School’s Out: a quick post about cheap uniform


I had sort of thought about doing a post about second-hand school uniform at the end of the summer holidays (although my kids have yet to break up).

But last night necessitated an emergency trip to our second-hand clothing depot (otherwise known as our loft where hand-me-downs are stored) for a summer school dress. The dress was also too long so I finally learnt to sew an invisble hem stitch using the youtube tutorial below:

I was also interested to read about Aldi‘s new uniform pack for £4 which goes on sale from this Thursday. The bundle features 2 polo shirts, trousers/skirt and jumper for primary school aged children. There’s an interesting article about this offer and a breakdown of costs in the Guardian here. Suffice to say the article draws two conclusions: either Aldi is taking a loss here in order to entice people into its stores (there has already been lots of media coverage) or the workers in Bangladesh are being paid 7p per sweatshirt (which retails at £1.25).

Having three children at school I do find it hard to meet the cost of buying school uniform and can see why the £4 offer would be appealing. In the past when we have bought shoes from Clarks I have paid nearly £100 in one trip! My eldest is now at Secondary School where we seem to be more tied to a specialist unform shop which is pricier. Since starting last September the PE kit has changed and the school is now proposing a brand new uniform for 2015 which means I can make little use of the second-hand supply which will soon be obsolete.

With my younger two girls I have relied on hand-me-downs from friends (hence the endless supply in our loft) which has worked well. With regards to manufacturers both the second-hand – and occasional first-hand – unform comes from a wide range of shops. I’m still doing well out of Adams and Ladybird clothing (remember those labels?), but have found that M&S clothing is not well-made. When I occasionally buy first hand I’ve found John Lewis lasts well. For me, spending slightly more on an item of clothing that will last for three children is more economical. Plus I’m assuming (rightly or wrongly) that a higher price means a better wage for a worker.

If this is a topic of interest to you don’t forget to watch BBC 2’s documentary, ‘Clothes to Die For’ tonight (Mon) at 9pm



7 thoughts on “School’s Out: a quick post about cheap uniform

  1. This is a great post because you are talking about something I’ve really been struggling with since I heard about the £4 school uniform. I am so torn between the problem of people who are incredibly tight budgets and genuinely can’t afford these things (and I know how expensive they can be) and then on the other side I find it all too plausible that the £4 uniform is based on slave wages and terrible working conditions.

    I agree with you that the £4 uniform is probably a false economy and if you can afford something better quality then that is a better option that will last longer. But if you really can’t afford anything else then I guess you have to get a school uniform somehow. If it were me I’d be asking for hand me downs and raiding the charity shops before I made it to Aldi.

    Is it common for schools to change uniform often as that sounds like a horrible waste of clothing and an unnecessary expense!

    • I want to believe that this is a ‘loss leader’ and maybe Aldi are paying no less to garment workers than any other supermarket (which isn’t great I know). Charity shops/hand me downs/freecycle have done us well especially with school branded uniform that you couldn’t buy from supermarkets anyway and it’s interesting to see which brands actually make clothes to last. Yes uniform change is frustrating – it’s currently out to consultation with parents and pupils and will be phased in gradually but am rather disappointed that in this day and age my daughter will have to wear a blazer and tie.

      • I sort of want to believe it is a loss leader but even if it is it is probably still made in the worst possible way.

        At least there is a consultation happening so you can tell them about the realities of cost of a school uniform. But a blazer and tie is annoying – I remember when I was 11 (many, many years ago) even then being shocked at the cost of my first blazer and being worried about how my parents could afford it. Luckily I never needed more than one because I never grew much bigger, but for people who had to replace them every year I can’t imagine how they afforded it.

  2. I’ve been lucky with my daughter so far: bought her uniform for reception three years ago and she’s still in it – apart from two new cardigans.

    Not sure how much better of workers are if the clothes cost more – guess you have to find out on a case by case basis. It is such a pain when the uniform changes and you have to start all over again!

    • Wow, you’ve done well with the uniform lasting for three years! I know what you mean about paying more not necessarily being passed to the worker. In fact a quick look at the Ethical Consumer ratings showed that John Lewis weren’t that good.

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