What to wear on the school run

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 63 Comments

I’ve got extra kids around this week (their parents are teachers so are already back at school) and yesterday I took them to a newish “super” park in Brisbane.

There was seemingly a collective vibe – judging by the simmering tantrums (and that’s just from the parents) everyone is VERY ready for school to start.

I think the collective vibe will switch to a collective sigh when the school gates open for 2015. It will be heard like a virtual Mexican wave all around Australia, starting first with Queensland on Tuesday.

For some women it will be the first time they’ve done the school – or kindy – run.

At this time of year I’m always emailed/messaged with questions from readers in that very situation – women asking for ideas on what to wear on the school run.

I ummed and ahhed about writing this post again this year as last year it was so bloody polarising when I posted it on Facebook.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care what anyone wears for the school run – or on any day, for any occasion or any task.

What I do care about is helping women feel confident in any situation and what I’ve learned from personal experience, working with women one-on-one and feedback from so my SY readers is that so much of that confidence is tied up in how we feel about how we present ourselves to the world.

My book – Unlock Your Style (reviewed here and available here and all good book stores #shamelessplug) – is all about that. It’s not about creating a world where we all dress the same. It’s about honouring who you are and showing that in the best possible way to the world.

When you work on that, confidence flows because you are being true to you.

How does that relate to the school run?

Last year I was a new parent at a new school. I came into a school community – not in the beginning years when people are actively seeking out like-minded friends with kids the same age.

It’s not easy. You need to use all the tools you have at your disposal to be confident for your child, as ultimately they are the ones making the biggest transition.

I also knew that finding “new” friends, friends in the school community with kids the same age as my son, would enable me to build up a new support system.

I was lucky to find those new friends and do not have the same fears I had 12 months ago.

But maybe you do have those fears. Maybe your eldest is starting kindy or school and you will be hoping to meet new friends.

Maybe you’re someone who’s looking for some tips on what women wear on the school run so that you “fit in”; so that you feel confident?

This post is for you. That said, the shopping and style suggestions will apply to anyone looking for ways to freshen up their casual late-summer wardrobe.


1. Mums who are doing the school run and heading on to paid work are obviously going to be wearing their work clothes. My hot tip is if you’re walking your child/children into the school then have a pair of flats in the car for that walk as your car will likely be parked so far away that you’ll wonder why you didn’t just walk from home to school.

2. Wearing active wear is totally ok if that works for you. For many, you may have been up and exercising early and had no time for a shower and change between finishing a class or run/walk and getting the kids in the car to school. For many others, you are heading on to a class after the drop off. That’s ok. That’s your life and stick to it.

3. If you work from home or have other younger children and stay at home with those children, then your outfit is most likely going to be a casual one. It is so possible to be casual, smart and comfortable. It’s what I aim for every day.

What to wear on the school run - shorts

1. Adrift top $79.95 | 2. Quay sunglasses $45 @ The Iconic | 3. Bohemian Traders bag $249 | 4. Frankie4 Footwear sandals $199.95 |  5. Seed shorts $69.95

4. Master a quick “face”. I’ve covered off on quite a few different two-minute makeup options here on the blog and in my book. It can be as simple as whacking on a BB or CC Cream, mascara and lipgloss. That might not seem much but to some it’s enough of an “armour” to help them face the day.

5. Dress for YOU and your personality – not who you think you should be in this situation. Doing this will help you connect with like-minded people.

6. Build a wardrobe on clothes that are ready to wear again the moment they are washed and dry. This removes one thing from the craziness that is the morning school-run rush. And you know what you pull out of the clothes basket will be ready to go.

What to wear on the school run - maxi dress

1. Blue Bungalow maxi dress $69 | 2. Minkpink sunglasses $39.95 @ The Iconic | 3. Ruby Olive earrings $18 | 4. Bohemian Traders bag $229 | 5. Bella Lido sandals $109

7. Create a “uniform” if you like as a way to take away the guesswork each morning. If you love wearing frocks, make that your thing; if you feel more comfortable in shorts and pants, then create outfits around that.

8. If you are a new mum dropping your eldest at school for the first time, big sunnies are a must. Oh who am I kidding, I’ve teared up every year my kids have started – and ended – a school year. I’m a wuss!

9. It’s not a competition. As I said above, what you wear on any given day is always up to you. Be confident in that and who you are. The rest will happen.

what to wear on the school run - jeans

1. Blue Illusion tee $39.99 | 2. Wish jacket $149.95 @ Birdsnest | 3. Il Tutto bag $99 | 4. Steve Madden flats $109.95 @ Styletread | 5. Lee Cooper jeans $29 @ Big W

So tell me, are you new to the school run this year? Or have been doing it for too many years to count and have some tips to share? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Comments 63

  1. How good are Lee Cooper Jeans! They were my favourite fashion find this year and given that I have always struggled to find decent looking and still comfortable jeans, at $29-35 a pair, you really can’t go wrong. I’m so glad you featured them 🙂

  2. I love all of these outfits. I will be doing the school drop off for the first time in two weeks so thanks for the sunglasses tip! I will still be at home with my two year old so casual is key, and I usually just swipe on some CC cream and mascara before heading out the door. I am nervous about crying on the first day, but have already met a lot of the mums that will be in the same situation during the school visits. To be honest, I don’t recall paying much attention to what they were wearing as I was too busy looking at the classroom and talking to the teacher. I will be walking my boy to and from school so no high heels for me! Lauren from SAHM I am.

  3. Great outfits Nikki. I love that Wish jacket and have ordered it – it looks really versatile and Iconic ship to NZ for free! X

  4. I bought that BB maxi last week, and its lovely. Light, airy, flowy. I like to feel and know that I’ve made an effort, but that’s me everyday. Not to impress anyone, but because it makes ME feel good. I’m sure people judge me but I’m long past caring what other people think xo

  5. Love your 3 combinations Nikki for the school run, a timely reminder to make it easy, workable and not to worry about impressing anyone. When I lived in the UK, it was so easy…you just had to throw on a big coat for at least 5 months of the year and no-one was any the wiser lol!

  6. This year will be a new private school for us! So new routine as well. My son is very excited – I am just a little nervous on establishing new friendships but like you say it’s all about being confident and staying true to yourself. Great post Nikki.

  7. I like #5 – dress for your personality. I homeschool now, but when I was taking my son to school, I certainly did feel some kind of “pressure” to conform in some way. Some mums were extremely dressed up and others in gym clothes, but you still got checked out, so whatever you wore needed to be kinda special. I always felt stressed! Now, of course, my son and I can wear whatever we want haha!

  8. I am in total agreement with you Nikki looking good for yourself , I know I have days where I’m in a lot of pain and if I look nice it helps me feel a little bit better and it’s a confidence booster.
    I love all the outfits you have chosen,they are lovely,even though I’m long past school days I dressed the same when I dropped off the kids at school.
    In your opinion Nikki are the Frankie4 shoes very comfy?I have been having a lot of leg pain from walking on slate all day and nearly bought the Georgie slides yesterday I need to wear more comfortable shoes I think ,I just thought they were a little too expensive,I wish I’d bought them when you had the 20% off,let me know when you have time.
    Great post Nikki,have a lovely weekend Xx
    Ps I’m a sookie wuss too x

    1. Lisa the Frankie 40Julia sandals are amazing – I have walked all round the art gallery and the city afterwards definitely worth the money

    2. Hi Lisa, the FRANKiE4 team here 🙂 With regards to leg pain from walking on hard surfaces, this is a common problem in this day and age as our feet just weren’t designed to walk on such hard surfaces all the time 🙁 We’ve had great feedback from other ladies who have found FRANKiE4’s help to alleviate that pain and pressure. Our shoes are packed full of cushioning and support (heel support, arch support and up to 10mm of cushioning in some styles). With regards to style, the GEORGiE slide is fabulous for an easy slip on option however being a slide it isn’t as supportive (in the heel) as some of the more enclosed styles but still a great option depending on the purpose. If you’d like some advice on styles please feel free to give the office a call on 1300 721 898 as we’d love to assist. Kindest regards the team at FRANKiE4. x

  9. I loved getting ready for the school run. I love all your choices. I will be sharing a few styles on my blog over the next few weeks. Have a fabulous Friday. V x

  10. thankyou nikki! … you are always helping others to feel good!
    genius at it! … these a great outfits for almost anything!
    yes unfortunately people are judging … it’s part of our survival mechanism!
    anything to get you through is helpful!
    good luck to all of the mothers dealing with a first day at school, or a new school! … this too will pass! enjoy the moments! … love m:)X

    1. That’s a really interesting statement M – judging is part of our survival mechanism. I’d never thought about it like that. The younger me was not as happy and more judgemental of others. This ME is happier within myself so find I’ve been able to let go of judgement.

    2. That’s a really interesting statement M – judging is part of our survival mechanism. I’d never thought about it like that. The younger me was not as happy and more judgemental of others. This ME is happier within myself so find I’ve been able to let go of judgement.

  11. I have never and will never need to worry about the school run, but I think about the image I project where ever I’m going- that’s just me! My 2014 intention (not resolution) was to be less judgmental, so I try not to inflict my preferences on anyone else.Unless they have something fabulous on- and then I need to know the details, STAT!

    Always happy to see some cute pieces like that lovely Blue Bungalow dress, but must remember I really don’t need more summer frocks…

    1. It’s so easy to get caught up in the need for more summer frocks when it’s so hot and summer seems to be stretching on forever Johanne! I’m having to reign myself in too. If it’s not something I’d take on my European summer trip then it’s not an option.

  12. I can remember planning my outfit for Beckie’s first day at school (18 years ago). It was a confidence building ‘me’ outfit, because I didn’t know a soul. I was nervous for my girl, but also nervous for me. Clothes give me the boost I need to enjoy the moment, to forget everything around me & focus on what matters – which is making sweet memories. Great post lovely & fabulous outfit suggestions! The sunnies are a MUST for hiding the tears…which I still shed at every single achievement/proud Mummy moment! Xx

    1. Oh Bev, glad you’re still with me on the still shedding tears business! Clothes give me a boost too – it doesn’t mean I’m dressed for a ball every day but it does mean that I aim to feel good about whatever that day is dishing up! x

  13. I love all these outfits suggestions. I put an effort in when I need to stop by the school. My girls LOVE it when I do. All their little girlfriends gather round to pat my vests or comment on shoes. I do it for my girls to make them happy 🙂

  14. What a fabulous post. I love your style & the outfits above are gorgeous. For me what I wear directly influences my mood & I love to feel polished even if its just for the school or kindy run. Thank you for encouraging mums to just feel good & confident with who they are xx

  15. I have that lovely Il Tutto bag and it’s perfect for the school run.

    I am a big fan of confidence. For some it comes naturally and for others, it’s a fake it til you make it situation. Here’s a little tip. We are kinda all faking it til we make it at some stage in our lives!

    It frustrated me last year that your advice on this topic, clearly aimed at boosting confidence in nervous nellies, was so misinterpreted as instructions on what one must wear for the school run!

    Here’s hoping the message is received properly this year.

    Lots of love for all the new school mamas. This is our last year of primary school so will be equally emotional!

  16. My eldest started school last year and initially I was stressed about what to each day for drop off. Over time, I realised: nobody gives a hoot what you wear, nobody is keeping a log book of what you wear. So what if you wear the same outfit twice a week (or more!) The most important thing is for YOU to feel good/comfortable with what you wear. There will be parents wearing each type of outfit described above. Just wear what you want and get on with your day. Drop off is not a clothing competition or a fashion parade. And the best of drop off is being with your kids, talking to them and giving them a big hug/kiss so they start the day wrapped up in your love 🙂

    1. Well said! Just like wearing swimmers at the beach, no-one gives two hoots what we look like … it’s OUR confidence that we need to deal with and if working out in advance what you’re wearing helps with that, I say go for it.

  17. Both my kids are starting at new schools this year – one in year 5 and one in year 7. One of the schools is hosting a tea and tissues morning tea. Hubby and I are going out for beers and cheers instead.
    I think I’m in charge of dropping the Year 7 off each day. I’m not sure she’ll give me many opportunities for walking her in, but if she does, I’ll def do it! I’ll be on my way to work, so just work clothes for me. I drive in thongs or flats and keep my heels to put on in the car outside the office. Thongs and flats work much better in kindy and Prep environments esp where there is artificial turf or softball – heels can ruin the surface of it! I love the outfits you’ve posted above.

  18. Its my last year with a school student in the house! Le sigh! Thinking ahead and being organised as you suggest is they key to minimising stress in the mornings when trying to get yourself and everyone ready for school/uni/work! I bought that lovely Adrift top already. Must have picked up some good shopping and styling trips from you : ). Thanks Nikki. Have a great long weekend. We’re heading up the Sunny Coast. I’m making a point of popping in on Willow and Bird.

    1. Oh that’s a big year Sam … Y12 is not fun for all concerned. I’m so glad I have a big break from that after two back-to-back years! I spotted the Adrift top doing this post and must admit it’s very ME – and would lovely on you too. Please say Hi to Willow and Bird for me. We’re home this weekend playing resorts!

  19. My eldest is going into Grade 5 this year but my younger two are still in daycare so I have MANY years of school runs left ahead of me! Over the past 5 years my daughter’s school has seen me turn up in business dress, gym clothes, casual gear and maternity wear. I even fainted outside my daughter’s classroom once when heavily pregnant so I feel like they’ve seen me in all states! Now I work from home most days but I still enjoy the feeling of looking good – it affects the way I interact with the world. Love all these outfits Nikki – they are all exactly what I would choose. xxx

  20. Awesome read Nikki, what we wear is a reflection of our personality and can definitely attract or deflect people. Our clothes can also lift our mood and boost confidence. My tips: Take pics on your mobile of your fave outfits then you will always have reference as to what’s in your wardrobe, laying clothes out the night before can also help save time in the morning. I don’t do the school run anymore but when I did it could feel like I was right back at school myself wanting to impress as people do judge, it shouldn’t be like that but it is so being prepared helps x

    1. That is an awesome tip – create an album on your phone for those photos and you have an ongoing resource to get your out the door quickly. And the judgement shouldn’t be anywhere but sadly it is. Whatever we can armour ourselves with to deflect the judgement is a good thing!

  21. My youngest is off to big school this year. My parents are coming up to Syd to come along on his first day so I’ll be trying to look my best to have some photos with my munchkins. Such a big milestone! The hardest part is holding the tears back until they’ve gone into class!

    1. Oh Kirralee, I cried EVERY YEAR and I’m still crying. I’ll meet Master SY’s teacher and I’ll tear up. And I’ll tear up saying goodbye to that teacher at the end of the year! Good luck with your littlest munchkin! x

  22. Well said Nikki. My biggest hint is dry shampoo- klorane or batiste is best (batiste do one for brown hair). A quick freshen up (I have fine hair that looks like a grease pit on day 2) is a must, along with tinted moisturiser. Clothes according to lifestyle. T

  23. Great tips Nikki! This year will be a mix of exercise gear, casual when I head off to uni again and smart casual when I have other ‘work’ commitments. Loved the tip where you dress for you and your personality! So true as you need to feel comfortable with yourself in any situation really.

  24. This year I will be doing a Kindy run for the first time and that means my mornings need to get into gear and I need to be organised with my outfits! Great post Nikki. Didn’t know you were hit with bad comments last year doing a similar post. It’s like all the lunchbox posts that are doing the rounds on the net at the moment. They are all suggestions not gospel! Do you what’s right for your situation and beliefs! Hope you have a great Australia Day weekend. Xx

    1. You will have busy mornings indeed Bec – and yes, it must me like the lunchbox posts. See – I don’t do fancy lunch boxes – my kids have never gone for that – but I’d never criticise those offering suggestions because lots of people want those ideas!

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