Size, shape, color, or cut—whatever drives the wardrobe skirmishes when getting the kids dressed for school, those daily a.m. fights take a lot out of you. To find solutions for some of the most common disagreements, we turned to Carolyn Rovner, a style consultant and personal shopper who has worked professionally with children as young as 7 years old through her business, C2 Style, as well as personally with her own three kids, ages 10 to 15.
“The biggest point: When you’re putting your foot down and enforcing the rules of your house, do so calmly and conversationally, rather than confrontationally, and avoid all personal attacks,” Rovner says. “They’re just trying to explore their personality, and it’s a fine time to do it.”
Your daughter wants to celebrate the balmy weather with a barely there halter or her favorite spaghetti-strap tank. You say that’s just too much skin regardless of the weather; why not cover up with a nice sweater, instead?
Layer it, our expert suggests. Luckily, layering several lightweight tops in different colors is a popular trend right now—teens and tweens (including Rovner’s 15-year-old daughter) will often wear three or more at the same time. “In that respect, parents are at a good time,” she says. “It adds to the interest of an outfit and provides coverage.”
Some options for underneath:
- a wider-strapped tank
- a cami that comes up higher, to cover the cleavage area
- a cute T-shirt in a slightly longer length
Wash and Wear
Your son’s outfit of choice is the same shirt and pants he wore yesterday...and the day before that...and the day before that. Changing the program, whether gently or by command, doesn’t even bear thinking about, but you’re concerned about the wear and tear and annoyed that all those other perfectly nice clothes are sitting unused in the closet.
Buy multiples of the same shirt and bottom, and rotate them. “They love those clothes, and they love how they feel in those clothes,” says Rovner. “It’s a stage that’ll go by quickly—they’re not going to go to college with the same four shirts.”
Your son insists that comfort dictates buying pants two sizes too large, but all you notice is that they flirt dangerously close to falling down around his ankles. On the other hand, your daughter is fixated on buying size 4 clothing—even if the pieces are uncomfortably tight. Tell them their clothes don’t fit and you get the silent treatment for three days.
First and foremost, be nonjudgmental and matter-of-fact in the dressing room. Rovner suggests focusing on the piece of clothing rather than the child: “The cut of that shirt doesn’t look quite right. Try this one instead.” Go up or down a size if necessary without undue attention, and try to look for clothes that mimic the child’s desired style in a way that’s sized appropriately. “There are pants that are ‘baggy fit,’ but it still has the fit in the waist so they don’t fall off the child,” Rovner notes. To ease the way when clearing out closets at home, she says, sort through the too-small clothing with your kids and donate them to a shelter. “Make sure they know the clothes are not going into the garbage.”
Your mature-for-her-age daughter, accustomed to hanging out with girls a few years older, wants to dress like them, too—and they all dress like the latest pop-singing sensation on TV. Whether it’s the micro-mini skirt, short shorts, or midriff-bearing top, you can’t bear to see her clothed that way.
In this case, there isn’t much of one; for Rovner, it’s almost entirely a matter of setting and enforcing parental limits. “If it doesn’t fall within your values, your guidelines, your appropriateness as a parent, don’t buy it,” she states. “Don’t let them spend their own money.” Luckily, she offers a few ways to soften the blow: Belly shirts are simply out of vogue, at least for the moment. Footless leggings, however, are “very in,” especially under miniskirts.
The models are wearing heavy makeup on practically every page of those fashion magazines your daughter loves to flip through. You flipped out the first time she attempted to leave the house that way. She scaled back the look, but in your eyes it’s not just inappropriate; it’s also unattractive.
Let someone impartial steer her in another direction. “Take her to a make-up counter or an older teen girl who knows how to apply makeup well,” Rovner suggests. Trusted older teens—such as a babysitter, the sister of a friend, or a cousin—who know how to play up their own best features without going overboard will be more effective. “The groovy teen says ‘This is cute,’ and it automatically works,” Rovner notes. Ask them to include a lesson on skin care, too. And in the end, be prepared to put your foot down when necessary: “If there’s a girl that’s all made up and heavy for going to the movies with friends, then she changes her makeup or stays home.”
Less Bling for Your Bucks
Although you really want to stay within budget for the annual fall shopping trip, the kids manage to wear you down through sheer persistence. The biggest budget-breakers: designer clothes for the girls and top-of-the-line sneakers for the guys.
Don’t just set a budget limit, Rovner says; share it with your children and then enforce it. Let’s say you’ve allotted $50 for sneakers, but your son wants a pair for $200. “Either the child pays the amount over the limit or buys the item all on their own,” she says. Rovner also suggests setting a limit on the number of high-price items kids can buy, whether it’s with their own money or from the family budget. “Make those purchases really special. Don’t have that be the whole wardrobe.”