1) Spend more, be choosy, have less.
She is old enough to take care of her clothes, and the styles at the big box stores are too tacky, so we had to spend a little bit more. This meant that I just bought one dress for church, and I paid full price. We found a cute sweater dress at Gymboree. It cost $39, which is really actually not that much, but I am so used to scrounging the sale bins that it was shocking to me. We looked at all of the dresses in the store and we found only 1 that we both liked and which would look nice on her. Which leads me to:
2) Try on!
If you are shopping for larger sizes at a store like Gymboree, Janie and Jack or the Gap, some of the dresses that they make in 12 are just oversized toddler dresses and will look very silly on older girls. Also, without being too weight conscious, it must be said that tween girls are beginning to have a shape and a body type, so different dresses will look well on different girls. Finding clothes that suit your figure is a crucial life skill and also an important part of healthy body image — it is so easy for a healthy girl to feel “fat” in something that looks bad on her, but it might just be that her shape requires a different silhouette. Some people will look short and stocky in boot cut jeans but can rock the skinny pants, and some are just the opposite. This has NOTHING to do with what size you wear, and there are very few people who can wear everything well.
My preference is to take something home and plan to try it on there, you just make better decisions outside of the store dressing room.
3) Look online, talk to friends, and educate your eye:
Our Janie and Jack only stocks up to size 6, but the company makes clothes to size 12. I won’t spend enough for a J Crew dress, but looking there was great for style pointers.
4) Know what you need, then, if you like it, buy it!
My mother in law bought a coat for my daughter, even though I said that I would wait for it to go on sale. She knows from experience that the sizes will be gone by the time the sale starts. I made the mistake with the Gap, where there were cute things a few weeks ago but NOTHING now. You won’t over spend, even paying full price, if you are thoughtful about what you need. My daughter does not need tops or play clothes at the moment, so I didn’t allow myself to give in and buy other things while we were at the mall.
For our lifestyle, the kids need various wardrobes:
-real junk clothes (for art class, gardening, etc)
-church clothes (also work for out to dinner, etc)
-party clothes (for boys, a jacket and tie – the same as church clothes, but for our girls, a nicer dress for holidays and family parties in the city)
5) Take advantage of hand me downs!
The reason that my daughter does not need play clothes is that she gets really pretty, gently worn clothes from a very stylish friend just a few years older. This frees up some room in the budget for other needs. Also, because I have another girl just one size smaller, I know that everything I buy will be passed down as well. My boys are also heavily wardrobed in handmedowns, so my clothing budget really just needs to stretch enough to clothe my two oldest children and fill in a few gaps for the others.
6) Consider clothes as gifts
Red gave my daughter a great dress from the Gap for Christmas last year, and she is getting old enough to appreciate clothes as a gift, especially if they are pretty and cool. The handmade funky necklace that went with the gift upped the star power quite a bit. Tween girls don’t really need more toys, so higher end clothing is a super gift. I told my daughter that if she wants “name brand” items like real Ugg boots or other luxury items they would be a gift.