Category Archives: Making

Planning a Pre-teen Wardrobe {Making and Buying Her Clothes She’ll Love and Use}

We happen to finally have a bit of available cash for updating my and Mustard Seed’s wardrobes. I’m such a weirdo because I whine all the time about wanting more clothes; now that I have the money, I’m paralyzed wanting to make the purchases count. You know I’m a planner and analyzer, and this little project is no different.

For several years it’s been one of my dreams to sew a wardrobe from scratch. It’s actually helped me cut way back on my shopping from a few years ago because now I window shop and go, “I could just make that for less.” That I never get around to it is another story.

But yes, if it were up to me and I didn’t have a bunch of other stuff to do, everything on my daughter and me and in my home would be all handmade…except then I’d go to the mall and see a bunch of cute stuff there, and well…So I’m getting a little more okay with the fact that we live in a ready-to-wear society and it’s more practical for me to buy at least some of our clothes and housewares, but it’s an uneasy peace.

Cheah, not like I’m setting unrealistic standards for myself or anything.

So this wardrobe for Mustard Seed: She is the quintessential pre-teen. She’s not sassy, but she is straddling that point where she still loves horses, puppies, kittens, and dolphins, but would also really love it if I would let her wear heels. She wants me to tuck her in bed every night, but she also carries a purse full of actual useful stuff everywhere.

I did the smart thing and did a total inventory of her closet and drawers and realized it’s not that she doesn’t have “enough clothes.” In fact, I think most people have “enough.” What most people mean when they say that is: 1) I don’t have the kind of clothes I need for the events I go to, 2) I don’t know how or can’t make the clothes I have work together to create lots of outfits, or 3) I’m not comfortable with the look or style of what I have. I think that’s the situation both Mustard Seed and I are in.

So here’s the pre-teen wardrobe strategy I’ve come up with:

Inventory everything. Take out stuff that’s too small or irreparably damaged. Don’t forget, though, that some things that are too small can often be refashioned into something else, so you may want to set certain ones in the sewing pile.

Think about what events/lifestyle your child has. Do you go to church, weddings, or musical performances often that merit having more dresses? Does your daughter gravitate towards pants or dresses and skirts for everyday wear? Does your child do sports? Does she play outside and get dirty a lot? Does she do stuff like go to the movies or other places that might require a step up from the very most casual play clothes?

Consider the weather. Here in southeast Texas, we have about 6 months where the chances of it being above 80 degrees are pretty good; however it’s iced over 3 times this winter, and we can get down into the 20s. Obviously, we need some solid winter clothes, but a few good pieces of outerwear, and then layering is the way to go. It makes more sense for us to bulk up on summer clothes and try to winterize them.

Consider your daughter’s coloring. It was such a relief to me when I realized that not everything in stores was meant for me. Only a fraction of what’s out there is made for my coloring AND my apple shape. Pre-teens don’t need to worry about shape as much, but it’s not too young to start focusing on coloring. Why buy or make clothes in colors that are less flattering? Go for ones that make her shine! Check out the 12-Season Color Theory. It may seem limiting at first, but really, it’s the best way to ensure that your daughter will feel good in every piece she owns.

Make a lookbook. Get on Pinterest or some kids clothing blogs or stores and identify what looks you and your pre-teen like on her. I, for one, do not dig the “graffiti meets rainbow and throws up sequins” kind of look for my child. I’m always lamenting that Target doesn’t keep making all their 3T stuff, just in larger sizes. In other words, I gravitate toward sweet, feminine, lively, and whimsical.  Once you’ve compiled a number of images, you should see some “uniforms” start to recur. Pick 2 or 3 uniforms you both like and aim to buy/create with an eye towards these.

Plan your purchases/creations. Scope out your favorite kids stores. See what’s the most practical to buy and what’s pretty easy and cheaper to make. For example, I think a denim jacket would be a great addition to Mustard Seed’s wardrobe. That’s not something I’m going to attempt to make; I’ll shell out for that. But today we saw a maxi dress for $25, and we were looking at patterns of almost the exact same thing yesterday that I know I can make. Go to the fabric store or search for patterns online. See which ones match the styles from your lookbook and are easy and cheap to make. Summer shorts and airy blouses are really simple. Or if you see some cute graphic t’s at the store that aren’t hard to make with a computer and transfer paper, have at it, and make them to mix and match with both your store-bought purchases and your sewn items. Thrift stores and deeply discounted plain t’s may be your best friends for this.