Three Simple Rules for Back-to-School Shopping with a Tween Girl

It’s that time of year again. That time when all of us moms look with eager anticipation at the calendar, our hearts jumping with glee when we realize there are only a few short weeks until our families get back into our comfortable school routine. (Okay, admittedly,  I might be the only mom who does that.) Before we can send our little darlings off to school, however, most of us have to face the daunting task of updating our kids’ wardrobes.


Right now, the boys in my family do not enjoy waiting for girls to shop.

For my boys up to this point, life in this area is so easy… I just make sure they have neutral color shorts, jeans that cover their ankles (a job that has to be repeated every two months it seems!), enough t-shirts to last a few days, socks that aren’t stained and have a match, and tennis shoes that fit for the moment and can be worn with everything. Easy enough, right? Right.

Life would be simple if I could finish my school shopping with such ease, but, alas, I also have a tween girl to try and dress. Oh, the drama and frustration that can ensue for both mama and daughter while buying school clothes! Where will we shop? How much will we spend? How trendy does she want to be? How practical can I encourage her to be without being a total buzz kill? I know, I know, that most women enjoy shopping and that buying school clothes with your daughter becomes some sort of magical bonding experience that includes a delightful lunch out and a Starbucks drink to cool down in the afternoon; but people who know me already know this is so far from my reality that it’s not even funny. I hate shopping, and I hate the production that buying clothes for a teen girl can become if allowed. If you are like me, and you are looking for ways to make this annual clothes event less stressful, I’ve developed three tips over the past couple of years:

1. Allow her to pick out her own clothes to try on.
I get it. A lot like to try on clothes that look like the pop stars and television characters they idolize. Mine does. So let your daughter pick out the trendy super-short shorts and slinky tops that seem so cool to her in this moment. “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” while she models them for you in the dressing area. Let her know that she looks awesome and could totally be on Disney if an executive would just happen to run into the store at that moment! Here’s the kicker: while she is in the process of putting on yet another sparkly ensemble, YOU be systematically pulling appropriate length shorts and shirts with actual sleeves. That way you can be ready to move on to step two of this whole school shopping fiasco.

2. You make the final call on what to purchase.
Wasn’t that fashion exploration a hoot? I hope so! Now, for my daughter at least, the time has come for that imagination game to end. I now hand her a pile of clothes choices that I am willing to actually purchase. I give her lots of choices so that she still feels like she is making her own decisions about what to actually wear to school, all within the nice, safe boundaries about what is appropriate and practical to wear to school. She may not be overcome with joy at a spectrum of colorful bermuda shorts, but she won’t get sent home from school and she still looks beautiful wearing them. Here’s the kicker on this step: Make sure to “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” with the same gusto when she’s wearing these clothes as you did while she wore the others. I cannot stress how important this is, for so many reasons.

3. Stop her from wearing the clothes before school even starts.
This may be the hardest rule to enforce, but for those of us who frantically try to keep our kids’ clothes looking new and fresh as long as possible, it is the most important. Most tween girls love clothes, and they love to wear new ones and try different clothes combinations. (I said MOST. I was one of those girls who could wear jeans or sweats and a t-shirt every day and be JUST fine.) The rule in my house is that unless school has started, the clothes stay clean and fresh and on their hangers. Period. Here’s the final kicker: In order to make sure that school clothes aren’t worn out before school even starts, Mom usually keeps them in HER closet.

Hopefully this will help a mom or two make it through clothes-shopping season with your tween girl. Like I mentioned, my poor, clothes-loving daughter was cursed with a clothes-apathetic mom who has to load up on Advil before even attempting shopping. Heaven help me if/when my boys decide to become fashion-conscious. The thought alone makes me rethink my previously-mentioned anticipation for school to start.

How are you handling back-to-school shopping this year?


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