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Moms Talk: An Imperfect Hunt for Perfect Girl Clothes

When girls reach a certain age, they start to shun clothes that look “babyish," but many mothers gasp in horror at the over-sexualized clothing options marketed to tweens. This week we'll discuss finding a happy compromise.

You’ve all heard the reports of Abercrombie and Fitch’s thongs for prepubescent girls and seen displays of short shorts, mini skirts and scandalous tops in tween sizes at the mall. Our culture is on the fast track to making young girls think they need to dress like a hoochie to be fashionable and well-liked, and it’s heartbreaking to see how many impressionable young women buy into that pressure.

Even if you’re blessed with a daughter like mine who is in that target age and would rather eat nothing but steamed broccoli for the rest of her life than be caught wearing something revealing or flashy, it’s tough to find clothing in her size you can both be happy with. The few stores that have more traditional clothing for tween girls sometimes go a little too far on the dowdy end of the scale.

Although she’s not interested in looking like Ke$ha, she also doesn’t want to look like a Supreme Court nominee. My job is to help her find something in between those two poles.

Even in stores that carry exclusively tween sizes, we have a hard time finding something in her style. There are a few in particular we don’t bother with anymore, particularly if the entire store glitters. Flashy is not my kid’s cup of tea. We both turn our noses up at the shirts with slogans like “I only shop on days that end in Y” and “Buy it now, tell Dad later!” plastered across them, and anything with rhinestones or animal print earns a snarky joke from us.

The “cool” stores like Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister and Aeropostale are sometimes good for sweats and flannel shirts and sweaters, but we’ve found that most of their jeans don’t allow her to keep her underwear choices to herself. Like it or not, it seems the ultra low rise is here to stay.

Those stores are also a problem if your child doesn’t cotton to being a walking advertisement for the store where she buys her clothing. Giant logos drive my daughter insane, so we’re hard pressed to find things in the hip stores (she would die if she knew I just used the word “hip”) that aren’t emblazoned with the store logo.

Personally, we’ve had the most success at Gap (we tread a fine line between the biggest Gap Kids sizes and the tiniest Gap women sizes), Lands End Kids and, surprisingly, Old Navy. Old Navy’s stuff is trendy, inexpensive and covers her up. She’s moved into the women’s extra small sizes there, and we always seem to find boho-chic things that compliment her nature girl, bookworm style.

Lands End is the bomb when it comes to shorts that won’t get her sent home from school and swimsuits that don’t make her feel uncomfortable. We also favor their preppy pea coats and shoes.

As for our favorite store, I can’t say enough about Threadless tees. My girl’s a bit eccentric and witty, and Threadless has hundreds of graphic tees that are tongue-in-cheek funny and smart—without debasing her value as an intelligent young woman like some of the tees in the popular mall stores are wont to do.

Plus, they have $10 and sometimes even $5 sales regularly. We stock up, and she wears them in the summer with shorts or knit skirts and in the winter over long sleeved tees with jeans and her Chucks.

It’s possible to find cool clothes for tweens that don’t make them look like a pint-size Jezebel. You just have to know where to look.

Jane Patla Tanner February 17, 2012 at 03:42 PM
My girls enjoy hunting for clothing 'treasures' at the various thrift stores around the city. We talk about building a wardrobe around a favorite color or style so that you can mix-n-match, giving you more bang-for-your-buck. Looking for well made clothes/labels helps to make things last longer and look better wash after wash. We also like to experiment with alterations and adding embellishments. We'll buy well-made basics on sale from LL Bean, Lands End (Sears), or REI.
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