Send them back to school. Can't think anymore.
August 10, 2010 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Please help me come up with a reasonable comprehensive list for back-to-school wardrobe requirements for 16 year old boy, and 13 and 12 year old girls, living in New England and doing their laundry once a week.

Help me not to overindulge or deprive them. I'm looking for a list that gets us through fall and winter. Bonus points for budget per item. Thanks again hive.
posted by maloon to Shopping (12 answers total)
Are they new to New England? Or are you supplementing an existing fall/winter wardrobe?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:44 AM on August 10, 2010

(Oh, and does the school have a dress code or anything?)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 AM on August 10, 2010

We're not new to New England but we are starting from scratch due to growth spurts and extreme wear and tear. No dress code really.
posted by maloon at 6:50 AM on August 10, 2010

This isn't exactly what you were asking for, but you might find it useful. I found that the annual school clothing ordeal was a great opportunity in parenting.

We had established that one of the chores the kids did was doing their own laundry, if they didn't do the chore, it only impacted on them, not me or anyone else in the family... a perfect way to begin teaching self reliance and responsibility.

I tied that with the clothing purchase thing. at about the age your kids are we would determine a reasonable amount of money to be spent on school clothes, they would then get to do their own shopping and pick out their own cloths, no questions asked as long as it was within whatever dress code was appropriate at school.

I had one kid that would shop bargain shops, resale, etc, and would come up with a whole bunch of clothes. I had one kid that would only buy high end and would be stuck with two outfits for the year.

If they wanted to spend more on clothes, they had to earn the money (not from me, they had to find jobs, mow lawns, whatever they could find).
posted by HuronBob at 7:04 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, your biggest ticket item is going to be coats. Assuming that they've outgrown last years coats - I used to try to buy them to last two years: yes, they were always a little too big during year one and a little too small during year two, a fate apparently worse than death from their anguished cries but they miraculously survived - than you're probably looking at a bare minimum of $50 per coat and more likely $100 or more.

The first step that we used to take was going through the wardrobe and seeing what still fit and what was hopelessly too small. Then you build your shopping list around that and the amount of money you have to spend. I can't imagine starting from scratch with kids that age but I guess if you have to the best person to answer might be the kids themselves. What do they usually wear to school? Jeans? I would figure that each child needs maybe three to four pairs of jeans and one pair of non jean pants. The girls need at least one skirt or dress each. They're going to need at least five tops and probably more like seven to ten, a mix of T-shirts, long sleeved knit tops and one or two button downs. In New England they'll need a couple of heavy sweaters and a hoodie or preferably two or three (they will lose them.) Then of course there are socks and underwear. They will also lose socks. Socks are ephemeral, particularly for teenage boys. And then there are shoes. 16 year old boys are into mens' sizes and that means the cost skyrockets. I always figured two pairs of shoes: sneakers and then "good" shoes or hiking boots that looked okay for day to day. In New England you probably need snow boots as well?

Budget is so variable depending on where you shop. Old Navy is cheap (look at that, girls' jeans for $14 a pair); so is Ross Dress for Less and there are probably local discount places wherever you are. Don't forget about thrift stores: you can sometimes find great stuff at the Goodwill, particularly for kids who tend to outgrow their clothes before they destroy them. Don't give in and go to the mall if you can avoid it, or only do it for one or two things: you'll spend more on one shirt at the Gap than you would on five at Old Navy and honestly the quality is not that different. It's hard to come up with a total budget but the last time my teenage son decided to completely revamp his wardrobe it ended up costing around $300 (half my money, half his) without a coat. He did it mostly here, they have nice stuff and the prices are reasonable. When my daughter was heading into her teens she discovered Delias and never wanted anything else.

They're all old enough where they can and should be extremely involved in the shopping process. They won't wear stuff they don't like, and adolescents are ridiculously picky, so buying them things sight unseen is often a total waste of money but I'm sure you know this already. Oh and I'm going to agree with HuronBob: let them do most of the work and if they want extra beyond the basics, they pay for it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:11 AM on August 10, 2010

I don't know about the girls, but my 16-year-old boy (and his 14-year-old brother) are getting two pairs of skinny jeans each from PacSun, and new shoes. If they get new coats it will be later in the year, as they prefer layers and hoodies until winter really kicks in. They enjoy browsing in thrift stores so they usually have a rotating supply of t-shirts that they like, supplemented by birthday/Christmas gifts.

Right now PacSun's jeans sale is "buy 2, get 20% off shoes," but they often have a "2 for $60" sale which I'll wait for. My boys are hard on their clothes and the PacSun jeans hold up pretty well. There's also a catalog we buy from occasionally, jeans, t-shirts, and purple corduroy skinnies. 2 for $55 right now & they're good about returns if the fit is off.

I disagree that coats will be your biggest expense, even in New England. Good shoes are expensive & they'll need boots as well as sneakers and shoes up there.
posted by headnsouth at 7:38 AM on August 10, 2010

mygothlaundry has good advice re: the amount of clothing you'll need. But I'm going to disagree on the quality of Old Navy v. Gap. Old Navy clothing falls apart sooner than Gap clothing does. And Gap clothing is not the paragon of quality, either. If you can get good deals on better quality clothes, they'll last longer and you won't need to replace anything until they outgrow it. Land's End has great sales (my teenager likes the T-shirts, hoodies, and coats there), as does Boden (it has a teen shop); you can often get free shipping and they both do free returns (but if you measure correctly there's rarely an issue with size). Those are just examples. If you find stores your kids like, jump on the email lists and take advantage of sales. There are also some really great teen resale shops popping up all over the place. One I know is Plato's Closet. I don't know where in NE you are but there are a few stores in VT and MA, for example.
posted by cooker girl at 7:45 AM on August 10, 2010

I am also of the opinion that kids that age should basically be doing their own clothes shopping and laundry (the most expensive clothes you'll ever buy are the ones that are sale for 50! percent! off!!! that your kids won't wear). I've got a 15yo boy and 12yo girl, and I'm planning on budgeting them each $200 for clothes this fall (I usually spend a similar amount at Christmas and again in late spring/early summer). They are both style conscious, but not necessary insistent on particular brand names.

If you're absolutely certain that you need to start from scratch (but surely they must have a t-shirt or two they've not destroyed?) you might double that. But even so, I personally wouldn't recommend trying to buy two entire seasons' worth of clothes right now. I'd focus on 5-6 tops (mix of short and long sleeve), 5-6 bottoms, a pair of shoes, and a hoodie for now. Then revisit the winter wear question when it's closer to winter and stores are actually stocking the new models.

I recommend JCPenney as having affordable duds that are reasonably fashion-conscious. Their back-to-school sales can be amazing.
posted by drlith at 8:35 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm no expert in shopping for teens, but remembering my teenage years, I want to plead: don't forget gym clothes, if they have gym class or participate in athletics. (The Champion website sells reasonably fashionable and durable stuff, frequently on sale.) You don't want them to wear their street clothes to second-period gym class and be stinky for the rest of the day. Your school's gym may require sneakers with non-marking soles, so keep that in mind, too. If swim lessons are part of gym class (where I went to school we had swimming as a required part of P.E. every winter), budget for a swimsuit too.

I think at 12-16 the kids are probably old enough to at least collaborate on this task. Ask them each to come up with a list of what they think they need, then sit down and cross-check it with your list. Being teenagers, they may forget some necessary items or have unrealistic wishes or assumptions.

Here's a starter list that's by no means authoritative--you should adjust the numbers, cross things off, add things, etc. according to your judgment and the kids' needs.

underpants - 10-12 pair
socks - 12 pair (more if needed to get an appropriate mix of gym socks, daily socks, dress socks)
non-underwire, machine-washable bras for the girls - 4 or 5 (assuming bras can be worn twice before washing)
warm pajamas/sleepwear - 1 or 2 sets
jeans - 3 pair
tops - sufficient mix of tees / hoodies / sweaters / blouses so that they have about 10 days' worth of options and can dress in layers during the fall/spring
dress-up clothes - think about the dressiest occasion they're likely to attend and budget for appropriate clothes. For example, chinos, an oxford shirt, and a tie might be enough for the boy if he plays on a sports team and they dress up on game day; but if he sings in the school's chorus he might need black pants and a white button-down shirt.
skirts for the girls - 1 or 2 if they sometimes like skirts as an alternative to jeans for daily wear
tights or nylons - as needed for the girls
moisture-wicking T-shirts for gym class / athletics - 3 (or as many as the number of gym classes / practices they have per week)
mesh gym shorts - 3 (ditto above)
athletic underwear, if needed - jock strap for the boy, athletic bras for the girls
sneakers - for gym class / athletics
whatever shoes teens like for daily wear
dressy shoes - if needed to coordinate with dressy outfit
warm winter boots
winter jacket/coat
hat, mittens/gloves, scarf

As much as possible, look for clothes that can all be washed together in cold water and do not require ironing or dry cleaning.
posted by Orinda at 8:39 AM on August 10, 2010

Items I forgot: rain jacket / windbreaker, umbrella if desired, and rain boots / wellies.
posted by Orinda at 8:49 AM on August 10, 2010

I saw in one of your previous questions that you're in the MA/RI area, if you weren't planning on it already, definitely check out the Wrentham Outlets for deals - Eddie Bauer and Columbia for winter coats, for example.
posted by illenion at 9:48 AM on August 10, 2010

Ah, thank you all for helping me realize I'm on the right track. Mygothlaundry & Orinda's lists are great. Agree with suggestion of letting them decide what to spend on what, but needed a basic guideline to put in their hands. The kids already do their own laundry so this year, I guess, it will be up to them (mostly) to decide on what to buy, gulp.
posted by maloon at 3:09 PM on August 11, 2010

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