Finding Fall Clothing For My Tween Daughter Is A Nightmare

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Rachel Garlinghouse/Getty

“Where have you found fall clothes for your daughter?” I texted a friend, also a mom of a tween daughter. I’d been perusing websites for months, and I had yet to find more than a few pairs of leggings for my oldest child. Why is it so difficult to find some basic fall clothes for our nine to twelve-year-old kids?

Stores have rolled out teen clothing lines in recent years, which I could appreciate if the clothing were actually school dress code compliant and practical. Instead, all I’m seeing is cropped tops, ripped and high-waisted jeans, and giant sweatshirts (also cropped). The shirts usually have slogans that my tween cannot relate to at all. She’s into science and art, not Los Angeles.

My daughter, like me, has long legs. Almost everything is too short on us. Pair this conundrum with the fact that almost every article of clothing these days is cropped, and finding clothes is nearly impossible. What shows a smidge of stomach skin on one kid is basically a sports bra on mine. High-waisted, cropped jeans on the average girl look like flood pants with a serious wedgie on mine. Who wants to be digging fabric out of their crevices all day? No, thanks.

Also, what’s up with the flippy sequin on not only shirts, but jeans too? I don’t want anyone reaching out to flip the sequins plastered to my kid’s body, let alone do I want my child distracted from school by fiddling with her clothes. I don’t even want to think about what my washing machine will look like after throwing in that item after a few wears.

I’m no prude. My kids have long used their clothing to creatively express themselves. There are benefits to kids choosing their own outfits, including that they get to practice their decision-making skills and showcase their personalities. However, if I’m going to get a call from the school five minutes into the day, telling me my child isn’t dressed appropriately, what is the point?

I’m going to sound like a grandma here, but why would I spend $40 on a pair of shredded jeans for my tween? We’re in fall and headed into winter, and we live in the Midwest. It’s completely impractical to buy my daughter half-pants that let the breeze in. I don’t care if my kids own some ripped jeans that they wear on Saturdays—though I’m certainly not paying $40 for a pair.

When your tween has grown out of the big girl’s department clothing, but the junior clothing options are hellacious, what is a parent and tween to do? We already have big battles over the smallest things, because that’s how the tween years work. Why can’t clothing companies help a mama out and give my child some options that are comfortable, practical, and full-length. What’s up with all this half and torn, flippy sequin, logo-in-your-face business?

Without options, I also fear we’re generating shame in our tweens about their growing bodies. Clothing shopping should be fun, not frustrating. If there are few options for my daughter, what does that teach her? Tweens have enough pressure to fit in and be cool without clothing companies teaching them that they need to dress like it’s summer in SoCal rather than winter in St. Louis.

While we’re at it, I’m also uninterested in buying clothes that have brand names as the design focus. Why would I pay money to buy an article of clothing that advertises the company? No, thanks. Can’t we just get some basic tees and leggings that fit all body types? (The answer to that is no, no we cannot.)

I don’t want my tween dressing like a teen, because she’s not a teen. My daughter doesn’t want to dress like a first grader, because she’s not a first grader. It’s really that simple. It’s so frustrating that our tweens have been forgotten by clothing companies. They’re not into glitter and unicorns anymore, nor should they dress like they’re on spring break in Cancun. Where, oh where, is the clothing for tweens?

We’ve worked to find bits and pieces of clothing at different stores, venturing to find XS clothing in the women’s department and praying we can find XXL in the girl’s department. I ended up buying the same leggings in four different colors and found just one science-themed tee shirt. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The problem is, there are no desperate mom-and-tween options that are comfortable and affordable.

If I were crafty, we would sew some clothes. If we were millionaires, I’d pay someone else to do it. If I were fashionable myself, I’d start a tween clothing company. So I guess for now, it’s buying a little here and there, hoping we can find enough to get through winter without running laundry every other day.

I’m loving that clothing companies have made some positive changes, such as gender-neutral clothing rather than dividing up clothing by departments and stereotypes. There’s also been expanded sizing and adaptive clothing for children with disabilities. I’m hoping the next change is that they recognize that they’re missing out on banking some serious cash by not offering tweens affordable, comfortable, and attractive clothing options—that yes, comply with school dress codes.

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