The Best School Uniforms – Where To Spend & Save

Author: Naomi Liddell

Myself and a bunch of other Mums from Ethan’s school recently got chatting about school uniforms. And in particular, the varying quality of school uniforms. Typically, if I can get away with it (growth spurts aside 🙄) I like to do one big shop for the upcoming year’s uniform around now (when the offers are on). The following sentence is probably the most ‘mum’ thing I have ever typed on the internet… I want to get the wear out of them. I want to know which pieces make up the best school uniform and are least likely to fade, stain, stretch or bobble. 

Ethan’s uniforms get washed ALOT and he wears them 5 out of 7 days so they need to be able to withstand some abuse. From experience, and certainly from talking to the other Mums, we have collectively found that paying more does not necessarily mean you’re getting the best piece of clothing for the job. 

So from the expertise of a gaggle of real-life school Mums and the team here at RMLtd, here are our findings…


 

The Best School Uniforms (And Some Fails Too)

 
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M&S

This whole conversation was actually sparked because M&S have launched their 20% off promotion for kids uniforms. This post isn’t sponsored by M&S, it’s just a highlight on the school Mum’s calendar as a reminder that it’s the dreaded time of year to get the uniforms in! M&S are by far the favourite for most items amongst not just my Mum pals at school but the RMS team. The quality of the core M&S uniform pieces seems to be undisputed! Boys trousers with their adjustable waists and double hem seem to last all year like new. Same applies to the girl’s pinafore range. Wash after wash and they’re so easy to iron. I also really rate their Stain Resistant polo shirts. I know a few Mums who choose to save on polo shirts but I find that after the whole year Ethan’s have both stayed super white (and we don’t use any whitening washing powder) and retained their shape.

There are two M&S products though that haven’t worked for us and I think it’s important to share those too. The unisex cotton v-neck jumper has been reeeeallly hard to get stains out of and completely faded in the wash. Likewise with the unisex joggers. Only worn on occasion throughout the year, but super faded and I found the waist incredibly tight (strange considering I had to tighten the waist of his other M&S trousers of the same size). Those two aside though the general consensus is that M&S do excellent uniform pieces. And with 20% off until 2nd July, now is the time to stock up. 

George At ASDA

I highly rate the George Colour Lasting Knitwear for school jumpers (available in a range of colours). We have the option to buy Ethan’s from the school uniform shop with the logo but with prices starting at £10 per jumper… And the inevitability that they’ll all end up with grease marks and paint on… I just can’t justify it. Especially when the George ones are excellent quality, warm and the colour doesn’t fade one bit. Not to mention they start at £4 for a pack of 2!! On the flipside, I’m not such a huge fan of their polo shirts. I find the collars a bit flimsy and they grey and bobble (which the M&S ones don’t). But the price point is excellent and the reviews online are great, so what do I know?

Nutmeg at Morrisons

I am endlessly frustrated that the Morrisons Nutmeg range isn’t available online. We’ve had a few clothes bought as gifts for the boys from here and every single piece has been excellent quality. The t-shirts are so thick and wash like a dream! My friends also tell me that it’s a great shop for kids P.E. gear and girls black leggings. I think I’m going to try them out for a better replacement for Ethan’s joggers too, as apparently, the girl’s leggings don’t fade or lose their shape, so I’m hoping the joggers won’t either. 

A Few Others

Becky is a huge fan of the Tesco F&F trousers for Leo. They have a skinny fit version which is perfect for his build and they wash really well too. School skirts from Debenhams are a favourite of Amy’s for her daughter Meade, along with these insanely cute girls knee socks with ribbon bow detail! Tights from Sainsburys were also raved about by a few folk (although Charlotte hasn’t had a great experience with the pinafores). And I’ve seen lots of girls wearing this adorable gingham summer playsuit from John Lewis. Super comfy looking and a great alternative to summer dresses. 
 
So now we turn it over to you lot. What have been your best and worst uniform purchases? All the recommendations are based on our own experiences, so we haven’t covered every possible uniform piece, but maybe you can help us fill in the gaps? School uniforms can be an expensive outlay so it’s nice that we can all help each other decide what’s best to spend on and what’s best to save on. 

{Contributors}
Author
Naomi can’t decide which she loves more: adventuring with her boys or being left alone in a luxurious bath with a great book.
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14 thoughts on “The Best School Uniforms – Where To Spend & Save

  1. So it was our first school uniform year this year. I detest polo shirts as I think they look scruffy so quickly but our school you can buy them or proper shirts so I got Zach the short sleeved straight out the tumble dryer ones from M&S and they have lasted the whole year and you can put them on a really hot wash if you need to. His trousers were also M&S because as a skinny boy he needs those adjustable waist and slimmer fit that they sell a huge range of. These were not child proof. One fall in the playground and the knees had holes in. A friend said I should go to Matalan, wish I’d gone to start with. The material of the trousers are much thicker. I’ve got his summer shorts from there as they do a slim fit one. Think they were about £3 a pair! I got his whole PE kit from Aldi for under a tenner, 2 pairs of shorts, a sweatshirt and joggers. My mum did have to take them right in but still a huge saving. We did get him official jumpers as the hubby wanted him to be proud of his school but they are £13 each. I’d have got him plain M&S ones but I was overruled on that one.
    I’m waiting to get any new stuff now till the end of the summer hols in case he has a growth spurt.
    Anyone else get annoyed with buying items on the school list that have never been worn this year? We got Zach outdoor trainers for PE which he has now grown out of. They only start doing outdoor stuff Summer term so a bit peeved by that expense.
    School shoes are a whole other post I think 😂

    1. Great shout on the Matalan trousers! It’s a shop I always forget about 🙈. Also yes on the school list frustration! Ethan has PE shorts that were literally never worn because its just not been warm enough!

    2. Another vote for Matalan boys school trousers! Very thick good quality (without being inflexible if you know what I mean). I buy the special needs friendly trousers from M&S usually as my son’s autism means he struggles with zips and buttons so these are pull up and great. However M&S are almost always out of stock so I found the equivalent at Matalan, and when I compared side by side were much better quality feeling.

  2. Sainsbury’s here.

    I found that the jersey dresses (2 for £6) are much cheaper and easier to get changed for PE for younger girls than the stiffer and harder cotton grey winter pinafore material you find at M & S and John Lewis.

    Their summer dresses are also a winner for me but Sainsbury’s, if you are reading, this year’s not as good as last year’s as the pleats mean the damn things need ironing to look smart. Tesco this year have had non pleats which have been easier for washing and drying on the line.

    I have a very tall narrow boy who is 3 to dress from September but he’s still in 12-18 month shorts (not my hips) so not entirely sure what we’ll do about that yet. Boys clothes seem to be very different (I hear not good things about boys at Sainsbury’s) so we shall see. Following with interest re narrow narrow waisted clothes.

    Just as a general query, working mother out the house 12 hours a day with limited time to wash in winter. How many branded cardigans/jumpers do we need?

    Glad to have you back N. Good post.

    1. Rebecca, I’ll admit I’m probably the worst person to ask. I have 5 of everything. All that’s been worn by Friday gets washed, dried and ironed by Sunday night. I like knowing there’s a full week of clean uniform ready in case he comes home filthy everyday (happens more often than I’d like). But like I said, I don’t buy school logo stuff so it’s cheaper. 🙈

      1. I was thinking 5. We try not to use the tumble drier as we have a large 8ft ceiling rack in the utility so in winter they don’t dry well.

        To be honest, I thought £10 was ok for a school jumper! School is free (aside from after school and breakfast club!) so I think we save a fortune not paying for pre-school!

    2. I struggle with Sainsbury’s for Zach. Some of his clothes are still 3-4 years and he is 5½. Not sure about the school trousers but none of their regular tousers/shorts have drawstring or the elastic to tighten them so it’s a thumbs down from me x

  3. I appreciate that purchasing school uniforms can equate to a substantial outgoings and savings where possible make them more financially viable.However, with one of the above examples – a 2 pack of jumpers at £4 there should be ethical and sustainable questions being raised. Children soak our behaviours, actions and attitudes like sponges in addition to having a responsibility to try and limit some of the damage of the world they are growing into.

    1. Totally agree Clare. I found it interesting though that George at Asda (the pricing you mentioned) were actually in the top 40 brands for final scores in the 2019 Fashion Transparency Index, which takes both environmental and ethical practices into account. They also scored an impressive 78 for Policies and Commitments. So definitely moving in the right direction. M&S were by far the best from this school uniform group though. But I think it’s important to highlight that less expensive doesn’t always mean less ethical.

    2. Yes! I couldn’t agree more – there’s a balance to be struck. I bought nearly all of my daughter’s school uniform from ecooutfitters online and encourage her to look after it (in terms of losing it – getting dirty is/should be just part of the fun of school!). It’s ethical, organic, comfortable, has washed really well and isn’t covered in stain resistant chemical coatings etc that all high street uniforms seem to use as a selling point. Personally I don’t want that next to my daughter’s skin.

  4. We’re just in the process of stocking up for next year after my daughter’s first year at school. We’ve also learnt what to get for next year – our daughter is not a fan of cardigans, particularly the school branded one, and it hardly got worn!! She has also decided that she doesn’t like pinafores!
    So for next year we have gone for an M&S skirt and pair of shorts – both 20% so I’m happy, both have pockets, so she’s happy!!!! We also have a pair of Asda jersey trousers that I really like – they were turned up to start with, so we’ll get a bit more wear out of them by turning them back down!
    I have also found some long sleeve polos to try and keep her a bit warmer (see above re cardigans) – I bought two packs a couple of months ago from M&S and Asda as both had reviews that said they were often sold out – and I have to confess that we’ve opened them this week, it has been so cold … they have been a hit!
    Sainsburys with 25% off is my other go to – very good quality – we had royal blue polo shirts from there this year and they have washed really well.
    For summer dresses (my fave!!) we have a mixture of Sainsburys and M&S – Sainsburys are much cheaper, but M&S have pockets (what a dilemma!)!!! Both also do both gingham and stripey (I LOVE the stripey ones!).
    We have five polo shirts/summer dresses, then sometimes get two wears out of the bottoms! I wash on a Friday and a Tuesday night (after swimming) – like you Naomi, I like to have the week’s ready to go by Sunday night!

  5. Big Sainsbury’s fan here too – my 13 year old boy has had his 2 for a tenner school trousers for the past 2 years – they seem to grow with him, it’s bizarre!! My younger (skinnier) 9 year old is definitely better with M&S though. Tops wise, I use the school branded polo shirts and sweatshirts to help support the local business which provides them (though appreciate this is often more expensive and so not great for those on a tight budget), but for traditional white shirts for high schoolers Tesco is the best I find.

  6. I’ve had 2 years of buying uniforms and my daughter has gone from size 4-5 to 7-8 (she’s still only 5, just super tall!), so I’ve bought lots of uniform in that time. Have got 2 branded school cardis (£15 each) and the rest is a mix of brands.

    Our school sells secondhand uniform very cheaply so I pick up good condition dresses and cardis for £1 each at school events. Some brands have been great, others not so. I don’t rate Next for example. My faves are M+S and Sainsbury’s.

    I’m a full time working mum and I wash her uniform daily so everything needs to wash well and ideally not need ironing. Agree with someone’s comment that polo shirts look messy (and need ironing) so I now get packs of M+S iron-free blouses, and dresses, socks, PE bits etc from Sainsburys. Also hairbands from Primark now as she kept losing them and I was spending a fortune on them!

    I like Clark’s or M+S for shoes, again she’s gone up 4 sizes since she started so I’m always looking for promotions.

    She needs a raincoat and wellies at all times at school, so that tends to be from Primark or charity shops as again I can’t see the point of spending lots if she’s growing so fast!

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