Kitted Out For School
The approaching Christmas break will undoubtedly witness the invasion of department stores by anxious and harassed parents, all searching for that elusive spring term school uniform. Not to mention shoes, backpacks, pencil cases, exercise books and all the other overpriced merchandise, for which we pay our taxes, but which never seem to be provided by schools anymore.
Now, I learned some years ago that if you wish to purchase a summer wardrobe, you have to shop in the winter months and vice versa. This poses a huge problem if your child grows at the same rate as Jack's beanstalk and you have to do calculus in order to gauge exactly what size he or she will be in two seasons' time. This includes taking into account any cravings they may suddenly develop for triple cheeseburgers or chocolate doughnuts, which will contribute towards a rapidly expanding girth.
I don't think two seasons' ahead and neither does my daughter, especially when it comes to what's considered the height of fashion. I think "current" season and like to shop accordingly, because in two seasons' time, I may be two sizes' larger (or smaller - I can dream can't I?) and what I think looks stylish now may look distasteful a few months down the line.
If you wish to kit your child out for the new autumn term, you have to shop in March. Come July, when a heat wave forces you to embark on a search for a cool, nifty little number, the rails are shouting, "Latest Design in Thermals". The remaining post-summer, wouldn't-be-seen-dead-in items are on the "Greatly Reduced" rail, which has been strategically positioned in an unobtrusive corner at the back of the store.
However, if you are like I am and have an eye for a bargain, you will inevitably find yourself filtering nonchalantly through an array of sale items that would fit anything from a giraffe to a hippopotamus, but not an average child between the ages of five and fourteen.
I don't know whom the designers use as their models for their average sizes, but I have visions of chimpanzee, an ostrich and a camel (with two humps). Either that or they believe that all children are the result of romantic liaisons between members of the African Masai tribe and Quasimodo.
In the United Kingdom, school uniform is mandatory, which I used to think was a great idea because it removed identification of social class and pre-judgement about a child's family background. Then I had children of my own and discovered how difficult it was to avoid having to pack my brood off to school with gigantic hems on everything, wearing shirts that would fit a chicken around the neck and waistbands that would accommodate a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Twice.
I have come to the conclusion that in order to secure normal sized clothes for normal children of average height, weight and proportions, you have to camp outside the relevant department store the night before these items go on sale and then be prepared to play a game of tug-of-war with your fellow campers.
However, when these items are eventually removed from your child's wardrobe on the first day of the new term, you realise that the trousers are now ankle swingers, that the skirts are now cummerbunds and that the shirts look like David Banner's during his metamorphosis into the Incredible Hulk.