king of flexibility.


Our lovely Reception teacher gave us a very good bit of advice! Pinafores all the way in Reception! And of course she was right.  They look really cute, the don’t come untucked and and it also means that when they are wearing light or white polos underneath the polo shirt is protected from ..well everything, paint, bolognese sauce…vomit!  Every supermarket has at least a million different kinds of skirts, pinafores and trousers so  you’ll find something you like if you start early enough.  And if like me you do iron everything, avoid multiple pleats like the plague! Plain plain plain keeps mummy sane!  Wish I’d known that!


So I dutifully invested in a couple of beautifully logo’d sweatshirts for my daughter – the only option from the uniform company that make my daughter’s school uniform. This is by no means compulsory but I thought it was worth it for school photo day – which as it turns out is the only day she wears it!   The boys seem to like jumpers – the girls seem to prefer cardigans! Both get lost on a regular basis to be sure to label well!


We are lucky at our school to have the choice between white and dark green polo shirts. Great! But again, this is where the girl/boy thing comes in! Like it or not, the girls just don’t like wearing dark green and they don’t want to be different to the other girls. The boys on the other hand, prefer the green. Gender stereotypes or just the way it is. Not sure – but it is true!


So I naively started out with about 3 and a half sets of school uniform – enough surely – there seemed to be loads. I had the romantic idea that we would be able use cardigans and pinafores more than once or that we would manage to launder twice a week! Forget it! I have managed to turn the odd cardigan or polo shirt in desperation, but in Reception, it’s all about the mess, snot wiped up the sleeve, and school dinner down the front! So if you can, get 5 sets of everything.  As they grow older demand lessens, but you are still relying on them not leaving their uniform all over the floor in a heap, so to minimise your own stress levels, stock up as much as you can!


Oh God – Socks and Tights! Old fashioned thing that I am, I was immediately drawn to the cute little holey variety of sock that we used to wear when I was a girl. Big mistake! Firstly, they gave my daughter blisters, and secondly they shrink!  We have now discovered ankle socks but at this time of year it is chilly walking to school, so we battle on with the knee highs now that tights weather is over!

And as for tights – well, there simply isn’t a pair on the planet with a crotch that doesn’t perish! Saggy crotches by Christmas are almost de rigeur!   I did find that M&S had some nice quality ones, and would definitely recommend a few extra M&S pence on tights because some of the supermarket ones are terrible.  Especially if you have a pinafore dress slightly on the short side.


Many schools demand logo’d items such as jumpers and polo shirts. Many provide you with a preferred retailer, but be aware that Tesco’s and Marks and Spencer’s both have their own logo shops and can supply at the fraction of some of the independent retailers’ prices.


A phrase that no longer strikes joy into my heart as it once did when heading for the Kings Road! One piece of advice only – book an appointment with your local shoe retailer.  All Clarks stores, and many more do it and it saves a lot of time.  You have to leave this joyous task until the last minute because you want shoes that will last as long as possible, and be prepared to go to more than one shop if you have a child with wider feet!


Keep an eye on those main retailers – they know exactly when to grab our attention and will be using school uniform to drag us through their doors!  M&S usually have a 20% off period early in the Summer, and others will be sure to follow.  We’ll keep you posted.


  • Aldi – Back to School – While Stocks Last – whole uniform just £3.75
  • Lidl – Back to School – While Stocks Last – whole uniform just £3.75


Supermarket stocks of school uniform are massively variable, so remember that Click and Collect is your friend!!  Find one of what you want, and then Click and Collect the rest!!  It will save you lots of bother and frustration.


Many school PTA’s run a second hand uniform shop of some description be it on Facebook or a rail in the playground. Definitely worth checking if yours does particularly for more expensive and logo’d items.

So there it is.  My experiences shared hopefully for your benefit.  Now, on to labelling clothes!  Sounds simple doesn’t it!  Think again.

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