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Top of the class.

Byline: Susan Lee

We give school uniforms the tough wash test... and find out which get the best marks for performance School summer holidays are in full swing and so are the campaigns by high street shops to get us to buy their school uniform. If you're lucky enough to still have kids at primary school there is a bewildering array of styles, quality and prices from which to choose from famous names like Marks & Spencer to big supermarket chains. But is dearer necessarily better? Women's Editor Susan Lee put uniform from five of the biggest retailers to the test checking for style, quality - and that all important wash test

Marks & Spencer:

Polo Shirts: pounds 5 for two. 100% cotton with 'stainaway' treatment to keep them white.

Cardigan: pounds 9. Cotton/polyamide.

Trousers: pounds 8. Polyester/ viscose. Non iron with stain defence.

Skirt: pounds 10. Polyester/viscose.

Non iron with permanent pleat.

Results: The cardigan was among the more expensive tested, but was excellent quality and remained soft after two washes.

The trousers, although billed as 'non iron', did come out of the wash creased but with none of their fabric quality lost.

The traditional pleated skirt was creased although the pleats, as advertised, remained resolutely in place. The polo shirt came out of the wash almost dry.

Verdict: Marksies is a name to trust when it comes to uniform. In the past some items have seemed expensive and don't expect any style surprises. But this season's range is well priced and of excellent, lasting quality.

Best for: "Knitwear BEST BUY


Polo Shirts: pounds 4.50 for three. 100% cotton.

Trousers: pounds 4.50. Boasts 'stain resistance' and 'durability'. Teflon fabric protected.

Skirt: pounds 5.50. Polyester/elastine mix

Jumper: pounds 4.100% cotton.

Results: The jumper was of a heavier weave than others tested - ideal for really cool days - and stayed in shape with no 'bobbling' after washing.

The skirt, with a trendy buckle waistband, looked like new after coming out of the washing machine with barely a crease to be seen although the trousers had heavierthan expected creasing.

The finishing off on the shirt wasn't great, though.

Verdict: Matalan offer good fashionable clothes at eye catching prices and that extends to its school range too. How the items will fare under long term use is open to question but the signs are good if you have a style conscious kid who wants to look good and whose mum doesn't warjt to spend a fortune.

Best For: Skirts BEST BUY


Polo shirt: pounds 1.25 each. 100% cotton.

Skirt: pounds 3.100% polyester.

Trousers: pounds 3.100% polyester.

Jumper: pounds 3.100% cotton.

Results: The skirt came out of the wash looking like it could be worn immediately - as it's polyester there is virtually no creasing. Not the most stylish of garments though -the cut wasn't too flattering - but a good basic for any wardrobe.

The trousers lost some of their front crease and again are pretty basic.

The jumper lost some shape after two washes, with the collar area going a bit 'wobbly' around the edges, although the polo shirt came out almost dry and without a crease.

Verdict: You can't knock the prices and if you've got the sort of kids who hammertheir uniform it wouldn't harm to stock up on some of this range as good stand-bys. They won't win any style awards, though and being polyester it might be wise not to go too near aij naked flames.

Best For: Polo shirts. BEST BUY


Polo Shirts: pounds 3.73 for 3.100% cotton.

Skirt: pounds 7. Polyester/viscose.

Trousers: pounds 4.50.

Cardigan: pounds 5. Cotton/nylon.

Results: The skirt comes with a stylish belt that will appeal to all those little fashionistas while the fabric is good quality and the pleats stayed in place after a wash.

The cardigan, too, is of excellent quality in an unusual shade of grey with nice button detail. It washed like a dream.

Very little creasing to the trousers, too, after washing although the polo shirt did lose a little shape.

Verdict: The supermarket giant is on to a winner with this season's uniform. Well-priced, nicely-sourced and, best of all, you can pick it up with your weekly shopping so it cuts down on the hassle, too.

Best for: Trousers. BEST BUY

John Lewis:

Polo shirts: From pounds 7 for 2.


Skirt: pounds 5 - pounds 11. Polyester/


Trousers: pounds 4 - pounds 11. Polyester/


Jumper: pounds 5 - pounds 9.100% cotton.

Results: The skirt was pretty and with an unusual box pleat design. It creased heavily but retained both its nature and shape well.

The trousers are excellent value and feel as though they will outlast all umpteen football games and tree climbs while the polo shirt is first class quality.

Some items in thejumper range advise to wash as wool -not ideal for a busy mum.

Verdict: John Lewis struggles when it comes to competing with the cheaper end of the market but, nevertheless, this season it is taking on the rest of the high street with a high-profile ad campaign. And it has plenty to shout about. The range is good quality and you can find some well-priced items.

Best for: Trousers. BEST BUY

All unifoim was washed at 40c in accomance with manufacturer's guidelines


SMART: Woolworths' polo shirts came out to ps in our uniforms test; TOPS FOR BOTTOMS: Tesco scored highly in our school trousers test
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 15, 2007
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