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Back-to-School Shopping, New Century Style (Plus, a Most Enduring Pick)

[caption id="attachment_2788" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Indulging in a well-deserved rainbow cookie after our shopping spree at The Children's Place[/caption] When I was in fourth grade I remember convincing my mom to buy me a copy of Seventeen magazine—quite a few years ahead of time, but it was aspirational, like Vogue to an adult, right? The September issue was the back-to-school bible, thick-spined with ads as interesting as the editorial stories. I pored over every page, dog-earing those with clothes I'd never be able to wear on my elementary-school frame. I even loved paging through the Sunday newspaper circulars with all their school supply sales. I remember the advent of the Trapper Keeper from MEAD...they promoted it like a new technology, and they were envied (as Joshua Fruhlinger calls them in a great post on engadget, they were "the original nerd gadget of the '80s"). But I relished the cheaper supplies my single mother was able to afford for us (usually on special at Petrie's Five & Dime), and felt proud that I wrapped my books in brown bags as it's what she did as a child. One thing that sticks out in my mind as I walk through department store aisles these days is how damn hot it is leading into the school year. Was it this warm when I was a kid and we just didn't care? I only remember once not being able to wear my pick for "first day of school outfit" because it was too warm, but every one of those annual first-day picks was cold-weather-specific: wool jackets, Garanimals turtlenecks for layering, corduroy pants. Shopping for back-to-school isn't quite the event it used to be now. The weather is always mild enough for layering summer and spring items well into winter (global warming, a myth?!), and sales persist well beyond the few weeks leading up to Labor Day. Online shopping has changed the experience, too. It was something to look forward to for me—exciting to try on all the new clothing possibilities, to weigh the options with my mother, and to model them again when we got home. [caption id="attachment_2796" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Skater hat and Knicks team tee at The Children's Place[/caption] I'd love to make back-to-school shopping a ritual with my own child, but alas, I have a boy. I'm not one for generalizations, typically, but come on—the chances of him pining for a shopping trip with his mommy in future years are slim. So I figured I'd take advantage of the situation—and his youth—while I can. So, off to the Union Square location of The Children's Place we went! [caption id="attachment_2784" align="alignright" width="300"] My son took to browsing the racks at The Children's Place like a pro.[/caption] We made a day of it. As Park Slopers with a car and relatives nearby, most of our family outings are by car or on foot in the neighborhood—but for occasions like this, we jump on the subway, and V loves it! He arrived at the store full of anticipation, and couldn't believe I was actually letting him pick out what he wanted. Some things we were both immediately drawn to: the super-soft and affordable jeans (with elastic inside the waistband to adjust fit)—we bought two different pairs; the funky winter hats (he tried on many); and the graphic tees. Cute moment: when he overheard another shopper tell her own kid to pick up one of the Angry Birds T-shirts, and my boy yanked on my shirt telling me he needed the shirt with the "mad bird" (yes, we ended up getting it!).

Then & Now

Recalling that Seventeen mag I mentioned brought me back. I ended up surfing the web in a fit of nostalgia, looking for pictures of some of my old favorites (like the rainbow jersey I so coveted in the '70s) and getting lost in message boards with fellow people reminiscing about the good old days (how is it I imagined my small town of Brewster was the only place young girls mistook roach clips for barettes?!). I remembered the ID bracelet my mother bought me one year—my first piece of "real jewelry," which I still have tucked away; my first-day-of-school envy when my neighbor flaunted her Jordache jeans at the bus stop (it would be another two years before I got a pair of "designer" jeans); my most favorite, wish-I-had-them-now, Sweet Orr pants (anyone else remember those??); and, with a touch of embarrassment, all the other trends from my tween years that have become hallmarks of bad '80s filmography—leg warmers, glittery iron-on tees, bandannas everywhere, wrists full of black rubber bracelets (thanks, Madonna)...

Back to Reality—and The Children's Place

[caption id="attachment_2798" align="aligncenter" width="433"] A few of our favorite back-to-school buys from The Children's Place, l-r: super-soft sherpa-lined zip-up hoodie, $34.95 (a steal!); angry monster graphic hat, $8.95; bootcut riverwash toddler jeans, $12[/caption]  

The One Thing My Child and I Will Both Have Worn to School

Other than jeans, that is. Got it? Chuck Taylors, of course. They're still cool, after all these years. [caption id="attachment_2799" align="alignleft" width="300"] From my youth: ribbon barettes; bandanna-as-belt and Chinese slippers; the coveted rainbow shirt; and feathered bangs, oh my![/caption] Check out these kids' fashion portfolios, with links to some of our favorite brands: Winter Gear Layering Trend Is Still Cool   Plus, read more substantive back-to-school advice: How Your Child's Friends Influence His Grades The Cough Question: Should Your Child Stay Home from School?  

Dawn M. Roode


Dawn M. Roode was formerly editorial director of NYMetroParents, where she launched the award-winning semi-annual magazine Special Parent. She was managing editor at Parenting, BabyTalk, Child, Harper's Bazaar, and Latina magazines. She is a strategic content specialist and currently writes and edits parenting, health, travel, and special needs features for various media outlets. Roode is mom to one son and recently relocated from Brooklyn to the suburbs of New York City. Follow her on Twitter @DawnRoode.

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