Back To School
Opinion,  Parenting

Choosing School Uniforms

I apologise for this post as I know that for some parents the thoughts of getting uniforms and organising back-to-school stuff waits until August. Having just bought some of the new uniform for the Autumn term I thought it might be worthwhile to explain what I learned last year and how it has affected my choices this year.

Just before the 5-year-old started school last year I blogged about the expenses of sending him to school and how much it was costing. At least I have a real account I can compare to!

The cost of school charges (including book rental) and books I have to buy pretty much remain the same which is a great credit to the school. However, when it comes to choosing school uniforms I’ve changed my outlook and that’s why I’m blogging about it again.

Last year I managed to pick up 2 uniform tracksuits before the Summer started. They were on sale for half price. I know now that it’s because the tracksuit uniform changed due to the fact that the previous uniform didn’t wash well; the colours faded and they shrank in the wash. We managed to get through the year with the tracksuit uniforms I bought. Mind you by the time it got to May, he had lost one of his original jumpers and had another one he had picked up by accident in the yard. Smaller than his size, as he grew in the Spring it became really clear that he was sprouting up!

This year I intend to buy just 1 uniform tracksuit. I’ll hold onto the old ones for emergencies though and hopefully the newer model of the tracksuit will hold up better to washing at least once a week.

I bought the regular uniform items in a large Supermarket nearby last year. This included trousers, shirts (short and long sleeved), jumpers and underwear.

The underwear lasted grand, apart from my eternal battle with pairs of socks. The trousers were light and grand in the warm Autumn but far too cold in the Winter, they were also difficult for small fingers to close and ended up bunching at his waist. The hem of the trousers wasn’t on securely and they became loose and frayed.

The jumpers were far too light in the winter and I ended up bulking up his uniform with t-shirts and long sleeved vests to keep the warmth in. They faded in the wash after about a month and didn’t hold up well to regular school-child stains like yoghurt, washable paint, washable glue, and stickers.  As the jumpers shrank and the child grew I kicked myself more and more over my uniform choices.

The shirts were a disaster. I bought 2 short sleeved shirts in size 5-6 which had ridiculously tight collars. They lasted for 6 weeks before I couldn’t close them anymore. Bearing in mind he was 4 when he started school and they fitted him grand in the body, across the back of his shoulders and his chest this was very disappointing. I also bought 2 long sleeved shirts in size 6-7 which lasted longer because the collar was larger but again they didn’t hold up well to the stain test. Washable markers didn’t wash out, even pencil didn’t wash out despite my best efforts.

Overall I feel that while my budget dictated that I needed to save money, budget uniforms are not always the best choice and they certainly weren’t for me.

This year I decided to invest in better quality school-wear. Having assessed everything available in my area, and taking a look at both the prices and quality, I ordered the main uniform items from Marks & Spencer just before their 20% deal finished. Surprisingly it didn’t cost me too much more than the uniform did last year from the Supermarket. I was expecting the price difference to be quite large but it was about €20 more expensive which was far less than I was prepared for.

Will it be worth it? l certainly hope so! I suppose I’ll be back here updating you this time next year.

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


  • simplyhomemadenic

    It’s great that the supermarkets are giving us great choice when it comes to school uniforms but like you I’ve have learned that they vary greatly in quality. My 8 year old is incredibly heavy on clothes etc too so while I can’t afford to spend a fortune I need to buy decent quality. And don’t get me started on the cost of secondary school uniforms! My daughters school insists on particular everything right down to the shade of red scarf they can wear in winter time! Luckily the shop is accommodating in that we can start paying for it at the start of the holidays and pay off what we can when we can. It’s a difficult time for families.

  • Green Bee

    I went down the Marks & Spencers route and it most definitely paid off. I have just sorted out the uniforms this morning and all of the boys trousers wore brillianly and they will be wearing them again this September. (I bought them a little on the large side last year). The quality in their girls’ trousers isn’t as good. They have frayed a little on the hem but the sewing box will come out and sort this out. Their non iron shirts look brand new after a wash and quick iron.

  • Clauds

    I did the same one year, bought supermarket school uniforms. After 2 months they had to be binned, the quality was appalling. I always spend the extra money and buy everything front M&S.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      The gas thing is I used to buy M&S uniforms for years but I think I just had it in my head that they were miles too expensive but actually they are quite good value for what you get! Thanks Clauds.

  • Martina Walsh

    I buy m&s trousers for my son, they last until he grows out of them, he’s tall but skinny so the fact that they do a longer leg in each age is brilliant. Their shirts & polo shirts are good too although we find them a bit on the short side, having said that my lads are all taller than average. I have not found their knitwear great (fading & very shabby looking after a short while). I fork out for jumpers & cardigans but the beauty of it is I rarely buy them as I can pass them down. My 6 yr is going into senior infants & I have not yet had to buy her a uniform cardi or pinafore (all passed down from my 10 yr old daughter).

    • Wholesome Ireland

      I also find the shirts on the short side but I love the slim fit of the trousers which you just don’t get as easily elsewhere. I forked out for a jumper yesterday. €22 for just 1 crested school jumper. *sigh* Thanks Martina

  • Olivia FitzGerald

    My twins start school in September. They’ll be 5 in November and they’re very tall so I bought practically everything in age 5-6 and age 6, from M&S too in the north while they had the 20% off. I thought the prices were great, but I do expect them to grow out of everything before the Summer comes. I bought everything from M&S except two tracksuit tops which cost €20 at the local school uniform suppliers. They have the school crest stitched into them and I’ve bought 2 spare crests (€6 each) to stitch into their M&S tracksuit tops. So I’ve bought them 2 school uniforms and 2 tracksuits each. 8 uniforms altogether! Thank goodness I don’t have to buy it from the uniform shop.. Still need to buy the books at €80 approx for both and 2 x pairs of trainers and 2 x pairs of shoes.. So much money!

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