Alternative Fashion for the More Modest Tween
For years, I didn't understand the moaning and groaning of mothers about the difficulty of finding decent clothes for their preteen daughters. I mean, how hard can it be? Pants to cover up the bottom half, shirts to cover up the top half, put a ribbon in her hair, and you're done!
Then I discovered that this tactic only works until about halfway through the first grade, when all of a sudden those adorable little matched sets are a) uncool and b) impossible to buy in her size. It turns out that there are two sets of sizes for little girls -- 2T (T for toddler) to size 6, and size 7 to size 14. The first set of sizes tends to be sweet outfits that look fine on little girls who are freshly out of the ruffled underpants stage, and are now big enough to think mix-and-match is the coolest clothing concept since the second incarnation of bell bottoms. The second set of sizes ... well, does the name Britney Spears mean anything to you?
Apparently 14-year-olds don't have much desire to look like 7-year-olds, but an increasingly large number of 7-year-olds really want to look like 14-year-olds. The end result is that a little girl who just grew out of her purple corduroy pants and coordinating pink-and-purple striped shirt is now faced with an array of belly-baring, cleavage-enhancing, hip-hugging attire that her mother keeps holding up and saying, "No, they must have the sizes wrong, a ten-year-old could not possibly fit into this skirt." As it turns out, a ten-year-old can -- and if you're worried about the world at large seeing her underpants if she does anything drastic like, you know, walk or sit down or breathe too energetically, have no fear! If they're going to see her underpants anyway, you might as well buy her a backless pair that reads "Eye Candy" on the front! Or maybe a little pair of pink undies that say "Dive In!"
You only think I'm joking.
Well, OK, they recalled those, but only because so many parents threw fits.
Yesterday I tried to buy Mary a few pairs of shorts from the resale shop, nothing fancy, just a few pairs that she could run around in and not worry about if they got stained by glitter glue, mud, paint, or tree sap. (I love that these are equally likely possibilities for my daughter to ruin her clothes with - at least she's having fun, right?) We found three perfectly nice pairs of shorts, every single one of which, when turned around, had something stamped across the backside - "Dance", or maybe the brand name, and we were lucky they didn't say anything worse. (You don't want to know, really.) They all went back on the rack, and we left with empty hands. Call me old-fashioned, and I know some will, but I think that putting a sparkly purple word on something will make people look at it. And when that's my fifth-grader's backside we're talking about, count me OUT.
Since many essayists have articulately and loudly railed about this phenomenon for years, I'll leave that to the professionals. Instead, I'll just list a few alternatives. My grandmother used to joke about how in her day, you could get a hole in the knee of her swimsuit. (A quick phone call revealed that while she was teasing, her mother did in fact have a swimming costume in which it was technically possible to get a hole in the knee. So it's not quite as far back in the Dark Ages as it sounds like.) I know the fashion industry will never go for that, so it's time for moms of tweens to get out their needle and thread (or duct tape, as the case may be), and get creative!
There's always the retro look:
The ever-popular wrap dress gets a fun update with pink roses and Tinkerbell:
Madison models the newest take on the trendy "maxi-dress":
Buy an extra for a friend!
Mary models the latest in "green" clothing:
And for a final environmentally conscious fashion offering, the ladies show off the latest trend for recycled fibers. Madison is wearing a boxy-styled ensemble from the Eureka line, and Mary is in a fetching number with a square neckline by Hoover.
Until these catch on with the fashion industry, just let me know if you find the Holy Grail: A pair of girls' size 10 non-ripped non-skin-tight non-lowrider jeans, preferably for under thirty bucks. Thanks!