May 28, 2024


Youth trendy style

Style therapy: Encourage tweens and teens to find own sense of fashion

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Zoe Brown is going into the eighth grade this year. Like so many other teens and tweens ready to make their own fashion choices, she knows that finding the perfect first day of school outfit can be daunting. Unlike other girls, I am her grandmother.


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I’ve seen her style evolution firsthand. Over the years, when she was wondering about what goes with what, she’d ask me. (As did her mother, my daughter Lisa when she was growing up.) I have a lot of personal and professional experience.

To cite Kate Spade, “I think that playing dress-up begins at age five and never truly ends.” We experiment with a lot of different looks as we validate our identity through clothes at each stage of life.

Instinctively, girls such as Zoe know what they like before the world tells them who they should be and what they should wear. In her words, “When I was little, before I could dress myself, my mom dressed me in pretty girly outfits.”

By the time she was three, she had definite ideas about what she wanted to wear. Her mother encouraged her to dress in a style that made her happiest. I recall a trip to the Disney store when Zoe was six. As we walked by all the pink and pretty, she proclaimed, “princesses yuk,” gravitating toward T-shirts from Cars and Toy Story.

Peer pressure becomes too real, too soon. At 10, she wanted to shop at a popular tween store because her friends implied that if you wear that kind of clothing you’ll be cool. We went. It might be their style, but it isn’t hers. She calls them cringy clothes. She’s never been into rainbows, unicorns, and mermaids. She informed me “sparkles make my head hurt.”

Zoe Brown modelling a new outfit: Denim Jacket from the Gap ($33.58); Core Life T-shirt from the Bay ($12.99); Design Lab jeans from the Bay ($19.99); Vans Asher canvas shoes from Shoe Warehouse ($68.21). Courtesy, Helene Oseen
Zoe Brown modelling a new outfit: Denim Jacket from the Gap ($33.58); Core Life T-shirt from the Bay ($12.99); Design Lab jeans from the Bay ($19.99); Vans Asher canvas shoes from Shoe Warehouse ($68.21). Courtesy, Helene Oseen jpg

Since then, she’s learned to trust her instincts around what she likes and what makes her feel great. The mass mentality and desperate desire that young girls face to fit in makes it hard for them to stand out in their own way. It takes courage for growing-up girls to establish their own style instead of slavishly following everyone else. Excited to embrace another facet of her identity as a young fashionista, Zoe has decided she’s ready to up-level her style to athletic on the dressier side, which means she now wants to wear more than only athleisure or her go-to jeans and a hoodie uniform.


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Back-to-school shopping was easier this year because, thanks to a recent growth spurt, we didn’t need to deal with the frustration of Zoe being in between juniors and women’s sizes. She’s graduated from being a girl to becoming a young woman. We walked, shopped, and talked, and she tried stuff on. Hours later, we were still shopping and talking, however by now we were trudging. She had a lot of questions. I answered them and explained to her that there are no absolute rules. The secret is to understand style fundamentals. Style can be learned, but it’s not taught in school.

We found great pieces, all on sale, at a price that didn’t break the bank. The clothes this 13-year-old will wear to school this year match her vibe – fun, unpretentious, super-laid back and stylish.

The final question for me on our girl’s day together was “Do I really have to wait until school starts to wear my new clothes?”

I ask you: If you were Zoe’s grandmother how would you have answered?

How to help your teen develop sense of style

That little girl you dressed is ready to make her own fashion decisions. As girls get older, back to school shopping with mom can get less exciting and more angsty. Sometimes you won’t see eye-to-eye. Here are my tips to make it fun and fruitful.

1. Before you go shopping, take note of what kids are wearing. Take a quick scroll through on-trend looks in magazines or on TV.

2. Put aside your preferences. Ask her what she likes and what she doesn’t.


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3. Listen, really listen to her. This is an opportunity to empower the strong, stylish, and confident young woman she is becoming.

4. Make fashion fun. Help her understand it’s OK to want to look good. Encourage her to experiment with different looks to find the one she loves most.

5. Declare it a date day with this special girl in your life. Be in the moment the entire time you are together.

Helene Oseen is a long-time fashion writer and sought-after stylist. She helps women find confidence and style as they make friends with themselves and fashion. What’s your closet identity? Take the quiz and find out at



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