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Fitting Those Hard-To-Fit Teenagers

Fitting Those Hard-To-Fit Teenagers

By Mir Kamin

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.
About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • […] thinking about my smushy babykins having dubious lumps extracted! It seemed like a perfect time to share some shopping tips for hard-to-fit-teens over at Alpha Mom as a distraction. You could come read it, and then we could be distracted, […]

  • Rayne of Terror

    July 1, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I purchase Lands End girls school uniform track pants for my tall slim boy.  The waist is 2 inches smaller than the identical boys track pants and there’s no indication on the tag that they are girls.

  • Arnebya

    July 1, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    My teen is straight up and down except for the upper area, which, larger than mine, is still semi-smallish (compared to her friends, one of whom I thought was someone’s older aunt). She could still do adjustable waist pants if she weren’t mortified at the idea. I can do some women’s XS for her. Bathing suits suck, saggy butted bottoms. Must do separates (because the one pieces need to be longer but then they’re usually wider (saggy legged). I wish I knew how to sew. I will take Nordstrom Rack into consideration though!

  • RuthWells

    July 1, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Old Navy 18 slims have been our salvation for my skinny, tall boys. Great deals if you’re patient, also.

  • Jennifer

    July 1, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Did you know that Land’s End and Sears are owned by the same parent company?  My mother ordered shoes for my daughter that didn’t fit.  We were able to return the Land’s End shoes at our local Sears without having to pay for return shipping.

    Also, I agree with RuthWells.  Old Navy makes great jeans and has great deals once a year in August.  My daughter needs the short length and that is about the only place I can find them.

    • Mir Kamin

      July 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Yep, last time we did LE swimsuits, I just ordered half a dozen tops and we returned the extras to Sears. Easy peasy!

  • Brigitte

    July 1, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Heh.  I live in New England, and it seems half our neighbors wear their cargo shorts all through the winter.  I thought they were mental until I figured it wasn’t really any worse than a skirt and nylons.  🙂

  • Meri

    July 2, 2014 at 3:34 am

    For bras, check out (US) and (UK). Both also have cup-sized swimsuits, bikinis, and tankinis. I’ve found that the discounts at Brastop are worth the shipping and they occasionally do free shipping to the US. I’ve bought bras on Zulily, but only ones I know already fit.

    There are a couple of brands that go down to 26 bands, I think the blog Thin and Curvy lists them. A lot of the UK and European brands have 28″ bands, too. Oh, and once you find out what fits, check out to see what else might fit.

  • Alicia

    July 2, 2014 at 10:27 am

    It took me until I was 27 to realize that, hey, bras are NOT supposed to be this uncomfortable. The sizing I need just doesn’t exist in US sizing  For some reason, US bra companies would like for you to believe that small band sizes and big cups don’t exist. I fell down the rabbit hole that is the A Bra That Fits reddit, and I couldn’t be happier. I switched to UK brands and sizing, which happily accommodate my size. 🙂 Kudos to helping your daughter figure it out early!

  • RL Julia

    July 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    I like HanesOnePlace for bras. Their smallest band is a 32 but their largest cup is a DDD. The trick is to find something you like and then look on-line for it. I also really recommend going to a department store and getting measured by a salesperson who has been trained to do so at least once. Depending on your shape, etc… you can sometimes increase the band width and decrease the cup size (or vice versa) for a better fit. In terms of pants, I have found that Levis has a wide variety of cuts and sizes (on-line and sometimes you can catch a sale). My son will wear a belt but he’s still super skinny. Luckily Levi’s men’s 510 Skinny/Super Skinny fit jeans let you coordinate the waist (as small as 26) with the inseam (all the way up to 36″). They also come in a pretty big range of colors. Even on sale they were not super cheap but at least Zappos (where we bought them) has free shipping.

  • traci

    July 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    For the tall skinny boys only lands end and the gap carry 18slim in boys jeans. Old navy does have sweats with a functional drawstring (most places only have decorative drawstrings). For shorts, target has shorts that are cotton broadcloth (read: look cool) that have an elastic waste with functional drawstring. They are circo brand and happen to be onsale this week for $5. Also, my BIL who is too skinny for most men’s lines gets his pants from american eagle I think. That would be the next step up from the 18 slims. They are the only place he can reliably find the super small waist sizes.

    Btw, lands end has these awesome grow with me clothes that have a string you can cut to lengthen sleeves/hems to get a little longer use. Go in store (sears) to find the best clearance prices on LE.

  • Jennifer

    July 4, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Try this for the beanpoles. It has worked great for me! i looked for ages to find a belt I liked to wear with several pairs of pants (same style, different colors) and finally found this. I love it!

  • Rachel

    July 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you for these tips!!

    I have a girl who wears a medium everything and is super easy to fit now (she did have a harder time a couple years ago). Then the middle one at 14 is very skinny with a growing top section. And she can wear the same size as her 10yo sister. It makes shopping awkward. She can find some very small pants at Target in the Women’s section, and she will wear belts, but she loves her shorts and doesn’t want her sister stealing them or her shirts. Their laundry can’t be done together.

    3 girls with 3 different body types. Yay. Hand-me-downs are trickier now.