How do I clothe my tween tomboy?
July 25, 2011 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Cool for tweens -- where do I take the kid for back to school now that Justice (which was once Limited Too) is too "preppy" for her without subjecting her to social ostracism? Please suggest stores, brands, blogs or whatever.

It's back to school time and the kidlet is hardly a kidlet anymore (she's about to be 12).

Last year, back to school was stocking up at Justice, which she loved at the time. Fast forward a year however, and she's over 5 feet tall and a seventh grade and Justice is no longer cool.

I buy my clothes at Threadless, Ann Taylor, Target and thrift stores, so this is not my realm of expertise.

Her style in the last year has gone from somewhat preppy with strappy sandals to big, nerdy shirts (Devo, Ghostbusters, Mythbusters, Goonies, Threadless), "jeggings" and Converse high tops. Lots of buttons and about 40 rubber bands around the wrist.

Her favorite store is now Hot Topic, which we will of course hit for more goofy t-shirts, but Invader Zim does not a wardrobe make. She likes H&M as well, but it's a bit too skanky/revealing as well as crappily made for me to do too much of that.

She hates Justin Bieber, iCarly and Hanna Montana and is offended if I take her anywhere with that kind of aesthetic. (She listens to equal parts dance pop and nerd girl music -- Lily Allen, Bjork, Weezer, Weird Al, "Once More With Feeling.")

I would honestly skip doing a big back to school run, but with the growth, all her pants are floods, her shoes are tearing out and the majority of her tops were once mine.

We're in San Francisco. I have no sense of what's in from the kids that mill around and she doesn't give a damn until she's mocked. She hangs out with enough different crowds that I couldn't pin down a look from any of her friends.

Chain stores or one offs are great, but online is out since I want her to at least try stuff on. She's very slender, if that matters. Since it's SF, no super summery clothes need apply.

I'm trying to parent on a budget, but not to the point of crap clothes.

She can fit in women's extra small if it's cut slim, but women's styles tend to assume some top heaviness.

(Yes, I saw this thread, but it seems a bit outdated.)

Thank you for helping me not embarrass her horribly.
posted by Gucky to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Delia's was where my daughter transitioned after Limited Too (now Justice, why??). They have goofy t-shirts but also some nice basic separates, jeans, dresses and coats They're neither too preppy nor slutty. They are also the master of the upsell.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:49 AM on July 25, 2011

I would try Target and Forever 21.
posted by kinetic at 11:53 AM on July 25, 2011

You might see if the stuff on Alloy is her speed. They offer pants in longer lengths, which I know is important for quickly growing tween girls (having worked for several years at Limited Too in high school- I, too, mourn the name change).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:02 PM on July 25, 2011

Delias, Forever 21, H&M, Alloy (online)
posted by katypickle at 12:05 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there a Plato's Closet where you are? It's like a Buffalo Exchange thrift store thing but more teen based brands and sizes. My daughter's 13 and she and her friends are getting into thrift store shopping. The consignment/thrift stores (like Plato's) are easier to find her size in than Goodwill or something. (We have been desperate because this is her first year at a school without uniforms so we're sort of starting from scratch.) She's in between kids sizes and adult sizes at some stores. It's easier than going looking at Target, Aeropostale, Forever 21, Old Navy, Gap, etc. You can just go over to the section with the shorts that are long enough for school or whatever and have her try on all the ones that she doesn't hate. And a teeny sign in the back says that if you check in on facebook you get 15% off.
posted by artychoke at 12:06 PM on July 25, 2011

Just a thought--and this will work more for shirts than pants--but if her old clothes and old stores are too preppy, she could mod them with some stenciling. If my mom had given me any leeway in how I dressed as a kid (and it sounds like you give your daughter plenty--yay!), I would have been all over this. Stenciling is super fun and easy (here's a really good tutorial), is a good way to fancy up cheap/plain shirts, will give her a creative outlet, and sounds like it would fit in with her aesthetic pretty well.

If you decide to do this, I highly recommend Jacquard brand fabric paint. You can find it at any major art store.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:06 PM on July 25, 2011

Economically speaking, I'd definitely stick with Target or Kohl's for the basic bottoms (two pairs of everything and make it a size or a half-size big) and then T-shirt it up all over the place. Being a Threadless customer, I'm sure you're probably aware of Shirt.Woot, Tee Fury, etc., and then she do some T-shirt modification as needed if she's interested in doing something more fun like this.
posted by TrishaLynn at 12:10 PM on July 25, 2011

Nthing Delia's and also adding Wet Seal.
posted by jillithd at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2011

She likes H&M as well, but it's a bit too skanky/revealing as well as crappily made for me to do too much of that.

I buy a lot of my son's clothes at H&M, and the boy's stuff stands up well to the rigors of being five. Any chance some of the jeans/pants on the boys side might still fit her? Much higher rise than the girls stuff, but still the same aesthetic.
posted by anastasiav at 12:13 PM on July 25, 2011

Urban Outfitters, perhaps? Check out the boy's side too, especially for t-shirts. There's one in Union Square.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:18 PM on July 25, 2011

It's not super-duper-hip or anything, but a good place for modern basics: Lands' End Canvas -- goes down to XXS, slim cuts, and oh, I just caught the "online is out." Well, FWIW. You can return it at any Sears. Check for coupon codes; if you shop carefully the stuff is very cheap for what it is.
posted by kmennie at 12:32 PM on July 25, 2011

You are way too involved. Give her a spending limit. Take her wherever she wants to go to buy the clothes she wants (or send her on her own). She gets clothes and empowerment both. You get to not try to figure out 11-12 year old fashion, and you get to not be responsible for her being mocked or whatever other result of her choices.
posted by fritley at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

You're making this pretty complicated. At that age, with her existing style, a "uniform" is the way to go. Four pairs of jeggings and eight new roomy t-shirts a season, socks and undies. Army surplus coats are always in fashion.
posted by Scram at 12:45 PM on July 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

She's close to the "juniors" market - I'd try Nordstrom, Macy's juniors department. Gap and Old Navy always have good basics. Also Urban Outfitters - the one downtown was always really fun when I was her age.
posted by radioamy at 12:51 PM on July 25, 2011

Juniors' department of Nordstrom may be a good place to look (I know you said "no online" but that should give you a sample of what they sell).

Since you are in SF, the YesStyle store may be worth a look (I'm a frequent shopper on the site but I've never been in the store since I'm on the opposite side of the country).
posted by darksong at 12:54 PM on July 25, 2011

Thank you for helping me not embarrass her horribly.

I wouldn't worry about this, honestly. She sounds like she has a good sense of what she likes, and showing her how to find that on a budget will do more for heri in the long run than finding the latest trendy place and getting hung up on specific brands and designers. I know an absurd number of single young women who are in financial trouble from their clothes purchases and cell phone bills alone.

Your daughter might be a little young for the thrift shop craze, but it's definitely out there--my oldest son (18) is scouring the thrift shops with his friends today. He is slight and slender, so men's jeans often don't fit--unless they have been washed and shrunk, which makes thrift shops perfect, because his choices in the trendy places are really limited, leaning towards the skintight emo pants he deplores. Plus, he has a very eclectic style sense: he likes everything from '40s stuff (think Johnny Depp in Public Enemies, he even has the haircut now) to jeans and band t-shirts-BUT only in grey, black, white, black and, just to mix it up a little, more black.

So yeah, clothes shopping is a challenge. But he's found buttery-soft Banana Republic jeans, a trench coat, all kinds of neat stuff for his efforts, and he's thrilled. My point being that thrift shops do let kids explore their own sense of style and discover what looks work for them without spending a lot of money. Just something to consider.

My youngest (16) also went shopping for clothes today with me. He's more conventional, also doesn't like preppy, and actually preferred Target to any of the trendier shops.

In the past, I've had luck finding clothes for both at Hot Topic and, surprisingly, J.C Penney (stay away from the preppy American Apparel stuff).
posted by misha at 12:59 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Loyal Army on Haight. Hipster cute tee shirts/hoodies/etc.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:27 PM on July 25, 2011

H&M is skanky? I shop there regularly for clothes for me, and the kids' clothes seem pretty cute. The fall lookbook didn't seem to have anything age-inappropriate- maybe the problem is with the stagers at the stores. I have to sew on the occasional button, but otherwise their clothes are okay- better quality than HotTopic, IMO, and not as randomly-sized as Forever 21. I just avoid things made out of fabric that feels cheap. You could also try Zara, the one on Post has kids' clothes on the second floor. I haven't paid much attention to them, though. Like H&M, it is cheap, fashionable knock-offs. Urban Outfitters is in the neighborhood as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:32 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are way too involved. Give her a spending limit. Take her wherever she wants to go to buy the clothes she wants (or send her on her own).

I totally appreciate the sentiment. I am a hardcore free range parent in many aspects.

I'm asking because, well, I already asked her and got the great wall of I Dunno.

- "Where would you like to go for clothes?"
- "I dunno. Wherever."
- "Would you like to go shopping with your friends?"
- "No. Just you and I is good."

Sadly, the last time she went shopping with friends, she got pickpocketed (or something. whatever. she was down $100 and all her IDs. None of my business).

If my mom didn't drive her crazy, I'd just have her Grandma do it. Or anyone she felt comfortable with that has a fashion sense, really. But nope, it's me.

She is the youngest in her grade and I only see her half the time and she's turning to me for advice and I'm all like, "Derrrrrrr, whu?"
posted by Gucky at 1:33 PM on July 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Just go to the mall. You don't have to pick out stores ahead of time (although she might like Pacific Sunwear). Start with the department stores, which will have all kinds of styles. If you finish those without enough clothes, then try the smaller stores, which are more overpriced anyway. That's what always worked for my family.
posted by that's how you get ants at 1:51 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm with that's how you get ants. Just go to the mall, and let her figure out what she likes.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:26 PM on July 25, 2011

Express makes the world's best-value leggings...thicker and sturdier than many places, and they frequently go on sale for deals like "buy one, get one 50% off". Their sizes also run small. Some of the clothing there is pretty skanky, but worth checking out if you stick to the basics.

Thrift stores are good for goofy shirts. Urban Outfitters I think you may find runs a bit too much toward the filmy and tightly cut for a 12 year old (their stuff looks fine on the rack, then you put it on and realize it's very sexualizing). Don't give up on H&M. Their Divided label is pitched more toward juniors and tends to be both cheaper and flashier than the standard H&M stuff. So if you've been hanging out there, you may have a skewed impression. Not all stores carry it, but the L.O.G.G label has much better-quality basics, and is age-appropriate in styling. Loehman's has a good Junior's section...same stuff as department stores, much cheaper. You may especially find sweaters and jeans there, but they sell out of the small sizes quickly.

Nordstroms I think your daughter may find too preppy. Macy's frequently has a very unfavorable price/quality ratio, but a wide selection, so a good place to go when you're desperate for something specific. Sizes at Old Navy and The Gap both run larger, so those will probably be frustrating.

Finally, I'm going to be the dissenting voice that says that sending your daughter to the mall by herself isn't the best approach. She's getting to that age where clothing becomes all caught up in issues of sexual development, identity, and cultural expectations from women. I certainly wish my mother had had a few more frank conversations with me about these issues, awkward as they would have been.
posted by psycheslamp at 7:18 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Urban Outfitters, Forever 21*, and Nordstrom - their teen section, Brass Plum or BP or whatever it's calling itself, was one of my go-to stores in high school and although it definitely has some things that are too slutty for a 12-year-old, it's also got plenty of stuff that is just trendy and fun.

*Neither of these are great quality - I would get basics from somewhere that makes stuff that last and go to trendy, cheap places for the sort of things that she'll have grown out of and be tired of by next year anyway.
posted by naoko at 8:04 PM on July 25, 2011

Round up a couple of her besties for shopping day. Go to the diner first and ply them with grease and sugar. Let them hotly debate this topic and come up with a plan. Transform yourself into Driver with Wallet.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:11 AM on July 26, 2011

Thanks everyone. She and I read through the thread together and checked out websites. We'll be hitting Delia's, Plato's Closet, YesStyle for the tops and things and JC Penneys, Nordstrom Rack and Kohl's for basics and Converse -- with whatever's left in the budget at Gama-go.

She had strong opinions on Forever 21, Wet Seal and H&M being for a different kind of girl than her, so I think they just skew more girlie.

And we're going somewhere for "leg warmers." And to think I thought I escaped the 80s.

I appreciate the help, everyone.
posted by Gucky at 1:08 PM on July 27, 2011

« Older Le blog est mort, vive le blog !   |   How do I go about deciding whether I want kids or... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.