Where does your middle school kid buy clothes?

My daughter will be entering middle school in the fall and has started to out grow the “Big Kid” size 16 girls clothing from LandsEnd, Gap Kids, Old Navy etc. that have been our standbys. I’m at a loss as to where to get clothes that will fit her (women’s size xs?). Any suggestions on where to shop for a middle schooler? She isn’t (yet) into fashion or clothes and doesn’t seem quite ready for some of the crop tops and plunging necklines offered in the Teen sections in places like the Gap. I’ve noticed the middle and younger HS aged siblings of her friends wearing a lot of baggy jeans and hoodies. As her un-fashion forward mom I’d love to hear some suggestions on where to buy a tall middle school kid basic t-shirts, jeans and leggings -until she gets more into figuring out her own style. Thanks!

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You might consider Uniqlo (there's a store in Emeryville/Bay Street). Because it is a Japanese store, their size labels often have a smaller fit than US-based clothing stores. (That said, their sizing can be very inconsistent; their loose-fitting garments are sometimes crazily huge; so, keep your receipts, and don't cut off that tag until you're sure!) My now grown son, who was a string bean, fit into their pants very well. Good luck!

My 11 yo 6th grade girl is tiny (petite & narrow), and unfortunately women's clothing sizes are such that she usually fits 00 or xxs in misses' sizes. Bizarre because her body is anything but woman-sized. This is to say, I think your number one job right now is to de-emphasize sizes and emphasize comfort and fit for your girl. American Eagle, Vans, and Converse are some of the brands that she likes and can find something (not that we buy new clothes often). I would also both involve her in asking what she would like but be careful not to make her feel like shopping for her is difficult or unpleasant (because that can bleed into her feeling like her body is hard to fit or wrong in some way). You can say something like, "How about some new clothes for middle school next year? Let's go cruise through Old Navy (or AE, or Macy's, whatever) and see the current styles! We don't have to buy anything if we don't like what they have." Just make it fun and casual, no pressure, and together you can develop your family standards on what parents pay for vs what kids pay for (for us it is necessities versus "nice to have"), clothing budget, and what's acceptable to wear out of the house (crop tops are inevitable, btw).

Shop the women's section of department stores like Kohl's, Macy's etc.  for those XS and S sizes. Be ready to, for example, take some pants for alterations for length (or perform yourself in so inclined/skilled.)

I’d suggest Uniqlo in Emeryville. Lots of simple and attractive clothing. And it tends to run a little smaller so it could be perfect for her.

Target.  Thrift stores and second hand shops.

My daughter entered middle school wearing jeans and t-shirts from the same places but her style evolved to the baggy pants and hoodies you've been noticing, and that's what she still wears as a rising HS sophomore. That seems to be the thing for both genders right now. Believe it or not, she wears her brother's and even dad's pants, and that is not because she is big, she's probably a womens size 4 or 6. Dickies' and Carhart are favorite brands. But if you're up for letting her do it, this was the age my kids both discovered thrifting and they LOVE it. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Out of the Closet are all great - it's like a treasure hunt where everything is one-of-a-kind. My kids really got sick of the racks and racks of everything the same at places like Old Navy etc. Thrifting was a great way for them to discover their own spin on style, where they could be pretty unique.


H & M, Zara, Forever 21, and Mango (some at local malls and online) have fashion trends as well as basics with extensive teen sizing. These brands have a similar price point to the brands you mentioned.

American Eagle might be good for pants. They have a wide array of jeans and jeggings. I found they fit my daughter in middle school because the sizing included 00 and also short and long. They might also have some graphic tees and things she’d like. They definitely have the cropped tanks and such but it’s not all they have. And if she mostly wants t-shirts and hoodies, you can get those in a lot of places. H&M has a basics line with a lot of that type of thing and they’re simple without being aggressively unfashionable. Old Navy might be a good bet, too. Could you take her shopping to see what she likes and what fits? 

My daughter went straight from big kid's to Misses sizes, though we definitely had a transition period where she got stuff from both sections. We shopped a lot at Target and Old Navy. I think a big kid 16 is larger than the smallest Misses size; there's overlap between all of the sizing systems so I wouldn't expect you have trouble finding things that fit.

Junior's sizes are supposed to fill in for girls/women who have adult height without the curves. The problem, though, is that junior's sections are where you seem see the worst of the provocative clothing. That doesn't mean you can't find appropriate things there; you just have to look harder to find the wheat among the chaff.

The stores you mention (Gap, Old Navy) are still good places for her to buy clothes - also try stores like Hollister, Abercrombie, and even Macy's, which has a pretty good teen section. Ross and TJMaxx are good too. Our family rule was that since I pay for the clothes I get to decide if it's too 'mature' for my teen girl. Mostly we agree, and hoodies and jeans are what most kids wear these days- crop tops are HUGE, I agree - mine gets to wear them if they're not TOO short.....luckily the kids are also into high waisted pants, so .....haha

Size 16 is often bigger than a women's XS, so she can just look at the adult sections of the same shops. The women's sections often have more options for basics than the teen sections, anyway.

In addition to all the good suggestions others have mentioned, you might try Bancroft Clothing Co. across from the Cal campus -- it's aimed at Cal students obviously, but my now-adult daughter and her friends started happily shopping there in middle school.  For second-hand, there are several shops on Telegraph Ave near campus, and then Crossroads in downtown Berkeley on Shattuck, and farther afield, on Haight St in San Francisco, Buffalo Exchange and Wasteland and several others.  And then, maybe not quite yet but probably by 8th grade, Ambiance, which has several locations in San Francisco, is more expensive but is a good place for the occasional more dressy things for teens and young women.

I've had good luck so far with Stitch Fix because they send stuff based on your kid's size and some basic preference selections - patterns, solids, logos, etc. You can set a price limit too. They send about 10 items in each shipment. My daughter has been sent nice t-shirts, jeans, shorts, fitness-type leggings, and hoodies. 

Nordstrom Rack is also good for basics for smaller women's sizes, but it can be hit and miss on selections in-store or online.