What is an appropriate amount of clothes for a teenage girl?
April 23, 2012 9:40 AM   Subscribe

What is an appropriate amount of clothes for a teenage girl? In specific, a teenage girl in a private school (but not a boarding school) that requires a uniform. How many changes of casual clothes should she have? How many changes of uniform?

I don't want to contaminate the question by asking "is X too few/Is Y too many?", so I can't really give a lot of details. Private Catholic school, uniform is skirt/blouse with optional sweater or blazer depending on season. Otherwise normal school schedule, not really a fashionista kind of kid, but not entirely ignorant of the importance of clothes either.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're anon, so you can't answer this directly, but I think it's worthwhile to consider how many clothes her peers have.
posted by box at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

This WikiHow sounds pretty reflective of the wardrobes of most of the teen girls I know, except for the real hardcore fashionistas.

Isn't the norm for a uniform school three uniform skirts or trousers, one uniform blazer/jacket, one uniform sweater (if there is one) and five to seven uniform shirts and pairs of socks?
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2012

I went to a uniform school for ten seconds, but I think the nuns had a list of recommendations.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2012

I was a teenage girl with a uniform. You shouldn't need more than 2 skirts, one sweater and/ir one blazer. Five each of long and short sleeved shirts, five each of socks and tights (assuming both are needed for weather).

I cannot tell you how much other clothing to have, it depends way too much on weather, activities, etc.
posted by jeather at 10:03 AM on April 23, 2012

If there were an objective answer to that question, it would have been in the parent handbook. Don't fret, there is no right answer.

In my experience, girlfriends in private schools had just as many clothes as the rest of us, if not more, plus their uniform clothes. They changed out of the uniform clothes as soon as they got home. The uniform thing sort of chafed against individuality, so those girls tended to have more clothes. My experience is subjective, though. It's normal for a teenage girl to want lots of clothes, and it's an early safe way to express autonomy, so unless they're not getting washed, what's another sweater?
posted by juniperesque at 10:07 AM on April 23, 2012

Regarding uniforms, the question of how many sets might be best asked of the person responsible for doing the laundry. As the person responsible for doing the laundry for my son, I purchased 6 sets of uniform shirts, slacks and socks because I don't want to have to do a load of laundry mid-week. The one extra set is so I'm not forced to do a load of laundry over the weekend if other plans arise.
posted by jamaro at 10:07 AM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

For the non-school clothes, give her a budget, then let her decide how to spend it and how to balance quality vs. quantity. Figure out what you're willing to spend, set whatever rules you need to set about modesty or propriety, and then let her figure out how to use the money to get the wardrobe she wants and needs. That way, there are no fights about whether she "needs" another pair of jeans, and she gets practice now managing a budget in the way that adults have to in other areas of their lives.
posted by decathecting at 10:08 AM on April 23, 2012 [10 favorites]

I am also a former uniform-wearing teenage girl. It was the norm at my school to wear our uniforms to after-school activities (student council meetings, club meetings, etc. - not for sports, obviously). Occasionally, a girl might bring a change of clothes, but this was more the exception. Teenage girls stink by the end of the day as much as teenage boys, so a uniform worn for a whole school day, plus an hour or two or three afterward is probably not going to be wearable again without washing.

So it might depend on the culture at the school whether or not you have extra uniforms and how many.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:10 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went to a uniform boarding school and have two teenage daughters. Is it going to be somewhere with seasons? Then you'd need to plan for a winter/summer wardrobe.

Your best bet is to get a bunch of good quality basics, and then give her an allowance to buy a bunch of fashionable crappy pieces to be replaced fairly often.

Buy decent quality:

She will need at least 5 bras, with at least 1-2 sports bras and 1-2 strapless bras. Get plain nude ones if you can. Buy at least two dozen underpants in nude/black. Get sports socks and sneakers - please let her choose the sneakers! Just give her a price point and let her choose. If it's going to be cold, warm wooly socks are fantastic and worth it.

2-3 pairs of pyjamas. Light ones for summer - there are super-cute tops and shorts now - and flannel comfy ones for winter. Do not get nightgowns, as PJs allow her to be more active. A good quality dressing gown is really good for running from her dorm to the bathroom etc. She'll live in that. Good slippers that she can wear in winter/summer weather would be great too.

Jeans. Again, pick a price point and let her choose them, otherwise, stick to levis and a style that suits her body shape. Bootleg goes for most.

I would be cheap on a swimsuit and just stick to a basic black one, plus goggles and a swimcap. But I would definitely get one rather than have her pick something daft like a bikini that she can't actually swim in.

Towels - the school might provide them, if they don't, having really nice thick towels is great. Don't get a colour that will run, stick to white or ivory.

A set of tracksuit bottoms and a good quality hoodie or thick sweater if she's going someplace cold, a good quality cardigan for not-so-cold. Get them in white, ivory or black.

If she will be going out for formal dinners or they have a dress code, possibly I would buy a standard black shift dress (A-line suits almost everyone) and a pair of black pumps. I wouldn't spend much on that, but it can be handy.

In winter, a decent coat if the school uniform doesn't include one.

Everything else - dresses, tops, t-shirts, skirts, cheap shoes - let her buy cheap and fashionable within a budget where she likes. Ditto for a bag/handbag/school bag. She'll want to change those more often than it's worth investing in right now.

Oh, and luggage. If she's travelling back and forth often and she's generally careful with things, it's really sweet and sensible to invest in a decent carry-on bag set. Samsonite is what my air-stewardess friends use, and I have a set in bright red I adore that my daughters covet and borrow. I would've loved that in boarding school. A toiletry bag that hangs on a hook is super helpful too.

At my school, we changed into our own clothes in the evening and weekends, and we had pretty much the same size wardrobe as a town girl would have.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:14 AM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

I went to Catholic school and didn't feel the uniform meant I should have less clothes (as noted, the uniform usually comes off after class). I think a two week suppy of clothes (14 tops, 14 bottoms) is a reasonable compromise. However, you should budget for seasonal shopping as well as replacing outgrown/damaged items. She will also need several sets of "Sunday clothes" for Mass and special occasions.
posted by saucysault at 10:16 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter had 3 skirts, 1 pair of pants that she never wore, the dress uniform (looked like a maid's uniform) and a bunch of sweaters, the official hoodie and maybe 5 or 6 shirts. Her friends and she were endlessly inventive about switching everything around, and it was a badge of honor to have worn holes in every single sweater. IHHS in LA.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2012

When I went to a private high school, I had one of anything that could be worn multiple days in a row without needing to be washed (skirt, tie, blazer, jumper etc), then I had three shirts, two dresses (we wore dresses in the summer terms) and maybe four pairs each of socks and stockings. We never had PE two days in a row so I got by with one polo shirt, one pair of shorts, one pair of trackies etc.

As for my out-of-school wardrobe, at any point in time I had roughly:

- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 casual skirt (winter weight)
- 1-2 summer skirts or shorts
- 2-3 casual jumpers
- 4-5 casual tops
- 1 pair of flat boots, 1 pair of 'cool' sneakers (i.e. not the white ones we were required to wear for PE), 1 pair of ballet flats, 1 pair of thongs (flip flops)
- 1 pair of black pants and 2 dressy tops to go with them (these were a staple when I was in my teens, not so much anymore though - I'd probably substitute this for 2-3 cute dresses)
- 1 'nice' dress or outfit for family functions etc

This was plenty for me, but I was a huge nerd and would rarely need outfits for more than two social occasions a week unless it was the holidays or some sort of music camp where we wore casual clothes for a week. We mostly wore our uniforms to any after-school activities (drama club, debating etc), and I didn't really care what I wore when I was just doing homework after school - jeans and a hoodie was more than okay!
posted by lovedbymarylane at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2012

I went to private catholic day school, and this is what I would have:

In school: two skirts/shorts/pants and at least 4 shirts and a couple of t shirts. A truckload of good quality socks that are all the same (so it's uniform) and two pairs of good quality shoes to take turns every day, as well as one pair of trainers specially for school. If there's a blazer or a jumper, have one blazer and two jumpers. Teach her to take care of her blazer (brush it when she gets home, for example), and it should last well. For winter, if allowed, a scarf that is the same color as the uniform. Two sets of gym clothes. In the winter, we were allowed to wear white t shirts under our shirts. It really helps to keep warm, but you should buy these like they are underwear, so she'd be wearing 5 every week. Also, besides the usual bras, a couple of sporty ones make physical activity a lot easier.

Out of school but at home/everyday stuff: 2-3 pairs of jeans in good condition, 7-10 casual tops (including t shirts, blouses, etc.), two sets of non-school gym clothes for sporty occasions, and your choice of jumpers, coats, sweatshirts. A couple of skirts if she likes, a couple of shorts. 1 pair of trainers and 3-4 pairs of boots/flats/casual shoes/sandals. Also your usual summer/swimming stuff.

Out of school, formal: 1 pair of fancy jeans, 1 pair of black trousers, 1 fancy skirt, 4-5 fancy tops that match with the bottoms, 2-3 nice dresses (different lenghts), 2 pairs nice shoes, 1 pair nice sandals, one fancy coat.

Hope this is useful!
posted by Tarumba at 10:59 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The answer is dependent on how often you want to do laundry.

My suggestion is that in the fall you buy some of her current size and some one size up. It was hard for us to find uniforms mid-school year. And she had outgrown the fall clothes.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:04 AM on April 23, 2012

I have no experience with school uniforms, but as a teenager (fairly recently) I had not too much less clothing than I have now (as a 20-something). And I had less clothing than most of the girls I knew. (I grew up in a working and middle class town small town as well, very much not a fashion-conscious place on the whole).

I would guess I had something like 4-5 pairs of jeans, which I lived in; 2-3 pairs of khakis or slacks; 3-4 pairs of shorts; at least 25 tops of varying weights and dressiness; 3-4 sweaters; 2-3 hoodies; a dozen or so tank tops; 2-3 pairs of sweat pants for sleeping and exercising; a couple dresses or skirts (would have had more but I didn't wear them much in HS); countless free event t-shirts I got from school extracurricular that I didn't really wear.

I have no idea how many clothes one 'should' have and again I'm sure that if you're wearing a uniform to school that affects these numbers somewhat. Just thought it might be useful as a data point.
posted by geegollygosh at 11:24 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

For my school uniform I had two/three kilts and 4 blouses. The kilts were very hard-wearing though and forgiving of stains etc. (In retropect they maust have been made entirely of polyester and scotch guard to last as long as they did - this was also pre-sweatshop days so the stitching held up as well). The blouses were of much cheaper quality and had to be replaced quite frequently. Have a good look at the quality of the workmanship for the uniform before making a final decision.
posted by saucysault at 11:26 AM on April 23, 2012

For the uniform recommendations, I'll 2nd what jeather said.

For the regular clothes, I think geegollygosh gets closest, but as someone who went to a private school and wore a uniform for 10ish years, the amount of clothes needed for out of school was always tricky. As a typical teen girl, I wanted to have what my friends had-- I wanted a new outfit (or at least a new shirt) for a party, a new dress for prom/whatever event, and anything that seemed to be trendy. You don't want to have to wear the same shirt all the time and *especially* since she wears a uniform every day, the clothes outside of school have more importance (to her? to friends?).

It's also harder to set a limit for teens/young people because they're still trying to figure out their style. If I had had a parent say "you get 15 shirts" in high school -- even with a uniform-- I would have had a panic attack. I think a monthly budget of, say $40, might be reasonable. If she wants more, she can get an after-school job. (I'm assuming money is an issue by the fact that the question is even being asked.)

Also, while it may seem like having a uniform = not needing as many clothes, high school will end and she will need clothes all of the time after that.
posted by Flamingo at 12:02 PM on April 23, 2012

My school had different winter and fall/spring plaids so I had one of each. Since the skirts were not really designed for active teenage girls sitting cross-legged on the floor during free periods, we all wore pajama/boxer shorts under our skirts, so that kept the skirt "clean" unless we spilled something on ourselves.

Shirts, I had two of the "formal uniform" shirts (collared Oxfords) and like five of the "informal uniform" shirts (golf shirts). Definitely make sure there's a good stock of nude bras for underneath. For years (seriously, until I was like 25) I thought I had to wear a white bra to avoid anything showing through my white uniform shirts, and was always peeved that the white still showed. I wish someone had told me the nude bra secret.

I had about 10 pairs of kneesocks in each of the winter and fall/spring colors. I also had a couple of sweaters -- we had a v-neck cardigan required for our "formal uniform" and I had a navy blue Gap crewneck sweater for everyday use.

As to clothes outside of school: I pretty much wore my uniform all day every day until I changed into my pajamas; if my parents picked me up from school to go to dinner, I wore it to dinner. If for any reason I did bother changing, I had like three pairs of jeans and a handful of t-shirts and hoodies that amused me. Maybe one nice dress for family weddings or such things.

But I was not at all fashion conscious and I'm the kind of person who, more than a decade later, wishes I still had a uniform to wear to work instead of having to come up with different combinations of clothing to wear EVERY. DAY. wtf.
posted by olinerd at 12:57 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a teenage daughter in private school. For her uniform, she has: 1 kilt, 1 plain skirt, 1 blazer, 1 tie, 5 shirts (mix of polo and dress shirts), 1 cardigan, 5 pairs knee socks, 5 pairs tights, 1 PE strip, 1 pair closed-toe black flats, 1 pair running shoes.

For mufti and non-school days, well let's just say I'm glad she likes thrift stores. We cover her uniform plus staples like jeans, layering basics (tshirts, tank tops), underwear, socks, and sports gear. Beyond that, she gets clothes as gifts or buys stuff with her own money.
posted by atropos at 1:00 PM on April 23, 2012

It is pretty straightforward: start with the minimum number of casual and uniform clothes required to (a) always have clean clothes available* and (b) always have clothes suitable for anticipated weather and activities.

Once you have that baseline, everything else is nice-to-have, driven in large part by what makes her feel happy and what her peers have, balanced against what you can afford and how much storage space you have. This varies for everybody.

*this is impacted by how often you can wash clothes, and whether the uniform is dry-clean-only and so on
posted by davejay at 2:53 PM on April 23, 2012

Regarding other clothes. I guess this could be different if your area regards private schools as being strictly for the wealthy, but I didn't have a whole lot of clothes besides my school uniforms. When I was in high school I became goth and had this one black velvet dress, black turtleneck top, this vaguely punk plaid kilt-ish thing, a couple pairs of jeans, and a rather small collection of band t-shirts that I would live in anytime I wasn't in my school uniform. I may have owned other clothes, but that's what I wore. If we had days we were allowed to be out of uniform, I didn't have a wealth of choice. It was jeans plus whatever top was least likely to get me in trouble at school.

It didn't seem that odd among my peers to have a small number of go-to wardrobe staples for outside school. I recently saw old photos on facebook, and I still to this day remember some of the clothes in the photos. Even my friends' clothes -- clothes belonging to people I haven't seen in 10-15 years. Everyone wore the same few things all the time.

One summer I went out with a boy who went to one of the more elite all-boys' schools in my area. I remember that he wore three t-shirts, period. He appeared to have one pair of jeans, but I guess it's possible he had more and they just looked the same. And he was not poor by any means.
posted by Sara C. at 8:20 PM on April 23, 2012

I went to a uniform school, but I was not at all into fashion, so I had minimal outside clothes.

As far as I remember I had:
- 2 uniform skirts
- 5 uniform blouses (my mother insisted on washing them after each wear)
- 1 uniform pullover
- 1 blazer, tie, and hat, which only got worn on special occasions
- about 10 pairs of white ankle socks
- 1 pair school shoes + 1 pair school sandals for summer
- 6 pairs of tights and stockings in varying degrees of warmth
- 1 set of gym clothes

For outside school clothes I usually had
- about 5 t-shirts
- 1 nice blouse/shirt for wearing to restaurants etc
- 1 nice skirt for wearing to restaurants etc
- 1 outfit nice enough to wear to weddings
- 3 pairs of jeans/casual trousers
- 3 pairs of shorts
- 1 pair sneakers, 1 pair non-school sandals, I wore my school shoes for going out
- zillions of underpants
- 2 bras
- about 6 or 7 heavy woolen pullovers
- 1 set long underwear
- 1 winter coat (long, but not very waterproof)
- 1 parka (short, down-filled, waterproof)
- 2 or 3 sets pajamas

Basically I had enough of any item that I could wear it both days of the weekend, and still have a clean one to throw on after school later in the week. My mother liked to wash things that go next to the skin (except bras, weirdly) every time you wear them, and she only did laundry twice a week, so that was really the determining factor.
posted by lollusc at 8:47 PM on April 23, 2012

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