The Back-to-School Outfit Is a Ritual Worth Keeping

Things change, but the back-to-school outfit is forever.

Mother outside front door, buttoning sweater of daughter going off to school
Photo: Getty Images

Not all traditions are here to stay. Unfortunately for the type-A moms among us, the annual school supply shopping trip might soon be of a bygone time. These days many schools are swapping school supply lists for school supply fees. Spiral notebooks, no. 2 pencils, and the like are delivered in full just before school—no checkout lines or trapper keepers needed. While school supply shopping trips are no longer a must, the first day outfit most assuredly is. And Mama says thank heavens for that.

These days one sees more sport shorts than sport shirts and tennis shoes have become acceptable footwear to pair with everything from prom dresses to wedding gowns. But while we'll let these youngsters get away with even the most egregious of fashion missteps (which, they will wholeheartedly deny as such), one place in which there is absolutely no wiggle room for misguided youth to protest is with the back-to-school outfits. This one's for Mama, kids.

You can fight her on your church clothes from here until Easter, but back to school is a day in which Mama is here to lay down the law. These are first impressions of the most serious kind, and she's going to make sure you set things off on the right foot. A nice collared polo (performance fabric if she's appeasing), a casual (yet appropriate) skirt and trendy (yet tasteful) top, un-scuffed shoes that aren't at all meant for comfortably walking the halls, a fresh haircut, groomed nails, and its-going-to-be-a-great-day smile are all Mama's asking for.

Now before there's a misunderstanding, the back-to-school outfit isn't something that necessarily has to shopped for to make it special. It could be a hand-me-down, a fresh-looking favorite outfit, or simply what's clean on August 15 at 7 a.m. No matter the description or origin, the back-to-school outfit will still be set apart, mostly for the love and weight that it carries for moms everywhere.

My memories of back-to-school outfits are few (uniform-wearer here), and my children will likely have the same fate, but that just means I fully relish in those fleeting pre-school first days where Mama can choose little collared dresses with pencil motifs (handed down from big cousins) paired with ruffle socks and a fresh pair of white Keds. Until kindergarten when the uniform dress code kicks in, I'll be living it up, one back-to-school outfit at a time.

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