Kids clothes have grown up, because they demanded it. The youngest among us are still more prone to embrace bolder colors and layering extremes, but most of them don’t want to look much different than the fashionable adults and superstar teenagers they idolize.
Blame it on the media, but it’s just so much easier to formulate a style identity. And that’s just what’s happening to the preschool set. There are children who can’t even spell catwalk, but consider themselves the best stylists in town.
Unless there’s an unfortunate and fundamental difference in style from parent to child, the best way to approach back-to-school shopping is to have a meeting of the minds.
Don’t be shy about telling your child that there is a budget and be specific.
The best way to stick to the budget is awareness. It’ll be easier to get them to compromise if you explain the give and take of finance.
If they have their heart set on a pair of designer distressed jeans, leather knee-high boots or some expensive jacket, then let them know that it will mean fewer clothes or bargain shopping elsewhere. Ask them to decide what’s most important before you shop; it may avoid arguments in public.
Compile a shopping list together of shirts, belts, scarves, shoes by types and miscellaneous wardrobe items and then formulate a plan of attack. It’s easier to buy inexpensive T-shirts and accessories to dress up an outfit. Start at outlets and resale shops and work your way up to higher-end stores. You’ll also have a better eye for true differences in quality after shopping around.
When it comes to style, we all have to find our own way, and that’s starting earlier than ever. Enjoy dressing them while you can, but don’t expect to force your rocker chic daughter to love peasant skirts or have your skater son tolerate button-down shirts and cardigans. Compromise is in. Totalitarianism is out.
Yes, parents have to be parents and you have to draw the line somewhere, but be judicious and open-minded.
-Go cheap with super trendy items, including novelty tees, headbands, puffy jackets, costume jewelry, scarves or bold patterned items that will only last a season. Head to off-priced stores and shop sales first.
-Look at construction, not price when opting to spend more on an item. Before you or your child rule out something just because it’s inexpensive, look at the finishing details. Teach them to look at quality and price, and it might be easier to talk them out of the tantrum over the $60 designer T-shirt.
-Try second-hand shops, especially with younger children. At those ages, kids often don’t wear clothes long, so you can reclaim something that’s practically new. And if you have trouble getting your teenage to take an interest in Goodwill or another charity thrift store, check out the former for stocks of brand new Target clothing that still have the tags. Local Target stores regularly donate clearance stock to Goodwills, and all thrifts and charity shops are known for housing hidden gems.
-Check the return policies and special programs. Sears has a great program that allows you to replace your child’s items if they haven’t outgrown them. That means that if Tommy wears a hole in the knee of his new jeans and he can still fit into the jeans, you can return them for the same size pant. Parents can sign up for the KidVantage program at any register in a Sears store. There is no fee for joining, and you earn a 15 percent discount on your next purchase for every $100 you spend on kids clothing.
-Layering makes summer clothing last. It also maximizes your child’s clothing options. Luckily, layering is in.
-If you see a good deal on clearance racks at stores or online, buy a size up for next year. But be certain it’s something that will still be in style.

(c) 2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
AP-NY-07-31-09 1401EDT

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