Every year it’s the same: you get the kids ready, bundle them into the car, drag them to the shops and traipse round trying on every piece of school uniform you can think of in the hopes one of them will be the right size, shape and exact shade of purple that they need. With the advent of online school uniform shops, things aren’t quite as arduous – but there’s still the frustrations of getting an item delivered only to realise it looked a lot better in the photo.
Although we can’t change the fact you will have to get your children to try on their new uniform, and that might involve a bit of wrangling, we can make the whole process of buying a school uniform easier for you.
Our checklist helps make your school uniform buying decisions easier by giving you simple tests to perform on any item you’re thinking of purchasing. It’s based on our knowledge of what makes a high-quality uniform, so you can decide whether to go for the more expensive option that’ll last a lot longer or save your pennies for cheaper item.
Print it out, take it with you next time you shop, and you can feel confident you’ve done all that you can to make sure your child has the best uniform possible on your budget.
Here, we’re focusing on some of the most expensive items that need to last the longest: blazers, jumpers and cardigans.
- First, check the shoulders by squeezing them. How is it made? Is there padding? Does it bunce back in to shape? A properly padded shoulder will keep its shape even when there’s a rucksack slung over it.
- Next, take a look at the buttons. Give them a strong tug. Do they feel secure and sewn on well?
- Open the blazer and take a look at where the buttons are sewn on inside. Does this look secure or a bit flimsy?
- If the blazer is lined, give the lining in the armpits a good pull. This is an area that gets a lot of wear. Does it feel secure?
- If the blazer isn’t lined, feel the fabric. Does it feel thick enough to be warm? Check the seams – do they feel sturdy and look neat?
- If there are zips anywhere on the blazer, try opening and closing them a few times. They should open and close cleanly.
- Check how many pockets there are and where they are placed: are there enough for what your child will need?
- Grab a handful of the hem and scrunch it up in your hand, then let go. Are there creases, or does the fabric fall back into place without getting crushed up?
- Finally, check to see what the fit is like, and whether the shop offers plus or tall sizes.
- Lay out the cardigan or jumper on a flat surface and run your hands over the fabric. Does it feel soft, or is it a little scratchy?
- Do you feel any static or ‘crackle’ when rubbing your hand on the fabric? This can be unpleasant when your child is taking their jumper on and off.
- Take hold of one of the cuffs, and insert both your hands (or, if it’s very narrow, one hand). Stretch out the cuff to about 8”. Is it easy to stretch out, or is there plenty of resistance?
- When you remove your hand, do the cuffs bounce back easily? This means you won’t get saggy cuffs.
- Take hold of the lower edge of the jumper or cardigan, the ‘welt’. Stretch it out as you did with the cuffs and check the bounce. Does it seem strong or saggy?
- Move the garment so that the bottom half of the item is hanging free over the edge of the flat surface. Hold the knitwear steady and gently pull the lower half down. Does it feel ‘loose’ or is there plenty of resistance to help hold its shape?
- Take a look at the seams at the shoulder, armholes and sides. Does the knitting go in the same direction as the seam, or does it look like the knitting ‘folds into’ the seam? The first shows it’s a fashioned garment, rather than cut-and-sewn, which makes it more hardwearing.
- Finally, check to see the fit, particularly around the chest, welt, neck and cuffs – they should be fitted but not too tight.
For more tips on choosing a high quality school uniform, read our other checklists:
The ultimate school uniform quality checklist: trousers, skirts, shirts and blouses
The ultimate school uniform quality checklist: polos, sweatshirts and jogging bottoms