If children are old enough to do their own back-to-school clothes shopping, parents can help them become careful consumers. Debra Chambliss, children's fashion adviser for J.C. Penney, offers these tips:
* Make sure your children know their proper clothing sizes - for pants, sweaters, dresses, shoes, shirts. Write them down so they can take their sizes with them.
* Help your children make a list of items that need replacing. Make another list of items needed to improve their existing wardrobes - a red sweater to brighten up basic pants, perhaps, or a patterned blouse to work with three pairs of pants.
* Make sure your children know how much money they have to spend and what they are expected to buy with it.
* Suggest stores where they will get good value.
* Give them guidelines for recognizing quality: All buttons attached; no split seams; no hanging threads.
* Be sure to allow them leeway, within reason, to purchase some items they really want - maybe a jacket featuring your son's favorite National Football League team.
* Make the first trip a test run. Let them begin by shopping for one item only and see whether they buy wisely.