Fitting Those Hard-To-Fit Teenagers
I’m not sure how this happened, but I find myself the mother of two undeniably mid-teenaged creatures. While my daughter has had an opinion on her clothing since emerging from the womb, seems like, up until very recently, my son’s clothing preferences only ran about as deep as “I like that color.” Nowadays, though, there’s no shortage of opinions from either of them when it comes to their wardrobes. Whether it’s wanting to look “cool” or simply not wanting to appear different from their peers, the demands of dressing in a certain way to fit in are just one of the perils of modern teendom.
The thing is, it’s hard enough to find 1) clothes the kids deem acceptable that 2) don’t break the bank or your personal tolerances, and then when you throw in some fit issues on top of that… well. Listen, I have a job. And a life. And dogs to pet and a husband to snuggle… I can’t be spending every waking minute tracking down clothes for my teens. I have other things to do. So here’s a couple of tips from me to you, and hopefully some fellow moms of teens will find them useful.
(If your teens simply grew into common adult sizes and you have no problems outfitting them, I salute you. Also I’m jealous.)
Up Top: For the skinny but well-endowed variety of girl-teen
Some ridiculous percentage of American women are walking around in the wrong size bra, and I’m beginning to think this starts in the teen years, when many of us needed band sizes that simply weren’t readily available. So first let me say that I think a professional bra fitting for any busty female is a must, and if that busty female turns out to need an unusual size of bra, do not settle for something that is “close enough.” Everyone deserves a properly-fitting bra, and that goes double for teenagers who maybe feel even more self-conscious about their bodies. That said, I’m not quite a good enough mom to spend the $80+ per bra the retail world seems to think they should charge, so here’s some alternatives:
- Nordstrom Rack. It’s rare that I feel as passionately about a store as I do about Nordstrom Rack. Go ahead—ask me how many stores we tried online and in person before finding the veritable Mecca of unusual bra sizes Rack carries. They’re a great resource for both unusual and larger sizes, and their prices are very reasonable (we’ve gotten bras there for as little as $12). If you have access to a Nordstrom Rack in person, it’s the perfect place to figure out what brands/fits/styles work, because there’s lots of variety. (Pro tip: If you have a kid who is genuinely disturbed by her cup size, “help” by covering the tags as she tries on. The answer to “What size is this one?” is “Who cares? Try it on.”) Also: You can shop Nordstrom Rack online once you know what works (but the in-store deals will always be more plentiful and cheaper.)
- eBay. Once you know the right size and some brands that work, you can take advantage of sites like eBay to find deals on last year’s colors, etc.
- Amazon, believe it or not. Again, you need to know sizes/brands before this will be useful, but Amazon carries a wide variety of sizes (well beyond the typical department store), and they often clearance out inventory. About a month ago they did a one-day lingerie event and we scored a couple of $85 bras for… $13 apiece.
- Don’t forget swimsuits! While it’s great that just about everyone sells bikini pieces separately these days, that’s of little help if there are no bikini tops available in your size, or if what you really want is a one-piece suit. Athleta and Lands’ End both sell a decent variety of bra-sized bathing suit tops—if you need an even smaller band than they sell, consider fitting to the cup and having the band tailored (it will be cheap, I promise)—and European brand Panache makes both lingerie and swimsuits (even one-piece swimsuits, hallelujah!) in D+ sizing, down to a 28″ band. (Panache is pricy but it’s also all over eBay.)
Down Below: For the beanpole variety of boy-teen
This is a common challenge, and if there’s anything my girlfriends and I love lamenting these days, it’s that our emaciated-looking boys are short on pants. (Apparently our lives aren’t all that interesting.) Here in the south I’m granted a decent reprieve—my son won’t be back in long pants until October or November—but it’s still an issue. Here’s some options to try:
- Find the longest buttonhole-elastic 18 Slims that exist. My current thinking is that the title is held by Lands’ End, where you can sometimes even specify the inseam (bonus: they have a great guarantee and frequent sales), but I’m always on the lookout. Of course if you’ve entered the realm of wanting specific brands, this gets tricky.
- Sell your kid on wearing a belt. Let me know how that goes. Mine refuses. I think it’s a sensory issue. Hey, I don’t like to wear a belt either, so I don’t really blame him.
- Supplement with drawstring waists. Jeans are going to be problematic until that waist measurement catches up to the inseam, but in the meantime, at least there’s sweats and track pants and the like to fill in some gaps.
- Resist the urge to tell them they’ll be cold. This won’t work if you live somewhere snowy, but ’round here, plenty of boys wear shorts well into the winter (paired with their relevant-brand hooded sweatshirts, natch). Shorts are easier—cut out the size tags if your kid is offended by the fact that they’re still children’s sizes, if needed—and as long as they’re not going to get frostbite, just let it go.
- Find the brands that have “young men’s” sizing. Depending on the skinniness of your kid, this may not work. Even department stores with large selections for teens still don’t carry anything that fits my child (and he gets annoyed when I spend the entire shopping trip hissing at him to “eat more or stop growing!” for some reason), but it’s a good place to start. And hooray for the terrible trend of skinny jeans, because it means your beanpole may find some “regular” jeans that fit, amongst them. And if all else fails…
- Invest in tailoring. Do I want to pay to tailor overpriced jeans for my child who will outgrow them in four months? No. Will I do it as a last resort? Yes. The good news is that taking in the waist of a pair of jeans isn’t all that expensive (but my home sewing machine and rudimentary skills aren’t up to the task). If you shop sales or thrift for the jeans you start with, the additional cost is a little easier to swallow.
It’s not easy or terribly convenient, these shopping issues, but then… neither are the teenagers, themselves, I suppose.Published July 1, 2014. Last updated July 1, 2014.