Getting back to school is always a little overwhelming. But shopping for those back to school outfits shouldn’t be! Of course, you don’t want to spend a zillion dollars on clothes they’ll outgrow in the blink of an eye (or more likely stain and/or lose on the playground again) but you also want them to look good. (I mean, you’ve got first day of school photo tradition to uphold!)

Lucky for you, we’ve hunted down some of our favorite looks to create a first day of school outfit that’s totally photo-ready and affordable. With selections from budget-friendly favorites like Target and Old Navy to long-lasting splurgier pieces that always make the hand-me-down piles from places like J. Crew and Tea Collection, there’s something for every style and price point.

All they need is a fresh backpack a cool lunch box and they’re ready to go!

See our top picks below!

Tops & Tees


1. Back to basics

You can literally never go wrong with a tee shirt and jeans. A go-to source for all things basic (in the good way), Primary stocks a rainbow of colors in quality fabrics that really hold up.

Hanna Andersson Baseball Tee

2. Classic Baseball Tees

We can never resist the retro vibes of a baseball tee! Hanna Andersson has an awesome fall collection that features bold colors and cool vintage-inspired graphics that kids and parents will both love.

gap kids icon denim jacket

3. A denim jacket

Is there anything more timeless than a denim jacket? Gap has been perfecting theirs for decades.


4. Basics, but make them stain-resistant

​Mamas of messy kiddos rejoice! The brilliant tees from Good Day Lab look just like regular shirts but are armed with superpowers: The cotton fabric repels liquids to to prevent stains from ever setting in! From lunchtime disasters to art class antics, stained clothes are a thing of the past.


5. A picture perfect polo

Back to business this year. Better look the part, kiddos! The three-button classic comes in a ton of fun colors to keep on rotation.

'Skating Panda' Short Sleeve Graphic T-Shirt

6. Skating panda

Pandas? Check. Rollerskates? Check. Sparkles? Yup. Looks like this one checks all the boxes of awesomeness.


7. A chambray top

An adorable chambray top is the perfect way to elevate the leggings lifestyle.

H&M henley tees

8. Henley tees

Three little buttons give this henley a more sophisticated look than your everyday graphic tee without being too stuffy. (Price is for a three-pack.)


9. A zip up hoodie

The perfect piece to have on hand for chilly classrooms and a turn of seasons.

Hanna Andersson Colorblock Hoodie

10. A Colorblock Hoodie

Fun pops of color and a fabric that won’t pill after one wash makes the cozy hoodies from Hanna Andersson a total slam dunk.


11. Colorful pocket tees

Stock up on these affordable basics and outfit building will be a breeze! They come in six soft colors they can wear all year long.


12. A Fall-ready hoodie

No wardrobe is complete without a favorite hoodie. (But maybe buy a couple because you know one is going to end up in the lost and found.)

H&M Fine Knit Cardigan

13. A cozy cardigan

A practical fall staple that never goes out of style!

Dresses & Rompers

Little Sleepies Twirl Dress

Little Sleepies


2. Twirl Dress

If getting them out of their pjs is a struggle, maybe a dress made from the coziest pj fabric will help! Made with Little Sleepies signature viscose from bamboo fabric that’s breathable, hypoallergenic and oh-so-butter-soft, these twirly dresses (with pockets!) are a kiddo’s wardrobe dreams come true.


3. A casual utility dress

Jungle vibes for the jungle gym! We love this crisp adventure-ready frock which packs plenty of pockets to stash their playground finds.

Tea Collection What's the Scoop Jumpsuit

4. A ruffled romper

You know those childhood outfits you remember for the rest of your life? This super cute number is likely to be one of those for her.

Cat and Jack Tiered Knit Dress

5. A versatile twirly dress

Never underestimate the versatility of a cotton dress! It’s perfect solo for the hot days and when the temps dip, pair it with leggings and cardigan. Voila! A four season staple.

H&M organic cotton dress

6. Sweet ruffles

Special without being fussy, this organic cotton frock is a great contender for school picture day. (Or you know, just the barrage of photos you’re going to take on day one.)


7. Pattern play

Play dresses in fun and funky prints are always a winner. This budget-friendly number from H&M is a perennial favorite and comes in a variety of kid-approved patterns.

H&M Denim Skirtall

8. A denim skirtall

Overalls, but make it fancy. This black denim skirtall transitions into fall wear with a pair of tights or leggings underneath.



1. Twill Joggers

If jeans or pants with buttons aren’t their thing but you’ve grown weary of sweatpants, these lightweight joggers will make everyone happy. They’re sold as a two-pack and come in a great selection of easy-to-pair colors

moto joggers

2. Biker Joggers

Ok, ok. Sweatpants aren’t canceled. These so-hip-it-hurts biker joggers from Target are a must-have in every shade.

Tea Collection Good Sport JOggers

3. Checkerboard Joggers

And one more option because that pattern is just too hard to resist. This durable pair from Tea Collection makes a great case for pattern mixing–a fashion choice kids excel at!

Hanna Andersson double knee sweatpants

4. Double Knee Sweats

Kids are notoriously hard on their clothes and often the knees take the brunt of the abuse. These super cool slim sweats from the always-awesome Hanna Andersson feature an extra layer right where it counts so they can play hard without getting holes before the leaves fall.


5. Jeans That Move

You can’t beat Old Navy’s Karate Denim. Designed with an extra bit of stretch in their patented Built-In Tough fabric, they’re comfortable and indestructible.


6. Striped Leggings

An everyday favorite, but make it fun. We love Primary’s long-lasting leggings in every form, but there’s something about stripes that’s extra irresistible.


7. Sporty Leggings (With Pockets!)

From math class to soccer practice, these sporty leggings will keep up with a busy day (and pair perfectly with long tunic-style hoodies!)

Or leave it to the pros with a kids clothing box!

Stitch Fix Kids

Stitch Fix Kids

Like the grown-up service, Stitch Fix for kids sized 2T to 18 mix brands that most of us already know—such as TOMS, Primary, Nike and more—as well as pieces exclusive to Stitch Fix. Best of all? Each box includes eight to 12 clothing items for prices ranging from $10 for leggings to $35 for items like outerwear.

To get started, parents and their kids can have fun creating a Style Profile online, paying the $20 styling fee (that can be applied to the purchase of an item), scheduling the delivery and then waiting for the big try-on session. Afterward, keep what you want and send the rest back—with free shipping both ways. Or, if the whole box is a hit, you get a 25% discount on the purchase.

Kidpik Ruffling Feathers


Eliminate the morning madness with a wardrobe that works together! The rad boxes from kidpik include 8 mix-and-match items that are expertly styled for head-to-toe awesomeness. Just take the 3-minute quiz to capture their style preference and you’ll receive a selection of their signature apparel which is thoughtfully designed with kiddos in mind and similar in quality to Cat & Jack. Boxes are available in sizes 2-16 with the option to add shoes as well! The average item costs $22, but if you keep the entire box, they’ll take 30% off your order. Send back what you don’t love and voila! Back to school wardrobe foundation built.

A version of this story was published June 21, 2021. It has been updated.