General ramblings, My Make Do and Mend Year

Back to School…

Or in BigSmall’s case, STARTING school-eeek!

I was a little over-whelmed when I attended the parent’s evening at the end of last term and was presented with a very long list of Must Haves in terms of uniform, and posted on Facebook to the effect that it might prove difficult to Buy Nothing New and fulfil this list.
And the next thing I knew, a whole bag full of appropriately sized uniform appeared outside our back gate! (Thankyou Sue :))

So now, BigSmall is equipped with: trousers; shorts; white polo-shirts; school branded jumpers; school branded PE shirts; shorts for PE; tracksuit bottoms; and even a green fleece!
Leaving us just to get black shoes, grey socks, and a school branded bookbag.
I am not sure how easy any of these will be to find secondhand.

My mother in law has also been getting increasingly frantic at my lack of name tape buying (I was planning on good old marker pen on the labels..), so has ordered some, and also promised not only to sew them in, but to unpick them and re-sew into his uniforms as he gets bigger..!!

I heard some appalling statistic on the news the other day about the ridiculous percentage of a household’s August income that gets spent on school uniform.
Every supermarket seems to have special offers on back to school essentials, and they all seem to be ridiculously cheap (but I can see how the costs mount up when you have multiple children to buy for) BUT do we really want out children going to school wearing uniforms that someone elses child, somewhere else in the world might have made? Or that some child’s mother has had to work in a sweat shop for a less than living wage, just so that OUR kids can have cheap uniforms?
I know that some people will genuinely struggle with the cost, but for some of us, maybe if we bought fewer shirts, of better quality, they would last longer?
Yes, kids grow, and yes, kids trash their clothes, but surely, if they were better quality, and more expensive, they would be harder-wearing, and we would treat them with a bit more respect, and not as the disposable items they seem to have become.

We are very lucky, in that the school BigSmall is going to, already has a thriving second-hand uniform ‘shop’.
I managed to get pretty much everything we need, and all of it in brilliant condition, for ‘a donation’ to the Friends of the School.
And not only saved ourselves a small fortune, and are not contributing to the supply and demand chain for cheap school wear.
There must be tons of school uniform out there, that could be handed on.
Here are some options for a cheaper, more sustainable start to the academic year:

  • Check out your local Freecycle or Freegle group, and it would definitely be worth posting a WANTED if there was nothing suitable listed
  • Local car boots or nearly new/table top sales might be worth a trawl
  • If your school doesn’t have a second-hand uniform shop, why not ask if you can set one up?
  • There are lots of websites out there dedicated to passing on all the items you might need for a new school year. I know that most schools have school specific jumpers, but the rest of it tends to be fairly ubiquitous-grey trousers, white polo shirts, those checky school dresses…
    -School Uniform from Patched Elephant
    -Uniform Swap
    -Kids Local
    Preloved-while not a specific school uniform site, if you search for ‘school uniform’ quite a bit comes up

It has to be said, I haven’t actually tried any of these sites out, so cannot vouch for how useful they might be. Would love to hear from you if you have tried any of them, and what you thought.
Also, any other ideas for school uniforms that don’t cost the earth, (in so many ways..)?

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  • Reply Rebecca June 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    My daughter starts school in September and all her uniform including shoes are pre-loved. I bought 5 grey pinafores at a jumble sale 20 pence each (john lewis and M&S & Next), 1 navy frilled cardie £1.50 a secondhand shop, 2 new navy frilled cardies from Ebay for £5 incl postage still with price tags of £6 each on them, 5 x polo shirts donated by a friend and outgrown by her child, 2 x check summer dresses on buy one get one free in a charity shop 99p. Clarks school shoes from Freecycle in her exact size (normal have feet measured and buy almost new from ebay). The school provide a free book bag and the teacher suggested we make our own PE kit bag. She did have new knicker at £1.99 for 5 pairs from Aldi last week and so just socks to get. Just over £10 spent. She had her first taster day today and ran in with such enthusiasm. She is really looking forward to it and is only one of six children in the entire year (many have older sibblings and most are wearing hand me downs). Hope your little boy enjoys it too ! Rebecca

    • Reply Jen June 30, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Got to LOVE jumble sales.
      And great work on the shoes. I am never brave enough to ask for feet measuring and then not buy them-feel very mean-do they look at you crossly?
      BigSmall actually started last year, and is now almost at the end of Reception (how did that happen?!) He has LOVED it.
      Good luck to your little one 🙂

  • Reply contessafarrugia August 22, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Gah! This sounds so stressful. I have enough issues keeping within my 2nd hand only rule while also meeting with my work’s uniform policy – smart no jeans sensible shoes and also keeping to my professional groups expectations – comfortable trousers no skirts no dresses and trainers rather than shoes or heels. So at work I have to wear trousers that aren’t jeans and trainers that are smart and most of all dull. All of which are total opposite to my personal wardrobe of jeans, skirts and dresses all in varying degrees of raggedness usually with a pair of beat up sneakers or some ridiculous high heels.
    For this reason I have a very limited work wardrobe and I am not allowed to grow … in any direction.
    God help my future children when I am faced with a school uniform list – it sounds terrifying.

    Congratulations to you for sticking to your rules and kitting your family out successfully. MDAMY 1 unethical and unenvironmental school uniform suppliers 0

    • Reply Jen August 23, 2013 at 7:57 am

      It really wasn’t hard-the magic school uniform fairy appeared with a bag in just the right size!
      But seriously, I just wanted to make the point that there must be LOADS of perfectly good secondhand uniform kicking around, and there is really no need to buy new.

  • Reply Su August 20, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Surely it’s a simple task to make a ‘bookbag’ (who thought up this particular ridiculous idea I wonder?)? Then I’m sure anybody with a modicum of techy skill could put the school logo on it, failing that paint it on?

    • Reply Jen August 20, 2013 at 8:41 am

      You are right Su, I am sure it would be. But then it all comes down to peer pressure and not wanting your child to stand out, especially when just starting. I know I should be strong, and stand up for what I believe, but I feel like I need to test the waters first! I had a comment on FB a while back when I posted about trying to find secondhand uniform, that I was being selfish and my kids would be ostracised-and that was just for looking for secondhand uniform!
      My mum and dad want to get BigSmall something to mark the occasion of starting school, so I have suggested the book bag to them.

  • Reply Jenny Barrett August 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    My girls are now young adults but I did buy new when they started school knowing that the uniform had to last 2 girls. This worked until secondary school when different body shapes appeared! However, there was a secondhand shop there and we were not averse to a bit of darning and mending! And yes, I recycled name tapes.

    Also look out for bargain books in charity shops – I had a battered toy box delivered full of infant school books today at work! When presented with 50+ fiction books to read for A level English we managed to find 70% from charity shops and stalls and the rest from family and friends. And always ask around for 2nd hand sports equipment until you know your child is really going to take to it. The coach of the junior school football team collected donated boots and passed them on as feet grew.

    Good luck at school!

    • Reply Jen August 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      Thanks Jenny!
      Great tips 🙂

  • Reply Sue August 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Jen, when my 4 were at school I shopped at the charity shops for their uniform. Kids don’t really wear it out they grow so quick, you can get some fab bargains. Our school second hand shop was a great place for really good stuff aswell. Our daughters both use the Clarks outlet shops for the school shoes, last week our youngest got her 5 year olds school shoes for £29 and they were £40 in normal Clarks shop. Good luck with BigSmalls 1st day.

    • Reply Jen August 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      Planning on a trip to the Clarks outlet shop this week!
      I haven’t seen much uniform in charity shops, maybe it all goes to nearly new sales and things now?

  • Reply Hayley August 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Jen, just bought school shoes today and not from Clarks for once (we’re done with their butterflies & flowers!) my oldest is going to middle school so has new new uniform. But it comes with the promise that it’s ‘made for a child and not by a child’. It was also expensive so i’ve only got one of everything (scholars in Trowbridge.) The younger two have inherited outgrown stuff. Good luck with the new school!

    • Reply Jen August 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Hayley.
      Where did you go for shoes?
      I like that promise-‘made for a child and not by a child’. If only all our kids clothes could come with that guarantee.
      Good luck at Middle School!

      • Reply Hayley August 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm

        Just kids in Hilperton, near Towbridge is a lovely independent shop. Free parking and less stress. I can also recommend the charity shop next door. Sadly a similar shoe shop closed down in Devizes last month after just a year trading. I’m sure there is a more ethical way of buying shoes but for now supporting small shops is the best I can do!

        • Reply Jen August 20, 2013 at 10:05 pm

          I thought the one in Hilperton had shut too Hayley?
          I tried the website and it’s no longer working. When did you last go?

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