TEEN FASHION. Photo source: Teen Vogue

Growing up, I remember my mother’s disapproving look. It usually landed on some outfit I’d chosen that her eyes couldn’t adjust to – whether it was too fancy, too casual, too old, whatever. Oftentimes, she was right. But that look packed a punch. It could send me into a tailspin of flying hangers and mounds of clothes on the bed. And guess what? My freaked-out fashion anxiety still happens to this day – when my own eyes see myself as not put together quite right.

Today’s moms are good at nurturing their little one’s inner fashionista. “He picked it all out himself!” YoungMom will brag. Hey, if her five-year-old thinks a vomit of orange, purple and green works, then who is she to clean up the mess? So how does this same mom, a decade later, find herself in a tug-of-war over her daughter’s heels?

Teens are understandably obsessed with looks. With the ability to post and comment on a thousand pics online, what do you expect? (When I see a camera, I run. When they see a camera, they pout – in a happy way.) With all that focus on what you look like and what you’re wearing, the worry is that teens might forget it’s what’s inside that counts. But are adults really that different? I, for one, am downright delighted when I look in the mirror and like what I see. It bolsters my confidence for when I’m out there in the world, when I’m walking down the street and I’ve got no time to charm the pants off everyone I meet.

No, I’m not thrilled by the short skirts that populate the pages of Teen Vogue and therefore the dance floors at Bar Mitzvahs. I don’t think girls need the Victoria’s Secret push-up bras that are all the rage in order to look beautiful. And yes, I would prefer that teen boys thought enough of their appearance to wear jeans to school – and enough of their feet to wear boots when it snows. I do have a ho-line – a tripping point at which I will send the too-nude girl or too-torn boy up to change. I’ll explain the reasoning first, however, which tends to have to do with how you want to be seen in the world and the types of people you want to attract (ie, not pimps, thieves or absolutely no one).

But do I really think the layers of mascara make my daughter a skank or the ratty sweatpants make my son a hobo? It may not be my choice, but isn’t that the point?

Despite wagging fingers from some of my friends, who remind me that since I buy the clothes, I control what’s inside my teens’ closets and therefore what makes it onto their bodies, this is not a battle I choose to fight 99% of the time. For me, a few purple streaks, an extra pierce or a semi-transparent top falls into the category of healthy self-expression. Instead of wielding ultimate clothes control, I try to remind myself that whatever I think of my teens’ fashion, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Above all, I’m convinced that the inside has to like the outside – even as it grows and develops its own unique, ever-changing sense of style.



About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.


  1. Daliah Chapniik says:

    Great concept!! When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I wasn’t worried about bottles and diapers, I was worried about rebellion and rudeness years down the line. Back then a wise woman (Shelley!) told me not to worry, that kids don’t just one day wake up completely different, that the changees happen slowly and I will have time to prepare. She was fundamentally right. What strikes me is that under it all, my teenaged girls are still the same people they always were, just more so themselves and less a reflection of me.

  2. I LOVE that you were thinking that far ahead. Most expectant moms (ME!) can’t think beyond tomorrow – the weight, the dropping the kid on his head, that stuff. The truth is, though, when the teen stage comes, we just need to keep talking, like we do when they’re little.

  3. Great post, and I like the comment above as well. I have a friend with an almost-16 year old daughter who was just saying that it’s important to remember – teens aren’t some strange species that we need to fear parenting. They are OUR kids – grown up. We need to make decisions based on the relationships we already have with our kids, based on their needs and ours. Every kid is individual, and it’s okay to let them explore that to some degree – as long as you feel comfortable that they are making their own decisions (ie not peers) and that they are safe and smart in their actions.

    • Wow, so true. Parenting teens is easy to fear before you get there. You nurture that little fashionista and that doesn’t change. You set boundaries before and now you set different ones. It’s not like you’re dealing with new kids – they’re yours!

  4. Duh…it isn’t a tattoo or “inappropriate” piercing

    • Guessing this is in response to my question on Twitter about whether or not to let Miss13 get a thick blonde streak. If so, my sentiments exactly.


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