Back to School Fashion for Families

Yesterday was the first day of school in these parts.  It was, like, 110 degrees–I’m not even kidding.  There’s a reason they call this place Sunny California.  Hilariously, I had to talk my 13 year old of the multiple layered outfit she wanted to wear, that included a long sleeved denim shirt.  Obviously, we have entered the stage of life in which fashion is more important than comfort.  (Remember those days?  Hmmm?)  In spite of the heat, I was able to get everyone out the door and on their way in clothing that was pleasing to both mother and children.

It’s interesting for me to watch how each of my children are developing their own unique tastes in clothing.

My only son and new middle schooler, Justone, is pretty laid back in his clothing choices.  He would be happiest wearing basketball shorts everyday, but I prefer for my children to dress a little less casually than that for school.  It’s my personal opinion that school is their job, right now, and wardrobe choices are an important part of job performance.  You dress for success, right?  I believe my children get taken more seriously and get more positive attention from their co-workers (classmates) and supervisors (teachers and administrators) when they wear clothes that are neat, clean, not extreme in cut or fashion, and are less casual than what they’d wear to gym class.  So basketball shorts are something we save for wearing at home.

Superkid, our new third grader, enjoys wearing something regularly that big sister Endeavor wouldn’t have been caught dead in at that age:  skirts.  Despite her interests in legos, ninjas, and robots, Superkid has very feminine taste in clothing.  Many of her wardrobe choices include dresses and skirts.  Initially I worried about how a very active child could wear skirts on the playground without showing off her underpants to the world.  But I’ve been able to prevent that thanks to lots of great options that are available, like leggings, jeggings, or bike-short like coverups called “playground shorts” or “monkeybar shorts” that are sold at Target, Old Navy, and Gymboree.  Superkid gets to wear a frilly skirt and climb up the monkey bars, and I get the assurance that we’ve preserved her modesty.

I spent the most time and money shopping to outfit Endeavor for school this year.  (And when I refer to spending money, please recognize that my spending on school clothes is very, very conservative.  I spent between $125-150 per child before school this year which included clothing items, socks and underwear, accessories, and shoes.)  Endeavor is actively developing her own unique sense of style, and I’m happy to report that it includes a pretty mature concern for modesty, wearability, and affordability.  Not much to complain about, there, as a parent.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many (or any?) stores that cater to a petite teen with such tastes.  Hence, it takes some creativity and a willingness to drive all. over. town. to put together outfits that please this 13 year old.  I’m not an idiot, I’ll take that problem ANY DAY over fighting with my teen about inappropriate clothing!

Knowing that I had a teen who was going to be very picky about her school clothes, I did some research before hitting the mall.  I wanted to help her find wardrobe staples that were youthful, stylish, and versatile enough to be worn in multiple ways.  I found some terrific resources online to help guide our choices.  Maybe some of you will find them handy, too.

First up, stylist and blogger Jennifer from Style Your Life  is a believer in appropriate clothing choices for young women.  She often shares outfit ideas for tweens and teens.  Endeavor and I got some great inspiration from her 2012 “California Girl” back-to-school wardrobe suggestions.

Jennifer created a shopping list of a few affordable wardrobe staples and accessories, and then showed how you could mix and match the pieces to create fun outfits.  While not all of the clothing pieces met our standards of modesty, we could easily envision similar items that would.  For instance, we could see how bermuda shorts in a colorful pattern would be a great alternative to the shorter shorts Jennifer selected, or how a cute dress could be an alternative to the romper.

Next, I found a great article about extending your wardrobe choices with the addition of colored pants.  Endeavor loves wearing jeans, and while she knew colored jeans were trendy, she wasn’t sure how she felt about wearing them herself.  Seeing the charts and outfit ideas in this post at Modern Parents Messy Kids helped Endeavor figure out that she could really get a lot of use out of colored pants, jeans, and skirts.

Turns out that the author of that article, Audrey, has even more useful fashion tips at her blog, Putting Me Together.   She has a great series called Building a Remixable Wardrobe that had tons of suggestions we could use.  For instance, Audrey suggests asking several questions when you consider buying a top:  can you….wear it by itself?  tuck it in?  tie it or knot it?  belt it?  Audrey shares that when she selects a top to buy, it has to be able to accomplish three of the four criteria.  Great suggestion for creating a versatile wardrobe!  Again, not all of the clothing items were things that my 13 year old was going to wear (she doesn’t have many occasions that require blazers), but Audrey’s ideas provided lots of inspiration.

I hadn’t realized denim button-up shirts were a hot item this year, until they started popping up with the wardrobe suggestions I was finding.  Endeavor likes layering clothing, so the idea of a denim shirt was really appealing to her.  Especially after we saw The Chambray Shirt Project.

Blogger Heather Smith found 21 ways to wear hers, and that was a great starting point for us.  For something that’s supposed to be so trendy right now, it was pretty hard to find in Endeavor’s size.  But our search was rewarded at my favorite store, Target.  We came home with a shirt that suited Endeavor’s taste and my budget.

So, I’ve been able to get everyone the basics for school and do it without a single argument with my teen.  I’d call that a success, wouldn’t you?  I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for shopping with or for kids, and how to get the most out of your purchases.


  1. Hello! Heather Smith here! I saw the incoming link from your blog linking to my chambray shirt project, and I enjoyed reading over your post about shopping for your kids school wardrobe! What a great post! It brought a smile to my face that I’d inspired you and Endeavor, and I hope that your kids have a fantastic school year! Blessings!

    • Thanks, Heather! We’ve really appreciated the great outfit ideas you’ve provided. I think maybe I’ll have to go and find a chambray shirt now, too!

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