fashionable clothes for the top-heavy tween?
April 5, 2020 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I have a top heavy tween. Help us find clothing for her.

My girl wears a 34E size bra. It's hard for her to find tops that she likes (i.e. that are in line with her friends' preferences) and which aren't obscenely tight.

She doesn't want to wear anything "baggy." (Our definitions of baggy are different: things that I think fit correctly, she finds "baggy.") She wants to follow her friends' skin-tight, cropped-top fashion instincts, which read very differently on her figure than on theirs. Please believe me that I am not trying to hide her or burqa her or subdue her, I just want her to not look indecent. She has outgrown most of her tops and reflexively refuses anything I buy or suggest.

Is there a manufacturer or brand that that teens/tweens like, which she will accept as sufficiently trendy, but whose sizing or cuts or fabrics will flatter a very top heavy figure? (Nothing boxy or oversized will do, obv.) Her friends' approval is pretty much the only credential which she cares about, as far as I can tell, and I don't want to fight with her or give her body issues. I just want her to have some tops that she can wear outside the house and feel and look good in.

Needs to be orderable online, with a reasonable return policy.
posted by fingersandtoes to Shopping (18 answers total)
Do you know what brands/stores her friends favor?
posted by brilliantine at 11:35 AM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: "Brandy Melville" is a name I hear a lot? But I don't think my kid has any of those clothes.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:11 PM on April 5, 2020

Maybe Shein’s plus line?This seems along the lines of what I was seeing from Brandy Melville but with a larger bust measurement.Here’s a basic shirt that seems to have the right vibe. Their stuff is hit or miss but at least there are a few options.
posted by brilliantine at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2020

I was a busty teen. I'm a 34J now. I'm also a body image researcher and expert. There are serious risks to your daughter from you critiquing or "improving" your daughter's clothes and body. Let her choose her clothes and how she looks, and avoid inserting your opinion. "Indecent" is in the eye of the beholder. If she gets arrested for exposure, then you can critique the outfit she was wearing at the time.
posted by shadygrove at 1:08 PM on April 5, 2020 [32 favorites]

This is all totally stream of consciousness -- I'm just putting down my thoughts as they occur. I hope that you find something helpful.

I am not a parent, but I also was a busty teenager (and I am the aunt of a busty teenager). I can understand not wanting to wear "boxy" clothes. Why? They did (and do) make me look like ... wait for it .. a box.

In the event that your daughter does ask for fashion advice from you, I would go in the direction of "not too much of any one thing." For example, loose jeans look good with tight tops and vice versa. So -- crop tops: With the high-waisted jeans that are in fashion again, they can work. (A commenter on Reddit's bigboobproblems sub suggests buying pure cotton crop tops. The whole post is worth reading: Reddit skews young, and it offers insights into the challenges that busty girls and women in their late teens and early 20s are dealing with as they face the world.)

Also, I've noticed that many if not all of the popular clothing brands have made a nod to social consciousness by having a subbrand with a "green" or similarly socially minded mission. At PacSun, It's Me to We. ASOS has the Responsible Edit (made of recycled materials). Miss Selfridges has Miss S ECO. Etc.

I mention them because maybe they could be a neutral zone of discussion for you and your daughter. Talk about the clothes, the mission, whether or not either of you thinks that it does any good, etc. It could defuse the topic so that you and your daughter could eventually have a less fraught discussion about it.

Take care.

PS I was very much surprised to find out that Brandy Melville has closed its operations (even online) during the pandemic. The only other clothing company to have done that – that I know of – is Patagonia.
posted by virago at 2:05 PM on April 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I was a 5th grade E cup who wore clothes with a variety of fits, but usually on the baggier side. Unfortunately, I had multiple experiences at that age of being sexualized and treated as "indecent" by adults, and there was really no correlation to what I happened to be wearing. The message I desperately needed at the time was that those adults were 100% wrong and that a child is never responsible for being sexualized by an adult.

To answer your question about brands, I currently work full-time with tweens and as far as I know, there isn't a tween-cool brand that's designed for your daughter's body type
posted by horizons at 2:12 PM on April 5, 2020 [10 favorites]

^ "Indecent" is in the eye of the beholder - yes, exactly, and I'm sorry that you're already set up as adversaries in this fraught arena.

If anything, discuss fit, not decent vs. indecent; your busty tween will likely be a busty adult, and getting across the idea of proper fit (buying clothing that fits across the broadest dimension -- which in in tops, will be her bust & shoulders -- without fabric straining/rippling/buckling, and having the waist taken in by a tailor for the body-conscious fit she wants) early would be doing her an enormous favor. Is there someone else in the family who can have these conversations with her?

Ignore the size! Look for something that fits your widest body part, and then tailor everything else down. All women, especially those with a large bust line, should avoid sizing down into too-small shirts to get a snug fit at the waistline. You almost always want a garment to contour your waistline, but achieve it through tailoring. - Real Girl's Guide to Tailoring

“…everything you will ever see on a celebrity’s body, including their outfits when they’re out and about and they just get caught by a paparazzo, has been tailored" - Clinton Kelly, quoted here; explains why sizes on labels are to be ignored, if that's something your daughter is hung up on (comparing herself to her friends).
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:16 PM on April 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

I would go straight to the female fashion advice subreddit for this, tbh.

Also, not to be that person, but I would try to avoid Shein. It's not the best in terms of quality.
posted by Delia at 3:15 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

What about Torrid? They have a range of clothes for plus sized women, and even though I am middle aged I don't want to look like a fuddy duddy middle aged woman. THey have lines of clothes that are much more skewed toward young women too. Plus great bras and swimwear etc.
posted by annieb at 4:10 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

ASOS is trendy and carries a wide variety of sizes and shows how things fit differently on different shapes.

You didn’t ask for parenting advice but if as a tween I’d heard my mom refer to me as “top heavy” or my clothing as “indecent” because of my bra size I’d feel like shit in a way you couldn’t fix.
posted by kapers at 4:11 PM on April 5, 2020 [11 favorites]

I was a busty tween/teen and it was torture. I also had zero guidance and zero sense of style, so I'm going to let everyone else talk about that. I hope you don't mind a quick detour to the shoe department.

I hated every shopping trip my mother took me on from the age of about twelve on, because I felt like a freak and she didn't know what to do with me (or my stupid giant boobs). But the time she let me get my first pair of Doc Marten's 8-eyes I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. It's the only positive shopping experience I can recall. Shoes are the great equalizer. If your kid gets excited about some trendy/awesome/amazing shoes, let her have the shoes. There's nothing like being told "yes, you may have the perfect thing." without the caveats "if we can find it in your size".
posted by Gray Duck at 4:24 PM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a mom of a young teen. For my daughter, it's all about crop tops. It can even be loose, as long as it goes with high waisted jeans--so I'd think about cropped sweatshirts, cropped loose tops, etc. Have you tried Aeropostale or also Aerie?. This may be too old for her but Universal Standard may have some good options too?
posted by hellochula at 4:33 PM on April 5, 2020

yeah nothing a tween wears can be "obscenely" tight in any case, no matter how tight it is. unless it's a tshirt says FUCK on it in big friendly letters, I guess. but obscenity in clothing has nothing to do with how big the wearer's breasts are.

She wants to follow her friends' skin-tight, cropped-top fashion instincts, which read very differently on her figure than on theirs. Please believe me that I am not trying to hide her or burqa her or subdue her, I just want her to not look indecent.

so is the trouble yours or hers -- is "obscenely tight" something she agrees is an issue, is she unable to buy from the same stores as her friends and frustrated about it, or do you just not approve of the way those clothes look on her? because if she couldn't find clothes that fit her, like literally wouldn't go on or she wasn't willing to be seen in, that would be one kind of problem, with the shopping solution you ask for. But if she's following the same fashion trends and rules as her same-age friends, as you say she is, either she doesn't look indecent or they all of them do.

If you want to teach your daughter that shame is stored in the tits, and so the bigger they are the more need to hide them, you can. but please don't. If she and her friends are wearing the same fit and you just think there should be different rules for bigger chests because different breasts "read differently," her problem is not her body and it's not her clothes.

And please own your perspective and consider how it comes across. You are the one reading her breasts; they read differently to you. Should you be doing this reading? Or: Should you be ventriloquizing the imagined thoughts of predatory men to her, if they aren't your own thoughts? A "top-heavy" child learns very early what people think of her body. Her parents should be some of the people she can trust to never, ever think of her, assess her, or regulate her in that way and for that reason.

She can find cheap bodycon teen clothes at ASOS or H&M, if you can come to terms with fast fashion waste & labor practices. They run from tiny to plus sizes and fit everyone equally badly. If she likes tops with tiny shoulder straps, she should learn to not give a fuck about visible bra straps underneath, if she hasn't already learned. that will help her immensely. If you can give her a serious, I mean SERIOUS bra budget & send her off to nordstrom, that would be nice. although you will have to do it all over again in a year or six months because people grow. still a good idea.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:47 PM on April 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Her tits are fine.

Her clothes are too small.

I asked for advice on where to find that accommodates her build and preferences and I appreciate those few responders who provided it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:56 PM on April 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bras that fit and flatten will help. Marks and Spencers sells reducer/minimizer bras in t-shirt style material that are super comfy. A good bra makes a huge difference in what she can fit into.

I was a very busty teen and it was tough. Scoop necks are great - not a turtleneck that says BOOB or a v-neck, but a pleasant inbetween. If she has the shoulders, boat neck is great too. I liked the smock/peasant style tops in that they flare at the waist to balance the bust.

Wrap dresses are amazing, especially if you can get the ones with a slight flare. I remember decades ago getting them from Lands' End, but you can get them on Amazon these days easily. She can wear them with a small pin to hold the neck or with a light camisole underneath.

And - as a mom of girls who were in a similar situation - the preteen sexualisation is SO AWFUL you have all my commiseration. She's great, you're great but there are SO many creepy men out there (and the occasional shitty comment by women!) who will just see Boobs and harass. Be gentle but direct about this with her and teach her confidence and a great back-off-creep stare and the ability to speak up when someone is creepy. My kids got harassed wearing all-over school uniforms, but in a pretty dress it was like - fuck, people are creepy. LOOK AT HER FACE SHE IS A KID.

Overalls were awesome and rompers/pantsuits type outfits. There are nice casual outfits you can get and sports material/sports fashion is great at being flattering for curvy forms without being too revealing.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:14 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is she finding clothes that she feels good about but you think are too tight, or is she herself struggling to find clothes that fit in a way she likes? Can you tell us either some of the brands she currently has or the stores where she finds clothes she likes, but you don't?
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:45 PM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure if it's too old for a tween, but might she like something like Gwynnie Bee, a clothes rental service? They used to be plus size only but now have smaller sizes, too, but it might be fun for her to shop online. I think they even have a "shop by your shape" feature that recommends items.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:13 PM on April 6, 2020

Shadygrove has a poignant thought on a parent's role in a daughter's body image. It's great that you want to help her. Might this be a job for an aunt or even an approved high-school girl?
posted by jander03 at 10:16 PM on April 8, 2020

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