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Clothes Calls: Your No-Tears Shopping Guide!

Our back-to-school survival guide to shopping with kids saves you money and avoids squabbles.
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Pop quiz: What comes to mind when you think about back-to-school clothes shopping with your children? If it's "Please no Lady Gaga getups" or "How can I afford that pricey brand name?" you're not alone. According to recent research, Motherboard Moms are extremely involved in shopping for clothes with their children—88 percent say they play a big role in tween clothing decisions, and 71 percent say they're involved in teens' wardrobes. But "being involved" doesn't have to mean a day of drama. Our shopping strategies will help you stay on budget and stick to your rules about inappropriate styles, while giving your growing fashionista some confidence-building freedom.

Fashion Fair Play
By age 16, 87 percent of teens are allowed to shop on their own, according to Motherboard Mom research. The success of those endeavors depends a lot on how well you prepared them when they were younger! Start with these tips.

Talk about what's tasteful—before you even hit the store. Tweens often want to emulate whatever celebrity look they find cool (Miley Cyrus may not be your role model, but she might be your daughter's). To avoid an in-store battle, sit down with your daughter before the shopping expedition and talk fashion. The goal is to expose your budding shopper to clothes that are stylish but also school- and age-appropriate. "Pair a photo of Selena Gomez with one of Lindsay Lohan," suggests Nina Sutton, a fashion expert and author of The Chic Mom's Guide to Feeling Fabulous. "Talk about which one has the more respectable look and why. You may be surprised that your tween doesn't love a certain look as much as you may have thought."

Have a firm "no" list. While dressing room freakouts are still somewhat inevitable, you might have happier shopping outings if you both know hard-and-fast rules about what's not allowed, whether it's the shape of a neckline or underwear peaking out of baggy jeans. "You'll hear some groaning, but back-to-school time is a good time to talk about your standards," Sutton says. "And they may even absorb some of what you're saying!"

Compromise and let go. Tweens are just coming into their style and have a strong sense of what they like and don't like. "As a parent, you should guide them on clothing that's appropriate for their age," says Melissa Keswin, a buyer for GILT Children, an online retailer. "But, if an item is appropriate and you just don't like the style, compromise and let it go. There are way more important things to stress about."


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What's the strangest thing your child ever wore to school?

Spidey jammies? Toe socks? A teeny-tiny mini?