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Choosing a first-day-of-school outfit is a big deal—for both kids and parents. The pressure is on, especially if your child hasn't seen their friends and classmates all summer or are gearing up for new faces. Everyone wants to dress to impress but you also want to make sure their school items will hold up all year, from quality backpacks to durable lunchboxes.
The same goes for clothing. It's best to invest in year-round wardrobe staples they can always wear, like comfortable sweaters, cotton tees, and thick jackets. Material, sizing, and fun prints are all factors to consider as well. Whether your child is sporty, artsy, or prioritizes comfort above all, here are the 13 best places to shop for the perfect back to school look.
1. Boden: For clothes that last
Boden is a British company that's become popular stateside in the last few years. Its line of children's clothing—dubbed "Mini Boden"—features cheerful prints and stellar seasonal collaborations. Mini Boden's sizing is generous, so my kids often get two years of wear out the pieces we purchase, and since most items are 100% cotton, they both wash well and can take a good beating.
2. French Toast: For kids who wear uniforms
If your child is headed to a school that requires uniforms, you'll definitely want to peruse the selection at French Toast. Search the specific school to see pants, skirts, and shirts, then stock up on the styles your child prefers.
3. Primary: For gender-neutral basics
Primary was founded by two moms who were frustrated at the lack of affordable, basic clothing for kids. The company specializes in gender neutral, colorful clothing made of 100% cotton jersey. Streamline your child's morning routine by stocking their closet with clothes that can be easily mixed and matched. Primary's leggings are a favorite of all 900 women in my local mom's group, and there's a good reason—the durable, high-quality fabric, and unisex designs mean they can be passed down from sibling to sibling.
4. Target: For everything your kid needs
If one-stop shopping is your jam, it's hard to beat Target for the selection of both school supplies and back-to-school fashion. One of the things we like best about Target is that they carry a great selection of branded merchandise—like superheroes and princesses—as well as character-free lines such as Cat & Jack.
5. Splendid: For the softest clothes
My kids are obsessed with wearing only soft clothes, so I've done a lot of research to find clothing brands they won't deem "ouchie" or "itchy." Splendid is a Los Angeles-based brand that makes buttery-soft cotton-rayon pieces with which my kids have yet to find fault. Price-wise, the brand's clothes are on the high end, but I'm willing to pay a little more if it means less complaining from my children. Sign up for Splendid's emails to be notified about sales—the brand usually offers 30% to 50% off at the end of the season.
6. Kohl's: For fashion on a budget
If you're on a budget or your child is prone to coming home with paint and dirt on their clothes, you need stylish wardrobe staples that don't put a dent in your wallet. Kohl's "Jumping Beans" line offers a huge selection of dresses, pants, and shirts all priced under $20.
7. Hanna Andersson: For sleepwear and school wear
Hanna Andersson may be famous for its organic cotton pajama sets, but its regular clothing garners rave reviews from parents, too. The durable—and cute—clothes stand up well to rough-and-tumble kids, making them hand-me-down worthy. Browse through pretty and colorful patterns that'll add a bright splash to your child's neutrals.
8. Tea Collection: For clothes with a cause
For fashion with globally-inspired prints, there's nothing better than Tea Collection. The San Francisco-based company finds inspiration for its designs all over the world—and donate 10% of profits to The Global Fund for Children. We especially like that the brand's clothes are crafted from thick cotton that doesn't fade or tear easily, and feature prints that aren't gendered.
9. Maisonette: For the fashionista
If your little one has a taste for dapper designer pieces or you need something special for the first school dance, look no further than Maisonette. The beautifully curated site features high-end fashion for children, as well as home décor and toys. Esoteric European brands are well-represented on Maisonette, but there are plenty of options from well-known designers as well. If there's a fancy party or holiday event in your child's future (or you just want them to look absolutely fabulous on their first day), Maisonette won't disappoint.
10. Mabo: For ultra-comfortable basics
If you're a parent, you may have seen ads on Instagram for Mabo's organic cotton clothing. The Salt Lake City-based company designs and manufactures all of its pieces in the United States; its cotton, linen, and wool basics are outstandingly soft and cozy. Mabo's organic cotton leggings are a favorite in my house both because they're comfortable and because they're durable enough to hold up to wear from multiple kids.
11. Nordstrom: For the right pair of kicks
The right pair of shoes can finish off an outfit perfectly and take it from good to great; luckily, Nordstrom began as a shoe store, which may explain why they always have a great selection of kids' shoes. Whether your child prefers running shoes or penny loafers, there are plenty of options to choose from both online and in physical stores. Plus, the customer service at Nordstrom can't be beat: They offer price adjustments if an item you purchased goes on sale, and the kids' shoe departments usually send little customers home with a balloon. We all know everything is better with balloons!
12. Zulily: For colorful graphic tees and bold accessories
If your child is a maximalist, they'll love what Zulily has to offer: From brightly-patterned graphic tees and dresses you'll be able to see even in a crowd to bold, vibrant backpacks and unicorn-shaped duffel bags, Zulily is your one-stop shop to ensure your child can express themselves with all the color they desire.
13. Polarn O. Pyret: For kids in cold climates
Though temperatures may still be creeping into triple digits, it's only a matter of weeks before the first cold snap of the season. If your kids will be braving snow, sleet, and sub-zero temps to get to school, Polarn O. Pyret is there for the rescue. The Swedish company has been making adorable (and practical) kids clothing since 1976, and their sweaters and thermal underwear cannot be matched.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.