I can literally remember most of my first day of school outfits, particularly starting from junior high. My first day of 7th grade featured a button-down purple, green and cream plaid number from American Eagle, wide-leg Gap jeans that I remembered loving so much that I saved every cent to buy a replacement pair just in case I ruined them (I did, jumping a fence I should not have been jumping, but that’s another story for another day). I punctuated the perfectly curated outfit with Doc Marten Mary Janes, which showcased my striped Gap socks through the cutouts atop my foot. Junior high was going to be awesome.
And it was, kinda. But it was also so, so weird! The mean girls got really mean, the boys were still really tiny except for my friend Nik who had a goatee and looked like a 30-year-old-man. Bras got frozen at parties, 13-year-olds made out by their lockers like it was no bigs. I called my ‘boyfriend’ one million times a day on his home line which didn’t have call waiting. I am sure his mother must have hated me! But I didn’t care because we kids knew everything and our parents were so clueless (which was so not true!). It’s an awkward time for parents and kids, which is why I completely got it when my friend asked me to take her teen and tween daughters back-to-school shopping.
My friend Liz & I met up with the little chickitas and headed to Urban Outfitters. Though the prices were out of our budget, we used their goods as an inspirational springboard. These gals are actually pretty tall for their age (maybe 4’11” and 5’4″), but weigh like 34 pounds each. I distinctly recall that in-between stage where you want to wear big kid clothes, but you’re too skinny… but your legs are too long to wear kids stuff and it’s just a big, awkward mess. You’re still sort of kid sized, but desperately want to be a teenager (which in your mind is basically an adult).
Nothing fit them at the UO, so next we hit up H&M. I began selecting items I thought were A) cute and B) stylish. You know, things like cool button-down chambray shirts with embellishment on the shoulders, a few cool sweaters that I totally would have worn, plus some scarves and accessories to tie everything together. Cute stuff, if I do say do myself! And then it happened.
“Eh, I don’t like that color.” “That looks itchy.” “Um… maybe cute on someone else.” “That’s going to be too hot!” “No.” Oh my god. You guys. Most of the stuff I was liking was not cool! I felt out of touch. I felt old.
A part of me wanted to be all, “Hey kids, I know what’s in these days!” But then I thought, that’s something old people say! I thought back on my favorite teen/tween styles: a too-tight peach spandex top that said ‘Whatever;’ JNCO jeans, weird velour shirts from the men’s section of Goodwill. My parents were like, “Huh?’ and I was like, “Duh, it’s called personal style!” Unless it’s completely inappropriate (and even then, you need to choose your battles wisely), there is no telling a teenager what’s working in the dressing room.
So I let the girls take the lead, politely saying yay or nay when prompted. After watching what they gravitated toward, I started selecting things in the same vein. Lo and behold, we picked out a few outfits that all of us thought were awesome. Then we celebrated with Mexican food.