back to school

Back to school – our uniform secret

Getting ready to go back to school just got easier thanks to a secret I have to share: you can cover off all the school uniform basics in an hour without even leaving the house.  Not only that, the products are affordable and high-quality thanks to Marks & Spencer now being online in Australia.

Some schools demand that you purchase everything from the official school uniform supplier – if your kid goes to one of those schools then you probably don’t need to read on.  My kids go to the local primary… and as long as you follow the basic colour scheme of things you’re all good.  Obviously, there are certain things with the school emblem that you need to include in the mix – but outside those items, the other basics can be sourced from the uniform shop or your local department store.  That was, until now.

I was approached by the guys at Marks & Spencer (yes they do exist in Australia, online) to try out their school uniform range – they provided me with a budget of $300 to go shopping for any school uniform items that I wanted.  At first I admit I was dubious – I mean what could I get other than some tracksuit pants?  It turns out I could get loads!

The whole experience has quite frankly been a game changer.  In one hour I had completely filled all the gaps in our school wardrobe.

And then my other worry – what if they don’t fit and what if the quality isn’t what it looks like in the pictures.

Straight up these last two worries were blown out of the water.  All the sizing was fine – Immi felt her bike shorts were a bit big, but she’s just used to the size 8’s she has been wearing (in my defence I have been trying to buy new bike shorts for the past two years but those things go like hot cakes at all the department stores and I refuse to pay the crazy prices at our uniform shop demands for an item of clothing she likes to wear under her culottes!!).

The quality surpassed my expectations.  I was blown away.  I hope my photo’s do the clothes justice as they are all fabulously finished.  For example, Immi’s culottes not only have a button and zip at the waist – it is also an adjustable waist (something they usually phase out in big kids clothing, and definitely not something we’ve ever had in any of her other school culottes; official or high street variety).

So what did we get??  Well, the Slim-Fit cotton Polo-T’s claim to be stain resistant and come in a 2-pack ($16 for two!), so that went in the basket.  Charlie generally uses his t-shirts as a napkin and they are constantly stained across the middle (I blame the nectarines, not my failed parenting/laundering).  It seems we can never have too many T-shirts (and thankfully for the purpose of our photo shoot the size 8-9 fitted Immi).

Both the kids got tracksuit pants – cotton rich (85% cotton, 15% polyester) and priced $12-$19 (depending on style).  You can even buy them in a 5-pack for $40.  They are super soft, and look great!  Immi’s style (Unisex Cotton Rich Joggers with StayNEW™) has elastic around the ankles which I quite like if you like to buy your trackies a size too big (for the purpose of our photo shoot I bought true to size – but if I was being my usual frugal mama self I would have insisted we got a bigger size).

Finally, I have been able to stock up on appropriately sized bike shorts!  I don’t know about you but every time I head into the school uniform section of a department store all I can find are the dregs of the range – everything is either size 4 or 14 and in any colour but our school’s colours.  And bike shorts seem the hardest to find – at least they have been, until now.  Naturally, I ordered three pairs immediately. (And M&S do loads of other basic items – I have just scratched the surface here!)

Now here was something about M&S I didn’t know – they do shoes!  I carefully measured the kid’s feet, and also cross-referenced with some of their most current shoes to make sure we didn’t stuff this up… I also double checked with the M&S online help person (who emailed me back a few hours later).  The shoes, and sizes, are perfect.  The kids love them – and I love that the sneakers say in big letters “machine washable”!  At $42 and $45 a pair this is incredible value… and they don’t look cheap and nasty – they look fantastic (and I am told by the kids they are super comfy).

Not only do M&S do “joggers” but they also do school shoes!  Immi is entering that stage where she only wants to have exactly the same t-bars that her friends have.  The options for her size feet were limited as the two designs she liked were sold out – so we compromised and got something non-traditional… which she is thrilled about and has been wearing constantly since they arrived.  Immi reckons these high-tops are the most comfortable shoes she’s ever worn as they are super squishy inside.  Did I mention they look cool?

back to school

It’s been over a year since I have been able to convince Charlie that school shoes are a thing… about half way through grade 1 he refused to wear them as all his friends wore only sneakers.  And when I was actually doing this online shop one of his best friends was here for a playdate and he and Charlie agreed there was only one boy in the whole of grade 2 who wore school shoes last year.  Anyway, I managed to get Charlie to choose a pair from the M&S website to wear “just to wear for the photo’s” and much to my amusement he’s worn them (of his own accord) two days out of three since he got them.  Not only do these shoes (Kids’ Leather School Shoes with Insolia Flex® & Freshfeet™ Technology) look cool they are all leather (rubber sole) and have some sort of scuff resistant material across the toe.  At $55 and endorsed by the UK College of Podiatrists as a parent they tick all the boxes… the fact that my school-shoe-hating kid is now wearing them during summer holidays (and it’s been 35C!!) makes it all the sweeter.

back to school

You’d think with a $300 shopping limit I would be close to exhausted… but wait there is more.  We also got new culottes for Immi and a pair of pants for Charlie (his choice to have long pants – they do appear on our school uniform list, but I am not aware that any kids actually opt to wear them, so it was an interesting and slightly gutsy choice I felt).  As mentioned earlier both these items have adjustable waists and the fabric and finish are fantastic.  (You can see the cuff of Charlie’s pants in the photo above.)

If you are looking for quality and a price tag that won’t break the bank when it comes to getting ready for school you need to check out M&S online.  If you order over $100 of product then shipping is free, I opted for the express postage ($7.50) and it meant that my parcel arrived four days later (all the way from the UK).

My top tip is to measure your kids height and waist measurement before you start and check it on the M&S size guide.  When it came to shoes I measured my kids feet in mm’s and cross checked a few size guides on google before double checking with the online help at M&S for peace of mind… if you didn’t mind the shoes not fitting straight away then I guess you could always order a half size bigger – and of course there is an exchange and return program if you need to swap a size.

A final note on sizing – most of the items went up in sizes of one (eg size 8-9, 9-10 etc), which I really like as I find whenever my kids get to the end of a size the next size up seems huge when it jumps up by twos.

Disclaimer:  As mentioned above we were supplied with a $300 store credit for the purpose of this review.  All views are my own.  This collaboration is supported by Marks and Spencer and Shopping Links.