Family: Dressing for School

By Sally McBride

Sally McBride is a former Human Resources Administrator and writer who has published stories in Focus on Women Magazine and many other publications in Canada and the US.

In most countries, including Canada, back-to-school time is exciting. There are many customs and traditions around the world for children's first day back to class.

Burmese children in Myanmar often bring a small gift for their teacher, such as a coconut or other piece of fruit, just as in Canada they might bring an apple.
On the first day of school in Russia, bands play, decorative banners are hung and parents and neighbours watch as children march to schools carrying bouquets of flowers for their teachers.

German children are given a gift on their first day of school. A large, decorated paper cone, called a Schultute, is filled with candy, pencils and other little items. The excitement and surprise gifts make that scary first day of school a little easier.
Everywhere, students come to school in their nicest outfits, sometimes brand new from head to toe. Starting out in a new place can be frightening, and even if your child is naturally outgoing and brave, something special to wear helps make confidence rise. New shoes, a new sweater or shirt, even a new pretty hair-clip, can make a child feel more eager to join the other kids in a strange school.
All of us want to look our best but children, especially teens, can be very sensitive to how they look compared to others of their age. This can cause problems.
"I want my daughter to look good, but not trashy," says Irina, who has an 11 year old daughter. "In stores I see tight skirts, low-cut tops that are flashy and not right for a young girl. We tend to fight when we go shopping."

Adrianna complains that she wants to look like the other girls. "Everyone else wears shorts and crop-tops. Why can't I?" But her mother and father insist that she should not show her midriff. It is hard to tell a child to be proud of her ethnic difference when all she wants is to fit in and look like everyone else.

Store owners claim they are only providing what kids want. TV shows, music videos and fashion magazines have a lot of influence. Yet it is the parents who pay for the clothes. There can be battles between what a child asks for and what mom and dad are willing to buy.

Well, here is some good news. Fashion is heading away from sexy or "trendy" clothes for kids and back to smart, classic outfits that look great and are appropriate for young people.

Fashion magazines say that neat and clean, traditional clothes are back in style. Plaid will be very popular among girls this fall. A plaid skirt or pants topped with a white shirt is a classic look. As always, denim blue jeans and jackets are in style. Corduroy jackets and pants, rugby and Oxford shirts, and Argyle sweaters will also be popular with both boys and girls. There will be lots of items in colours of blue, white and red.

But there is no need to rely on what magazines say. Each neighbourhood is different, especially those where newcomers live. What will be best for your child at his or her school?

The Toronto School Board says that each school decides its own rules for what students may wear. The school asks parents to vote on what is best. "Inappropriate dress" means clothes that do not meet the school's rules. No school allows clothes that are not decent or have words or pictures on them that are profane (curse or "dirty" words), show violence, or have gang slogans or words or discrimination of any kind. This includes race, religion and gender. The rules must allow for religious clothing to be worn.

Each school votes on the decision of whether to use school uniforms or ordinary clothes. Uniforms mean less shopping for parents and less of the expensive "fashion contest" where kids beg for the latest style of jeans and jackets.
Of course, people wear clothes for more than just style or show. We must protect our bodies from cold, heat, sun, wind or other forces that might hurt us. Also, we cover ourselves for modesty, to keep other eyes from looking where they should not. Children and teens tend to think more of how they look rather than the practical reasons for their clothes.

However warm and humid the weather is when school starts in September, cool weather, rain showers and frosty days are not far away. Weather can change very fast in Canada, so be ready with warm jackets with hoods, a hat, mittens and boots for the fall and winter.

Shopping for new clothes with your children can be fun as you learn more about their choices and the way they hope to fit into their new country. You can spend a lot of money for the latest style outfits from high-priced stores. You can shop with more thrift (carefulness with money) at department and discount stores. You can visit "second-hand" stores such as Goodwill or the many other small "used clothing" stores around the city. If you look carefully in these stores you can often find real bargains - clothes that are still in good condition and cost very little. "Hand-me-downs" from friends and relatives with older children are always useful. You can even make your own clothes if you have skill with a sewing machine.

Whatever your children wear on their exciting first day of school, we all wish them success with their studies and happiness with new friends. Have a great year!

CNM