We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Would Rather be a Fashion “Don’t”


Is back-to-school clothes shopping with your tween something you love or dread? ©Thoursie/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I love my 12-year-old daughter and I love to shop, so you’d think that back-to-school clothes shopping with her would be something I look forward to every year. And it has been, until now.

Like most tween girls, my daughter, Anna, is very fashion-conscious.  It wasn’t always this way. While she liked to wear pretty things, her choices originated from what she wanted to wear, rather than what the latest styles are. I’m not saying she’s following the crowd, she’s still very independent, but she’s definitely aware of what’s “cool” and what isn’t.

One of my favorite parts of shopping is finding a good deal. I never pay full price, instead, happily bargain hunting. For me, it’s more important that the price is right, rather than the color. When we walk into stores at the mall and I see t-shirts for $50, I’m sorry, I just can’t do it, I don’t care if the latest celebrity of the moment is wearing it.

Anna is losing her patience with me and frankly, me with her. I want to encourage her to “be herself” but not at the expense (pun intended) of my wallet. Any advice?

– I Thought Project Runway Was About Restoring Airplanes

Amanda: First off, don’t let your daughter know you asked me for advice. Right now I’m wearing an Old Navy t-shirt, circa 1998, complete with faded graphics and holes. So there’s that.

I’m like you, a sales shopper. I tend to buy clothing off the sales rack in the off-season. For most of my family that isn’t a problem. My 10-year-old son doesn’t give too much thought to what he wears (as evidenced by his frequently mismatched ensembles) and the two-year-old is happy to wear the same shirt every day (seriously, he’s got an M&M tee that he would put on every day if I let him). My 8-year-old daughter on the other hand, is very aware of what she wears. She always has been. Up until now she makes do with what we find in the bargain bins, but I suspect as she gets older she’ll be wanting to choose pieces from the front of the store, rather than the rear.

Do you have a set budget for back-to-school clothing shopping? If not, make one. Once you have an allotment of dollars available, consider giving your daughter a portion of it to spend any way she chooses. She may quickly learn that a $100 pair of shoes isn’t quite the necessity she thought it was if it’s her money to spend, versus yours.

If she still goes through with buying a little bit of clothing with a lot of money, I say let it go. Make the best of what you have remaining in the budget — with her taking an active role. Involve her in your bargaining ways. Together, scour the circulars, inspect the Internet and hit the mall (outlet or otherwise). Find new places to search — thrift stores and consignment shops offer lots of fashionable garments at reasonable prices.

I think if you work together, you’ll both end up looking pretty!

Suzanne: Coming from a girl who spent her life in school uniforms and had exactly two “civilian” outfits (one for Saturday and one for Sunday), I’m feeling a little bad for your daughter. Not to say that you should buy her anything and everything she wants for her back-to-school wardrobe, but keep it fun and indulge her if only a little bit.

Which means you will have to nudge yourself past the Axe-soaked boy with a six pack and take a look around those teen stores where everything has a name. Set a budget, like Amanda suggests, and let Anna pick a top or two, or a pair of jeans, from these stores. Soon enough she will realize how far the money goes there versus your stores of choice.

And before you know it, she’ll realize that she can get away with choosing one impact piece and mixing it with a more budget-friendly basic. (No need to spend $45 on a tank top to put under another t-shirt).

Just remember, she’s only young once. So as long as you can stretch a little bit out of your comfort zone, there will be plenty of time for her to take a liking to bargain hunting (i.e after she gets her first job and moves out of your house).

Happy shopping!


What do you think, should this mom appease her daughter and buy clothing outside of her price range, or is there a compromise to be made?

If you have a problem that needs two perspectives, send us an e-mail at advice@wearebothright.com.