Tween Shopping!

August 16, 2023

My kids have all been in uniforms for the past few years, but this year A is entering middle school and so for her, things are changing! She’s at the same school (it runs from preschool – 8th) but the middle school policy is free dress to give tweens new privileges.

Or to fund the local mall.

Something like that.

ANYWAY, today we went shopping! I honestly have done SO LITTLE in-person shopping with the kids over the years. When they were younger, I just ordered clothes online. Then . . . uniforms! We did do a ($$$) camp shopping spree before sleep away camp in 2022, but that was pretty much it. I even get shoes for them online a lot of the time and mostly it works out.

Tween shopping is a whole new world. A is not yet adult sized (she’s currently 4’9″), but does not want to wear super ‘kid’ looking gear (I mean – middle school! I get it). It actually took me a while to think about where to take her and finally settled on our local outlet mall which happens to have a (regular, non-outlet) Abercrombie Kids.

Anyway, she found a bunch of stuff, and we supplemented with Gap / Nike outlet finds. It felt a little unfair to shop just for her but . . . well, uniforms. We did get each kid a shirt.

Why jeans vs shorts, in this weather? There is a strict length rule on shorts (and also a rule against tank tops, neither of which I personally agree with, but she will follow them) and she prefers pants/skirts to ‘long’ shorts. Makes sense.

After shipping we ate ice cream sandwiches for lunch! I’ve been generally eating better lately (more protein! fewer processed things! less sugar!) but this felt right.

first time at The Baked Bear! I got chocolate chip and she got cookie monster (remember her 2021 planner cover?).
They actually warm up the cookies and it’s sort of to die for.

Then I ran home to record a podcast. Next week it will be back to regular ‘work’ days on Tues/Thurs but this week is mostly back to school prep.

Where do you shop with your tweens? How opinionated are they about styles?


  • Reply Coree August 16, 2023 at 5:24 am

    Aww, she’s so grown up. We have uniforms all the way through here, which I’m very grateful for.
    T started this AM and was happy as a clam. Some of his classmates were really struggling. I guess when you go to loads of different camps, etc., it seems less daunting.

  • Reply Chelsea August 16, 2023 at 6:24 am

    She’s turning into a young lady 🙂

    I have a formative memory of getting in trouble for wearing shorts that were “too short” in middle school. I wasn’t trying to pull anything… I think I must have had a growth spurt because they went from fine to way too short in what seemed like a week’s time. Now all my shorts – casual shorts, running shorts – are way too short for middle school, lol.

  • Reply Gillian August 16, 2023 at 7:00 am

    We still shop online but I don’t buy anything unless they are sitting beside me. My nearly 13 yo daughter is a very late bloomer and she is about 4’9″ so it is really hard to find clothes she wants to wear that fit her. We have had good luck and jcrew factory and crewcuts. And then of course athletic wear mostly from athleta girl.

  • Reply Kathleen August 16, 2023 at 7:23 am

    A few weeks back we had this exact same experience with my oldest, who is going into seventh grade! He’s tall (5’8”) but little boy skinny, so he needs men’s length but boy’s waist/shoulders/general narrowness. Having also done all my kids’ shopping online for most of their lives, we struggled with walking around the mall and finding options. We finally settled on H&M (not my favorite, but made him happy) and a store I’d never heard of called Tomato. It’s fun to see him develop preferences (skinny black tees and vintage-style band tees, narrow jeans, funky sneakers) rather than wearing just anything old mom throws his way. So cute!

  • Reply Sarah August 16, 2023 at 7:33 am

    Mine is VERY PICKY about how her clothes feel, so we mainly shop in person where she can try stuff on. She is also TINY and still wears a little kid medium, which makes things tough. Old Navy. Target. H&M. Nordstrom Rack. Von Maur. Athleta. SO MANY RETURNS.

  • Reply Irene August 16, 2023 at 7:34 am

    Awww! I love shopping with my 8 year old. Fun to see them develop a style.

    Baked Bear is our favorite. so good!

  • Reply Diane August 16, 2023 at 8:13 am

    We’ve been in that tricky tween clothes space with my 11 year old for the past two years. She is on the tall side so a lot of “kids” don’t fit her and she likes pretty basic/plain clothes- she would probably love having a uniform! Also why is the quality on tween clothes so poor? What we end up doing is a first pass at the thrift or kids’ consignment store so that we can get a variety of brands and styles and I get a good sense of what fits her in various brands. Then we fill in the gaps after that either in person or online- usually from Uniqlo or Gap or Amazon Basics. I am a little sad that she’s outgrown the Tea/ Hanna Andersson aesthetic that I loved when she was little, though, but she is definitely past the twee/cute stage of clothes.

    • Reply Amy August 16, 2023 at 8:39 am

      Have you guys tried Primary? I buy a lot of kids basics there. Good quality, no gimmicky / branded / snarky prints! They would have a lot to offer a kid who likes clothes to be pretty simple.

      • Reply L Ruth August 16, 2023 at 11:42 am

        Unfortunately Primary, like most kids brands, only fits kid up to up about 5’2″ in height. Love Primary, but definitely hasn’t fit my 12-year-old for a couple years.

        • Reply Amy August 16, 2023 at 7:18 pm

          What a bummer! I feel like there’s a huge gap in the market here and I’m not sure why it hasn’t been filled.

      • Reply Diane August 16, 2023 at 3:58 pm

        Yes! Primary was exactly her jam, but she doesn’t fit in their stuff anymore.

  • Reply Gwinne August 16, 2023 at 8:25 am

    Tiny boy is, well, still tiny. .at almost 12, 4 ft 10 and 72 lbs. The height/ weight discrepancy is a bug issue with clothes. Also going into sixth grade so am anticipating supplementing hand me downs with a shopping trip. Probably target or old navy.

    • Reply Ashley August 16, 2023 at 10:35 am

      Yep, right there with you. My 13yo boy is 5 feet tall but still under 80 pounds. Finding pants this year is going to be difficult. (I mean it always is, but it feels more fraught now.)

      • Reply Grateful Kae August 16, 2023 at 12:08 pm

        @both Gwinne and Ashley: this makes me feel better that you both also have 12-13 year old boys who are tiny!! My boys are both SMALL for their ages, though my newly turned 15-year-old is finally growing. But he’s still generally shorter than many of his peers (some are >6’0 already!).

        My 13 1/2 year old son is *maybe* 5’0″. People always think he is way younger than his age. It feels like seriously every other boy we know in real life is so tall and so many practically look like grown men by this age! Mine do not. ha. I know it doesn’t even matter, but sometimes I feel like, jeez, what’s going on?! I swear we feed them well!! So I feel comforted to hear there are other later bloomer boys out there too… 🙂

  • Reply Amy August 16, 2023 at 8:37 am

    My experience so far has been almost the opposite — we’re in uniforms K-12, but my oldest (rising 6th) is a boy who wants to wear nothing but athletic wear outside of school and church, which makes it super easy! My daughter is almost 9 though and I’m looking forward to the tween shopping years and helping her cultivate her personal style. Kids clothes shopping is tough, once they grow out of the cute mini Boden years (so to speak). I don’t know why that is, honestly.

    • Reply Jessica August 16, 2023 at 10:26 am

      Same for my rising 6th grader. He had uniforms until 4th grade, but now it is literally shorts, t-shirt, athletic shoes all day every day. My oldest son did finally expand his wardrobe a bit this year so that was fun (although he tells me big clothes are in style and it certainly isn’t my style so I had to keep my mouth shut and realize I am probably getting old).

  • Reply Suzanne August 16, 2023 at 11:14 am

    Oh, what a fun and productive shopping trip! Those cookies look amazing.

    My ten-year-old has LOTS of opinions on her clothing. She has a dress code at school but no uniforms. She is also very slim and tall which makes finding pants and shorts very tricky! She still needs to wear the kind of pants that have the adjustable waists, so we shop at Old Navy a lot, and still get a few things from Carters.

  • Reply L Ruth August 16, 2023 at 11:51 am

    I exclusively shopped online, except for consignment stores, for my kids until my daughter hit the tween years. Don’t love having to go to actual stores, but for pants, in-person shopping is essential for finding something that fits her right now. She’s 12 and 5’5″, so lengthwise fits into adult clothes, but doesn’t have the hips for a lot of adult women’s clothes yet. We found some size 0 jeans at Old Navy last year that fit her, so may try there again. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes for her given how fast she’s growing. She’s found a few things in Jr’s departments, but a lot of the stuff there is plunging necklines and otherwise “sexy” and not what she’s interested in.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns August 16, 2023 at 12:15 pm

    She is looking so grown up! I have really good memories of back to school shopping with my mom. I don’t remember fighting about clothes, though. I knew certain things were never going to be purchased – like Girbaud jeans or however they are spelled! I have never really taken my boys clothes shopping. We get a lot of hand me downs and I’ll supplement with things from once upon a child. It’s very hard to dress my 5yo, though. Like others have said, he’s very petite. He’s 33 lbs at age 5 so I know many people whose toddlers are bigger than my 5yo! He could still wear 18m shorts if his younger brother didn’t need them! Summer is easiest since I don’t have to worry about short length and he can wear what fits his waist. The colder months are tough! I have found some skinny fit pants so that helps. I think his little brother is going to have a similar problem as he’s kind of lean as well.

  • Reply Beth August 16, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    My daughter is the same age but tall and skinny. I need to try some of the tween options. Or juniors…is that still a thing? Her waist and hips are too tiny for adult even size 0/xxs but that’s the length she needs. It’s a challenge!

  • Reply Marianne August 16, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    My school district is the opposite – pretty free dress code in elementary, and uniform-ish starting in fifth grade, although they have loosened up some since we’ve been going through. In the middle grade/middle school years, we had some luck at American Eagle and Aeropostale, as well as some tween-focused stores that I think are just local. It’s so much easier once they’re adult sized! Especially if they’re not an “ideal” body shape!

  • Reply Megan August 16, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    My 12 yo daughter is 5’5″ and grew 4″ last year so I’ve leaned more on Old Navy and Target athletic wear bc it doesn’t last very long due to her growing. She also like Offline and Athleta. Our public school has no dress code and I would be upset if it did. It is so often solely focused on girls and they do not need more pressure on their changing and growing bodies IMO. To me, it comes close to body shaming and covering up which feels like the wrong message. For middle school swimming in phy ed they were particular about swimsuits (for the girls) and I thought the only thing they need to say was wear something 1) you are comfortable in and 2) can be very active in – and let the kids decide.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 16, 2023 at 1:51 pm

      Totally agree, I hate the dress code rules.

  • Reply omdg August 16, 2023 at 3:48 pm

    My daughter is 5’1″ and now wears an adult size XS or even a S sometimes! I’m lucky in that she almost always prefers athletic clothes, which makes my life waaaayyyy easier, and thankfully leggings still work even if they are a wee bit long or short. I mostly order online, but your shopping trip looked totally fun also! Maybe after she’s been in school a few weeks we can go in person and she can pick out some stuff once she knows the sort of clothes she wants to wear.

  • Reply coco August 16, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    she’s exactly tall as Sofia. fortunately she still uses uniform so we don’t have to argue everyday what to wear.
    both girls have a say what to wear. more toward being comfortable than pretty so far.
    I’d buy everything in Uniqlo for them for school to simplify.

  • Reply Kip August 16, 2023 at 9:51 pm

    My daughter is a 5th grader, no uniform and extremely opinionated on clothing. She likes hot topic, Tilly’s, h&m, and forever 21. Sometimes target, kohls or tj maxx. She’s only 4’6” so sizing is tricky sometimes. Her style is very anime inspired. My son, 7th, will pretty much wear anything dry fit with pockets. Lol

  • Reply Jenny August 18, 2023 at 8:54 am

    GAAAAHHHH, tween shopping is so hard. Now my daughter is officially a teen and it’s still hard. I can’t seem to figure out her size and she can’t seem to figure out her style, and how it fits her new body. It’s been a challenge.
    Yes, jeans! I know- the heat index is in the 100s, but school is air conditioned and it can be pretty chilly. The high school dress code is pretty lax, and I’ve seen girls wearing pretty short shorts. But my daughter mostly wears jeans.

  • Reply Kristen August 18, 2023 at 10:11 am

    Sarah! She poses just like you trying on clothes. So cute and grownup at the same time!

    My girls are still young – 7 and 4 – but they love a trip to the mall! It is really a pretty magical place – after not going for many years it’d been fun to pop in sometimes. One of our favorite spots to shop is H&M!

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