The answer is simple, but it’s not always what we do. The first thing is not to do any of these:
1. Shop online at the end of a day of real life shopping. It’s called ‘desperation shopping’ and while women do it after they’ve failed to find anything in the bricks and mortar shops they want to buy, men tend to do it the night, or a couple of nights, before they need a new top, having left it until the last moment to put in some effort. In either case it leads to a desperate attempt to find ‘something’ that is acceptable, and it nearly always leads to disappointment.
2. Shop because you’re bored or have been let down. It’s called compensation shopping and women do it most – buying something cute just to cheer themselves up. While the process works at the time, the chosen garment usually disappoints on arrival.
3. Shop in the dark. Seriously! The tendency to buy garments from a small screen in a darkened room late at night is reckoned to be causing nearly a fifth of all returns to online clothing retailers – it’s partly because our eyes are tired at the end of the day so we don’t see as clearly as we should, and partly because screens are daylight balanced but our body clocks by evening are night balanced by circadian rhythms so our eyes can actually distort the colours on the screen. The only time it’s okay to buy at this time of day is when we’re buying black or white garments.
1. Buy in daylight. Or get your computer to balance itself to your circadian rhythms with a programme that adjusts colours according to the sunset time in your region.
2. Check the small print to find out what the deal is with returns and whether there is a bulk buy discount that could get you free postage or some other good deal.
3. Sign up for mailings and alerts from your preferred online retailers – such deals often save a lot of money for the consumer and being aware of them in good time can help you plan your spending effectively.
4. Be sure of your size. Not clothing size, as that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but your actual body size – and recheck it every six months as even the slimmest of us will change shape in winter as we exercise and eat differently. Get a friend to help you measure your chest, arm length, waist, hips and inside leg – this allows you to assess your real size against the dimensions of the clothing advertised online.
When a teenager dislikes or feels alienated at a new school it can be a turbulent time for the entire family. Structured systems can help to support a fragile ego through such transitions.
Reward mechanisms – allow a child to earn fractions of a reward each time they complete an entire week of school or college. Make the reward obvious and substantial: if they are ‘earning’ guitar lessons, a new hoody or computer accessories, make life-sized cardboard ‘fractions’ (divide a hoody into arms, body and hood or a guitar into neck, body, amp etc) and pin those fractions up in the teen’s bedroom as they are earned. Then have a bonfire of the fractions when they have obtained the reward so that they can burn the cardboard reward system, have some fun with friends making toasted marshmallows and generally get a sense of the value of doing tough things.
Self-esteem issues – this use to be discussed entirely in relation to girls, but it’s become increasingly clear that boys as well as girls can be crippled by fears of self-worth and have distorted self-appraisal. Simple structures can help: boys may benefit from having some one-to-one coaching in a sport they aren’t good at, while girls often find confidence from trying out some new activities outside of school so that they can develop esteem away from their peer group. Buying new sportswear or activity clothing can help create a positive self image that bolsters the ability to take this new confidence back into school or college.
A recent UK study suggests that schools and colleges without a uniform actually cost parents around twice as much in new clothing as those with a strict policy of uniform wearing.
Sixth form colleges in particular seem to drive up the costs, as 16-18 year olds appear to have complex clothing demands than younger children. Over a thousand parents took part and it was revealed that 91% had bought clothing for teenaged children to wear back to school in the autumn term and the split between uniform wearing and non uniform wearing provision was almost equal. Uniform expenditure was around £80 per child while non-uniform expenditure was estimated to be in the region of £165.
The survey recommended that parents try to check out discounts available and look at keeping costs down through buying in bulk or with other parents to get free delivery and BOGOF offers.
Prom clothing is also an issue – many academies in the UK now have proms as part of graduation and the investment in formal wear can be expensive. To guide a teenager through the process, it’s a good idea to get them thinking well in advance; to look at hiring prom wear; and if that’s not possible or acceptable to the fussy graduate, to line up an agency that will re-retail prom clothing, giving a percentage of the sale back to the original buyer.
Many parents are ready for their kids to return to school, even if the youngsters are not thrilled by the idea. It’s an expensive process though, and many children seem to shoot up in the summer holidays, so that uniforms that seemed likely to fit for another couple of months now can’t be buttoned!
Cheap school uniform items have two levels of appeal – the price in itself is enticing to parents who are feeling the pinch, but also the ability to buy cheaply when children grow fast means that instead of having to alter clothing that is too big, but purchased to allow room for growth, two sets of clothing can be bought.
However, there are more considerations than price. Uniform items have to be washed regularly and cheaper materials can both fade and sag, looking old and unsightly far quicker than higher quality fabrics. Cheap items may also have a skimpier cut, which can lead to seams, collars and cuffs fraying.
Investing in good quality staples such as plain polo shirts, sports shorts and socks can help families weather the back to school process. It’s good to have spare items, particularly for sportswear which can easily be forgotten, lost or left at school.
New clothing can also provide an incentive for children to want to return to school and allowing them to either shop in town, with a treat such as afternoon tea as part of the process, or to shop online if they don’t want to travel to the shops, can help them to feel that the return to school is an exciting event, not a chore.
Flags – everywhere on everything – yes even your skivvies. Flag-bearing underwear, casual wear and even formal wear is bringing the flag and pennant theme home for autumn. While Union Jacks and England flags are ridiculously popular, and Jamaican flag colours are definitely selling out in ringer T-shirts and polo-shirts, the exclusive look is likely to feature sailing flags and pennants spelling out messages and its being spotted on short-sleeved shirts and the lining of casual jackets. Raincoats and waterproof tops are turning up with (ha ha) Welsh flags and dragons in their linings …
Blindingly bright neon is also a big feature of autumn fashion with angry bird T-shirts turning up everywhere but especially for the under tens and unisex clothing such as sporty polo-shirts and athletic print T-shirts is key to the teen look this year – worn alongside checks and tartan, with jeans for boys and leggings for girls, this look is finished off with dayglo high-top trainers or, for the truly fashion conscious, five-fingered trainers.
Starting to appear in some shops are leotard style dresses with a flouncy skirt, although whether they will make it through to adult fashion is debatable: it’s an unforgiving look. More likely to succeed with the masses is the skin-tight camisole top in ‘gymnastic colours’ such as bright red, fuchsia pink or royal blue which is being worn with jogging trousers and ballet pumps during the day and layered chiffon skirts for the evening.
Fake clothing, bags, DVDs and cigarettes are to be found all over the world, but particularly in established retail locations where students and tourists congregate, such as California. Current confiscations there suggest that the ‘underground economy’ could be costing the state around $8 billion annually. The people making the garments are poorly paid, and the lack of tax paid on them means jobs are not created and local services are not funded. Lose-lose all round.
The goods are often sold in markets or as part of festivals, and a key feature of the new black economy is the creation of ‘second-hand’ counterfeit clothing from brands such as Hilfiger (jeans) and Lacoste (polo shirts) which are less liable to such close inspection as new clothing. Just because it’s not new, doesn’t make it genuine!
And in the UK, fakers are costing the economy, and individuals, a great deal. A recently sentenced man was found to have more than 6,000 fake designer clothing labels in his possession and to be running a factory scale counterfeit operation that was producing several hundred garments a month.
So why not buy a fake? In terms of casual clothing, it can look like a good deal to buy a knockoff pair of jeans or a counterfeit hoodie but in the long term, casual clothing brands work hard to maintain their quality and the longevity of the garments they offer, so cheap versions of top of the range clothing may last no time at all and may warp or twist, fade or even tear where poor quality fabric is placed under stress to match high quality originals. Even if those things don’t happen, counterfeit garments usually collapse very quickly, becoming saggy and bobbly – giving a clear indication that they are not the real thing. While the bargain looks enticing on the market stall, if it doesn’t hold up to continued wear and laundering, it may be an expensive mistake.
We seem to be cycling through a pattern of snow, rain, snow, rain … it can be difficult to know how to dress in this weather, particularly if you’re planning a long winter journey and/or needing to take part in social events when you get there. Other people’s houses often seem too hot or too cold to us.
While it’s appropriate to dress for comfort and safety, it’s also important to ensure that your clothing works for the situations you may find yourself in.
Car journey – make sure old and young have layers of clothing that they can put on and take off. This allows them to keep warm without overheating. Gloves and a hat and scarf really help them to balance their temperature during a long journey. For yourself, wear something comfortable and rugged like jog pants, so that if you have to get out of the car you can get wet or muddy without ruining your clothes. Remember to put your good trousers or skirt somewhere handy so you can change as soon as you arrive.
Trains, planes and coaches – once again, layering is vital. Remember that you may be delayed so you should pack a spare clean T-shirt to put on for sleeping etc. Smart-casual polo-shirts are a better bet than t-shirts for mass travel, because if there are upgrades on offer, there’s a psychological trait in all of us that makes us more likely to upgrade the more smartly dressed individual.
Cycling, walking – a fleece jacket is one of the best investments you can make. It has wonderful insulation qualities, is reasonably waterproof and lightweight.
Hoodies don’t work for everyone. Your gran might not be comfortable in something that she associates with heavyweight fighters clambering into the ring for televised boxing matches. Your teenage nephew may have strong ideas about what a hoodie should look like: and given how easily kids become mocking or outright hostile if clothing doesn’t fit perfectly into the current style, he may be right to worry.
On the other hand, a sweatshirt is uncontroversial. From cute girls, to crusty elders, it’s eminently wearable. It’s warm and comfortable and the elasticated cuffs and snug hem ensure that cold winds don’t invade the garment to cause chills and discomfort. But because it’s not bulky, a sweatshirt still looks good under a jacket or fleece. And when you head indoors, the weave radiates heat away from your body so that you can cool down rapidly, unlike a wool sweater that can remain uncomfortably warm and sweatily prickly.
When choosing a sweatshirt for another, the colour is really vital. Blue works for almost everyone; black is good for teenagers and if you’re confident about colour, you can push the boat out and choose something that enriches winter skin, such as a rosy red shade for pale redheads, a rich tangerine for brunettes or even a fuchsia shade for those with greying hair.