HomeHealth & BehaviorEmotional Well-Being

Tips on clothes shopping with your tween or teen

Back-to-school shopping with your tween or teen can be fun and educational if you start with a plan.

By Marian Wilde

The secret to successful back-to-school shopping is planning. Before you grab your checkbook and jump into the car, set aside some time to:

Take inventory.

Start by weeding out all the clothes that are too small, worn-out or simply not appreciated any longer. Toss the ones that have outlived their usefulness and donate the rest to charity. Now you have an uncluttered view of the gaps in your child's wardrobe.

Make a list.

You must have a plan of attack. With a list in hand you can group your shopping needs by type of store and accomplish your tasks more efficiently. You'll also be less likely to buy items that you don't need or won't use.

Establish a budget.

This will give your teen a clear understanding of what you can buy (and hopefully forestall any pleading and whining). With financial ground rules in place, you'll be able to teach money-management skills and how to "shop smart." If there's an expensive item that she simply must have, arrange for her to pay for the extra expense from her allowance or with her own earnings.

Check the sales and special promotions.

In addition to storewide sales, you can save money in many states by shopping on state-declared "tax-free" days, when state sales taxes are lifted during back-to-school season.

Find out about your school's dress code.

Most schools have dress codes to discourage clothes that are too skimpy or sexual, or that suggest gang membership. Girls might need to avoid spaghetti straps, tank tops and low-cut jeans. Boys should know whether "sagging" trousers and certain colors or brand names associated with gangs are forbidden.

Remember that you don't have to do it all before school starts.

Spreading your shopping out over the first few weeks of the school year is smart. It gives your student time to check out what his peers are wearing and to make any necessary wardrobe adjustments during later shopping trips. And it gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the sales.

Be aware of marketing strategies aimed at kids.

Teens, and most recently "tweens" (children ages 9 to 12), represent a lucrative market for retailers and advertisers. They've become the target of a steadily increasing barrage of messages telling them what clothes and what looks are cool. As a parent, don't remove yourself from the equation. Talk to your child about how the media influences what we want and think we need.


Comments from readers

"I am 1 and my twin sister and I always fight with our mom when it comes to shopping.So when a good friend of ours and her mom(who used to babysit us)offered to take us shopping,she accepted.It allowed us to go to new clothes to get ready for high school.It was fun.Just a thought, Moms and Dads if you just cant stand clothes shopping with your teen daughter,see if a aunt,older (in 20's)cousin or one of your daughter's closest friend's mothers who you trust can take your daughter shopping "
"hi my daughter wheres to many short stuff doesn't want to shop at areopostle or anything what should i do help "
"to be honest, kids know what they want, being a teen myself i understand. Most want short skirts, tight skinny flare trousers or black jeans with dolly shoes. Thats just how it is. "
"My son and daughter has to wear uniforms to school. I think that was a good idea. Some parents has it hard. I think uniforms are the best thing for the kids. "
"Tweens are not ages 9-12. They are ages 10 to 12 "
"just another thing, if you want to fit in, don't wear skirts, flare jeans, leggings, turtlenecks, high heels, pigtails, and definitely don't shop at Walmart. you'll get harrassed. (and if you shop at Kohl's, Sears, JCPenny's, etc., don't advertise it.) this isn't my personal opinion, it's a fact."
"Great tips! A wise way to deal with the tween/teen back to school shopping time and less stressful, too!"
"I think this article is useless,I logged in to find the dress code and all I got was a bunch of comments."
"I feel like uniforms help individuality and help students learn to express themselves verbally by having it be their main form of expression while in school. It helps to get rid of preconceived judgement of students and can unite students who might not have talked otherwise. It also helps their people skills and helps them develop intellectually. "
"i think every one should wear a tank top and mini just kidding we should all wear something nice and age appropriatte sweet and cute and fashionable but still covers up"
"Dress codes shouldn't be much of a problem, schools generally only ban things that are over the top. i think it's important that jeans are tested out for comfort as well as that they look good and it's okay to splurge money on a few key items than can be worn with many outfits. You should have your kids save up a few dollars from allowance each week and they can contribute that money to get things for school if they like things that are more expensive than a parent would want. p.s. I think school uniforms are spiffy and professional. "
"I am a 16 year old girl, and I believe that all schools should have a decent dress code or actually have proper uniforms. I go to a public school, and it's pretty hic but everyone dresses so skanky it's disgusting. Sure everyone should have individuality, but they shouldn't be whorish about it. I totally agree with this article, but most of the comments below are RIDICULOUS."
"I think that uniforms strip you of your confidance thus uniforms are inapropriate i would rather dress like a stripper with my bra and thong!"
"I'm going into year 8. uniforms are the worst thing that has ever happened to me, in my primary school, we could choose weather or not to wear the uniforms, so I chose not to. uniforms: a) take away individuality b) make you all look the same, which destroys your confidence and makes you think 'they want us all to look the same because they want the ugly and pretty ones to be equal, and I'm one of the ugly ones' c) violate human rights d) make girls and boys look the same, which is bad because girls should celebrate their gender and so should the boys, if we want to wear skirts we should be allowed!!! e) make everyone look the same, and don't allow anyone to stand out in the crowd f) are simply wrong, a pain in the butt g) a financial hassle for poor parents h) destroy individuallity i) do not allow us to express ourselves j) make children hate school, meaning they don't do their work right because they are sad, meaning they get bad grades, fail their exams, don't get into a god college/university and don't get a good job"
"I'm a teenager who was looking for tips to save money school shopping. There are alot of popular stores in the mall that your kids are most likely going to want to buy things from. Me and my mom go to stores like TJMAXX and MARSHALLS first you can usally get designer brand names for 1/3 of the price. Just a tip that I hope helps when it come to back to school shopping."
"im going into 9th grade this year, and i was scrolling through the comments on this article, and i realized how many people said that they were 'popular' and 'knew what they were talking about'. firs of all, popularity doesnt own up to jack squat 5 years from now. Also, i do think that uniforms are a bad idea, no matter how much time they save, or how much money they save. Individuality teaches us to express our emotions and thoughts, without having to worry about being embarrassed. liking uniforms may have become a habit, if youve worn them since as far back as you can remember, because you know that you have no choice but to wear them. Individuality is what makes us unique and different in our own,good, bad, ugly, nice, disgusting, and/or flattering ways. Teenagers shouldnt be pressured by trneds at school, or be forced to wear uniforms. both of those take away their self confidence. keeping a budget for spending is a good idea though. and yes, there is a popularity thing ! at my school, but its a different kind of popularity scale. the kids that try to be popular, are the ones that are....well...socially challenged. the kids that dont try to be 'popular' are the ones that always are hanging out with friends, laughing, and enjoying themselves. do not, and really, i repeat, DO NOT try to follow trends. i have seen kids try to do it, then next week its gone. once, i started wearing boxers and leggings with an oversized t-shirt to school for a while, because everyone started accusing me of copying someone else. it got on my nerves, and when i showed up in it, guess what? they accused me of copying another person, cuz she wore shorts and leggings. it was quite aggrivating, so i just started wearing what i wanted to wear and it all worked out. just jeans and a tshirt will suffice anyone."
"Wow, cool!"
"Wow, cool!"
"I cannot find appropriate everyday or Sunday shoes for my 13-year old daughter, who wears a size 6. We always used to shop at Stride Rite. Any suggestions?"
"Im going into 7th grade and i go to a private school with a uniform. I really think a uniform is great because you don't have to worry about what other people think of you. A lot of other kids are saying 'you can;t express your style with a uniform.' Oh yes you can! Examples: Colorful tights Colorful headbands Earrings Bracelets Nail Polish Leggings Shoes Ect. I love having a uniform and wearing navy socks under my kacki skirt, and wearing a lime green shirt under my polo. Hoped i helped a bit!"
"Being a mother of an eleven year old at the age of 48 :), Your newletter keeps me in the here and now! I so appreciate this. Just want to say Thank You!"
"Right on target! I call this time of year the time we 'go shopping in our closet'. We stress thinking of charity and helping out others who may not have much. The places like Operation Schoolbell and thriftshops that specialize in 'name brands' and consignment shopping makes school shopping easy and a bit retro. I also make sure I try to play Bargain Betty with my daughters to see who can get to the back of the store and find the best deals. With a 9 and a 10 year old, they are learning early how they can support healthy retail therapy - while helping with the budget!!! I mix name brands with generics all the time and we use the magazines to look at the trends and find what clothes we should focus on as we make our lists and then find the 'no-name' brands. "
"Great article, very helpful...........:)"
"OK well you should mention a couple of 'cool' brands that all the kids are wearing now days ... wich are following: .Abercrombie .Hollister .Limted too .Bobby jack .Brank paul .Old navy TRENDS!!! .Skinny jeans .Layerd cami(spaghetti strap) .Light eye liner .Skater style .Knee high Converse .Any sort of skate shoes (or converse) "
"My son has always gone to a private school that stresses individuality so what he wears has never been an issue. He is going into 8th grade and through our church youth group often hangs out with some high school kids but no one thinks twice about the things he does to express his individuality (multiple watches, bracelets, rings, long hair) and he is very comfortable with himself. People think it's cool that he is so much 'himself'. He will probably go to a Catholic High School which of course has uniforms, but he is very accepting of that because he has never really thought he had to wear certain clothes to 'fit in' and he has said he can still wear what he wants when he comes home."
"My daughter can never pick out clothes with out making it her way! With these tips I took her shopping and no fight and she even asked me if I could help her pick out some things!!!!! Thanks soooo much!!"
"Ok first of all kids have a say in what they wear because it lets them express themselves and you dont need to buy your kids clothes without them being there because if you do and they dont like it you'll end up having a bigger headache than if you did bring them kids just want to be able to wear what they want but of course it can't say anything bad or cost over the budget"
"if you want to do back to school shopping, do it at 'Burlington Coat Factory'. i promise, they don't just sell men's coats. It's when fancy stores have to many clothes, so they give them to Burlington. I am incredibly scrawny, so i have a hard time finding jeans, but I found two pair for 15 dollars each in 30 seconds! its amazing! also, to solve the problem of strapless or spegetti straps, get a little short sleeved jacket thing to put over it. You can wear that and your favorite shirts all year, and what are they gonna say? If your into miniskirts and stuff, just get a couple pairs of simple black leggings.Tip: just make them come down to your knees, its annoying when they're at your ankles. P.S. I am the most popular girl in my school, so i know what I'm talking about. I don't dress skimpy though."
"I think these tips are great! And my mom actually already uses most of them! I'm going into middle school this upcoming school year. I'm very excited but I'm not quite sure what kinds of clothes I'll want to buy. Whether people admit it or not, everyone sees what the other kids are wearing and are influenced by it. I am that same way. Some things will be 'in' this year and others will not. I think buying clothes over the first few weeks of the school year is a fantastic idea because if other kids like me aren't exactly sh=ure what they'll want to buy, they can figure it out during that time! My mom, sister, and I actually some of our shopping before the school year starts, soon after the school year starts, and throughout the school year. We love to shop, though our mom does put a limit on our spendings, so we find cute clothes all throughout the year. I, for one, don't grow very fast, so I can fit most of my clothes year after year. Of course I buy more just for fashion pur! poses, but I think I proably shouldn't. I think I'm being influenced just a little too much by other students and that's why I'm always looking to 'upgrade' my wardrobe. I think having your own personal style is fun, exciting, and a great way to express yourself. I do have my own style, btu it's also a mix of my peers styles too. I think the tips on this site and other peoples' reviews have really made me think differently about these things! I'm beggining to really like the thought of my OWN styles and cute clothes now. =]"
"im an 8th grader and i think that you can look cool and not have to shop at very expensive stores. (by the way hollisters jeans are only 40 dollars... not 75 or w/e like every one else says). anyways, i dont want to sound concieted but i'm pretty 'popular' at my school. You don't haev to have all the expensite stuff to be that way. I shop every where from forever 21 to DSW, but almost every thing i get is on sale. I just wear my hair in a really cute way or have jewlery that grabs attention. Basically though, i think it should be your personality that says the most about you...not your clothes."
"i would absolutly love if my school required uniforms. the only way to look cool in my school is to wear hollister and a&f, but i just can't justify spending $75 on jeans when genocide is occuring in darfur, children are starving on the streets, etc. with uniforms, you buy all the clothes you need for the year. then, unless you have a growth spurt, you don't need any more school clothes all year. plus-plaid skirts are so cute. haha."
"I think uniforms are horrible and don't let your express your self. Sure it is easier, but SOOO boring! If my school ahd unioforms I would be alright except only if we had one free day a week wehn we could wear what ever we wanted, well something reasonable, nothing gand, drug, sex realted of couarse!"
"These are great tips, and I own a boutique for tweens (girls and boys)! Parents seem to shop without their kids the first time they come into my store, but after they see that our clothes are stylish, high quality, and not wacked out inappropriate, they bring their kids with them the next time."
"I am a freshman at a private all-girls Catholic academy. I have been in Catholic education since preeschool. In nursery school, PreK and kindergarten we wore whatever we wanted. Since first grade, I have worn a uniform. Some people may think that it costs so much extra money and it limits self expression, but I think differently. This year I have many choices for my uniform. It is so easy to wake up and throw my uniform on than to ponder what I should wear. Plus, if you wear a uniform, you don't have to keep running to the stores and buying the newest trendy clothing item that probably costs over $100. If you really think about it, wearing a uniform saves time and money."
"I'm at La Salle Academy and of course I wear a uniform. It doesn't bother me at all but that's probably because I've been wearing one for 9 years. Once you gt use to it, it's so easy trust me it doesn't even matter. You can always tell that the snotty girls are the ones with their skirts 5 inches above the knee. I'm definitely a nerd, so mine's about an inch past. I think it's so easy just to throw it one everyday and you're done!"