Dress My Tween – An Update

Dress My Tween – An Update September 20, 2012

I want to thank all of you who gave advice on dressing my tween, I think we have made some really good progress!  Here are some of the things I learned from you:

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:

-school clothes

-decent playclothes

-real junk clothes (for art class, gardening, etc)

-sports clothes

-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.


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  • Kellie “Red”

    So I almost just bought that dress for Gianna! I decided at the last minute that I would check the consignment store first, and then head back to get it if I struck out there. It is super cute! I don’t think the picture does it justice though, as the details on the bottom don’t come through in the photos. Of course the model looks excellent 😉 What is so funny is that I was debating getting it for Holly as well, and thought of her when I saw it. Makes me feel good about future gift choices 😉 What I’m having a hard time with regarding older girls clothes is shoes! I have found that G’s wardrobe necessitates both brown and black shoes, and then a pair of boots (or both brown and black boots depending upon the clothes). It is very hard for me to stomach 4 pairs of shoes for basic clothing, plus sneakers and cleats! I went to Payless and picked up a basic pair of brown and a pair of black flats, and that only cost $30 total. But when all is said and done, I’m sure to spend about $120-$150 on shoes just for G. I keep telling myself that all but the sneakers will get multiple wears–but still! We don’t get any girl clothes handed down, so it can get very expensive. I’ve started to go to Goodwill/consignment for play clothes and jeans for G. I then head to the Mall or more expensive stores to fill in with things like leggings, dresses, party clothes, etc. I’ve also found that her clothes don’t do that well sitting in the basement for 5 or 6 years before they fit Claire. I think that can be a problem for even nicer clothes, but at least all the shoes work for another kid!

  • Kate e

    Here’s a hand me down tip. I find that clothes actually do better “worn”. There were a handful of baby clothes I saved after jack wore them but by the time Nora was born (almost 4yrs later) they just didn’t age well in the bins. The clothes that I had loaned to TWO different babies actually still looked good. Maybe a bit more worn and for sure we lost a few things to serious stains but the wearing (the air? the washing?) seems to have kept them looking fresher.

  • Kate e

    Also here is my hand me down pet peeve. Pajamas are gender less. They are pajamas. Buy striped Hanna andresson pjs and they will last forever (mine are on their 5th go round, two of mine and three loans) and are neutral. Cool in summer, warm in winter we wear them all seasons.

  • I just struck gold at the consignment store with a like-new BOB stroller! I was bringing over clothes to sell. I agree with Kate that clothes wear better than they store, so I am in the process of cleaning out, and I will have any money I make from consigning to add to my clothing budget for new stuff! I can’t part with gorgeous party dresses unless I know who is going to wear them, so those I try to pass to friends, but I am going to sell everything else that my 8 year old girl outgrows — after all, I am finally realizing that if I had a baby girl a year from now, there is no way that 8 years from now I would put her in jeans that had been sitting in my basement for 8 years!

  • jmb

    What a beautiful daughter you have and I love that dress!
    I stopped storing hand me downs after I saw what the clothes looked like coming out of the bins. Now I just give away everything I have, unless its a winter jacket, snow pants, snow boots, very expensive (Grandma bought) Burberry items. Every thing else goes. I had three girls in 5 years, each born in a different season and two having completely different body types so I couldn’t hand down my girls clothes, except for outerwear. One other trick I learned over the years is not too buy too much at one time. You never know what your kids will actually want to wear, and I noticed that each will pull a favorite outfit each season and wear it over and over again, while the rest of the stuff sits gathering dust in the closet.

  • Great summary! I really appreciate your discussion in #2 – as a mom of girls, I’m always aware of fostering a healthy body image!
    Ladies, your wisdom about hand-me-downs is great! I’m going to pull down all of our bins of boys’ clothes from the attic, see if there’s anything worth salvaging, and start giving it away 🙂

  • Lucy

    Kate E, I so agree about the pajamas. And I go beyond stripes. My daughter wore plenty of truck and dinosaur PJs until she got to be about 3. My mother kept giving her pink pjs because she thought I was depriving her, but really, who cares?

  • Juris Mater

    MaryAlice, I love benefiting over the years from your refined lady tips, and one of them here is “Finding clothes that suit your figure is a crucial life skill and also an important part of healthy body image”. Never thought of it as a crucial life skill, but you’re so right. I could’ve definitely used more of an education on that as a teenager–I just tried to dress according to the latest styles and, as a result, felt pressure to become thinner and thinner so that everything looked good. I’ll remember this excellent tip as I raise my 3 little ladies…
    And PS–my girls are so very happily outfitted every season in your girls’ lovely hand me down Mass and party dresses from a few years ago. Thank you!

  • JMB, that is a great point — they do have their go-to favorites and then some other things just never get worn.

  • JM, I am so glad to hear that you use the dresses, I am going to keep passing things along to you in that case. I realized that I have serious problem detaching myself from those special clothes, I just could not bear to bring them to the consignment store, but I am so happy to know that real girls are wearing them!