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  by Pretty Mama August 31, 2007

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How a Chic Mom Does Back to School With Style

Aah, fall. Back-to-school season. While we as girls may have looked forward to the excitement of new stuff, new classrooms, new friends, and new clothes, as moms we have new dilemmas to face. My mailbox is absolutely jam-packed with catalogs full of back-to-school ideas for my little angels' wardrobes, but darned if I don't have to try twice as hard for my preschool-age son (the only one who's actually going to school) than for my one-year-old daughter. There are pages and pages of adorable options for girls, and aisles and aisles of trendy, adorable, and colorful clothing, shoes and accessories in the stores, yet boys seem to have only a choice between navy and olive, jeans or sweatpants, and nary a cute pattern to be seen. I've noticed this trend ever since he grew out of footie pajamas, and I've been waiting for someone to save me every year, but it seems that a fashionista mom (who's already planned out her first outfit (love the cuffed trousers!) for the preschool orientation meeting, including tote bag and coordinating-but-not- matching ensemble for my little tagalong sweetie) is short on choices for decking her little prince. But I love a shopping challenge, so I started researching.

At the playground one sultry summer morning, I started asking my compatriots what their solutions were: how did they get such adorable clothes for their little boys, how did they interpret the season's trends for their kids, and where, most importantly, did they shop? (And when were we all going to come to our senses, hire a sitter or three for the group, and go shopping ourselves, sans bébés ?)

First things first we decided: the mommy wardrobe—fashionista mommies know there is nothing quite as daunting (fashion-wise) as the preschool drop-off and I, for one, can attest to the trauma a truly terrible wardrobe choice can cause in one's life. Thank heaven I learned my lesson early, and can pass this wisdom on to my dearest friends.


Now that the mommies are taken care of, I began gathering useful tidbits for my little ones' back-to-school style:

"I can't stop myself from buying; I look in every store, whenever I go shopping anywhere, and stock up on basics year-round, in sizes my kids are growing into," said one mom.

"I try to go for top quality on staples like jeans, khakis, and good shoes for my son, since I know he's going to pass them along to his little brother and they'll get used twice," noted another.

"We go to places like Old Navy and Marshall's twice a year and buy a ton of stuff, not too expensive, because I know my boys wear things out and get them dirty twice as fast as my girls do," lamented a third mom. "There's no point in crying over the stains, since we bought smart to begin with, and then they can get new stuff as they grow mid-year, or as they bust through their knees on the playground."

My go-to kids'-wardrobe adviser (who works for T.J. Maxx, lucky duck, and gets a discount ) told us that we could stick with plain, simple pieces like jeans and comfy cozy cords in solid colors and focus on the gear that goes with it instead. "Accessories are so important this year. Backpacks have embellishments and cartoon logos, as do the matching lunch totes. Girls will rock brightly colored, printed headbands with tails, colorful watches and other fun hair accessories."

Smart theories, all. I started digging around and came up with some great pieces (can you call them "pieces" if the wearers are under five?) for both of my kids that will have them on the cutting edge without me needing to cut up our credit cards. Butchy Boy will sport the latest layered-up tees and cargos, plaid shirts over tees, and straight-leg jeans for school. I got him a pair of the old standard Chuck Taylors (which will work for rocker-style outfits and old-style preppy) and a slip-on hiker-type trainer (he's not such a fan of asking for help with the laces) - those should cover his footwear needs until mid-year (I hope!). While hoodies and track pants are all the rage, I'm a little old-fashioned in my designation of "school clothes", at least while I'm still mostly in charge of what he wears - I'm keeping the sweats for play and sending him to school in sweaters when the fall winds blow chilly. And with a couple of old-school button-down shirts and a belt, his school khakis can translate nicely to Thanksgiving dinner (yikes, am I talking about November already?), but I think the sneakers might be pushing it at Grandma's dinner table.

Princess' shopping was much easier, although I nearly needed to enlist a chaperone to keep me on the straight-and-narrow. I'm loving the layers for her, too - a jumper over a turtleneck over corduroys, or a knit dress with stripy tights. (Girls have more types of clothing than boys, so it just follows naturally that they need more pieces!) Sweaters and jeans for crisp days, chinos and girly tops with a darling jacket to top them off when it gets really chilly… and the cutest pair of Mary Janes that will go with absolutely everything (although I think she needs some Chucks, too, now that she's walking everywhere. A little rock-and-roll will be a nice counterpoint to the prepster…). And better not forget an adorable pair of girly rainboots for puddle jumping! (Which means the coordinating rain gear is a must!)

Well, that turned out much better than I'd hoped. The persistence is hard to come by some days (especially when you're shopping with two short people: two minutes of looking at clothes, three minutes of chasing, four minutes of paying, three minutes of cajoling, etc. etc.), but it is possible to set up a boy as fabulously as a girl. And now that they're off to independent lives, think of how much time we'll have. Meet me for coffee next week? I have two hours until pick-up…

Love to all!

Pretty Mama

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