Trendy vs. Tasteful: Finding the Right Look in Tween Fashion

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Dress by Pink Picken New York
Dress by Pink Chicken New York at Wee Chic

During New York Fashion Week this past November, Miley Cyrus made headlines when her outfit for the Alexander Wang after-party was a pair of tight black pants, some colorful sunglasses…and two stickers instead of a shirt. (Earlier in the evening, she did wear a shirt – one sheer enough that the stickers were visible.)

A definite fashion "Don't"
A definite fashion “Don’t”

Cyrus has, famously, spent the past couple years donning wilder and wilder gear – and she’s only a few short years past her appearances as Disney’s Hannah Montana. Just this past April, the 21-year-old was the Seventeen magazine’s covergirl. She’s on the fashion radar for teen and tween girls – and causing headaches for their moms.

For moms of girls, arguments about what to wear – and how to wear it – feel never-ending. The pickings for girls of a certain age are slim – many options are quickly deemed too babyish, while others are just way too grown up. When high profile young adults make headlines in outfits that are more trashy than tasteful, the great closet battle just gets tougher.

But fear not, tasteful moms of Baltimore. There is hope. “Stylish and age-appropriate clothes for girls do exist,”  says Bridget Quinn Stickline, owner of Wee Chic, the children’s boutique in Green Spring Station. “We carry brands like Splendid, Vince and Mayoral, which are stylish and on trend but also appropriate and tasteful for tween girls.”

Separates by Vince.
Separates by Vince at Wee Chic

Stickline and the experts at Wee Chic know how to steer girls in the right direction – the store’s team includes moms of five daughters between the ages of 7 and 15. “We get it!” laughs Stickline. “We are champs of girl power and make our product selections not only based on trend and quality but on building an assortment that celebrates empowerment and doesn’t objectify or sexualize young women.”

Outfit by ST Girls
Outfit by ST Girls

Here, Stickline offers some advice for moms in the trenches of the Battle for the Closet:

Be a Style Star

Focus on style, not trends, suggests Stickline. “Help your daughter figure out what she personally loves, so she can develop her own sense of style without simply following the pack,” she says. “Encourage her to come shopping with you. I know this sends shivers of fear through most moms, but it’s important that she feels heard and empowered. Her clothes are a form of self expression. You need to know what your tween really wants to wear to find a common ground.”

By owning her look, she’ll gain self-confidence and – as a bonus – focusing on personal style will make it easier for you to steer her away from garish trends she sees at school or on TV with a casual, “that’s not really your style.”

Shop Civil

Avoid the mall and head to specialty stores with more curated collections and better service. This is sure to cut down on poor quality, over-designed “fast” fashion options (What does that say on the butt?!?) and save some of your sanity. Be sure to take advantage of that boutique service by making friends with a trendy sales associate and asking her to do your bidding. You may find that your little fireball takes advice better when it does not come from you.

At Wee Chic, Stickline says, the team understands the sensitive nature of mom-daughter fashion chat. They participate when it’s appropriate and hang back when the conversation needs to be private. They even have spaces that allow for personal tete-a-tetes. “We recently expanded to a much larger space here at Green Spring Station with custom-built dressing rooms that consider the shopping mom and her tween,” says Stickline. “This is an emotional and challenging time for young women. Discussions about changing body shape have to be handled with a lot of care.”

Bonus points for supporting smaller, (most likely) women-owned businesses and keeping more of your hard-earned money in our local economy. But don’t forget to check the return policy in case Miss Fickle-Pants does a 180 on any of your purchases when you get home.

Find the Right Role Models

Unfortunately, many young girls in the spotlight dress a decade or two older than they actually are. But a handful of young style icons shine, thanks to their great sense of taste and understanding of what works for their age. Stickline loves Kiernan Shipka’s youthful take on ladylike dresses and Hailee Steinfeld’s willingness to take calculated fashion risks. Both girls experiment a bit and have fun with fashion but they also understand what works for their age group.

Shipka, who is phenomenal as Sally Draper on Mad Men, can’t resist dresses with traditional silhouettes – she’s all about the A-line – especially when they’re embellished with patterns, flowers or even jewels. She wears looks that would work on much older women – but they’re also perfect for her cute 14 year old self. Seventeen year-old Steinfeld, an Oscar nominee, is a master at wearing high-fashion pieces in a way that celebrate her youth, rather than swallow it. Her black and white Prabal Gurung gown was one of the most celebrated looks at this year’s Met Ball – not bad for a girl who’s not yet old enough to vote.

Hailee Steinfeld
Hailee Steinfeld

Find pics of tween celebs that dress the part and ask your daughter to tell you which outfits she likes best and why. The visuals will be helpful to you both when you head out for your shopaganza and you might secretly exert a wee bit of influence.

Let It Go

We all have a picture in mind of what we hope our kids will grow up to be – and sometimes that doesn’t jibe with the personal style they start to develop around the pre-tween years. While it can be frustrating when your child settles on nothing but gym shorts, or wants to wear the same dress three days in a row, Stickline’s tales of evolving styles should put you at ease.

“We have watched so many of our mini clients grow and change over the years. It is clear that many children use preferences in clothing as an early exercise of their power,” she says. “We have seen kids who will only wear items that include all the colors of the rainbow, or solely sport clothes that include a John Deere logo, girls who like only boys’ clothes and boys who will not wear anything with a button – anywhere. Most of those kids change their preferences completely a few times of a year. Our little John Deere fan’s mom no longer has to find iron-on logos in bulk and Rainbow Brite has moved on to tops with leggings – but only leggings.

Wee Chic photo shoot

“The kids who stick to their guns have a really cool way about them, too. We all wonder, as we watch them mix unusual colors and styles together, if we are looking at the next Betsey Johnson or Christian Lacroix – all while counting our lucky stars that we get to watch their little journeys from the sidelines.”

No matter what your approach, when you shop with your daughter, remember that for both of you, fashion should be fun so “Let It Go” and enjoy the process!

For more ideas and inspiration, stop into Wee Chic Boutique, Green Spring Station, Lutherville.


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