My daughter is tall – like 90th percentile tall. She’s always been tall. And we’re not quite sure why.

Lately her tallness has been catching us off guard – if Chris takes a picture of her, I flip out a little on the inside at how old she looks.

If I take a picture of her, he becomes slightly teary-eyed at how mature she appears.

She also loves to wear dresses. So tallness + dresses means that I always buy at least one size too big so that she can:

a) Wear it a year with modesty,

b) Wear it another two years with leggings, and

c) Wear it another year as a shirt.

…Because I buy her nice dresses and I want them to get their due usage. I buy these nice dresses because the cheaper brands that I used to buy her had a striking change at the size of 4, as the size of 4 is complicated.

4 is great because you have the choice of buying 4T or 4 clothes, which means you have twice the selection.

4 is horrible, awful and no-good because every size 4T sleeved dress is now a size 4 halter, and every size 4T shirt with a scooped neckline is now a size 4 with a deep plunging v neckline.



The heaviest offender of this habit is Children’s Place, where I almost exclusively shopped until she turned four. So we parted ways and I replaced them with the Tea Collection, who sees no need in skanking up a pre-K’s clothing.

(Note. I do not think that every halter or v-neckline is slutty on a four-year-old. Hopefully you understand the point of my rant. If not, feel free to throw turtleneck blue jean overall dresses at me in the comment section.)

Nearly Ali’s entire wardrobe is now Tea Collection,


But Tea Collection isn’t cheap. And even though I have the four-year-plan for Ali’s dresses, I’m still not going to pay full price. So I carefully shop the sales and clearances and really do quite well.

(And I buy the coordinating long sleeve tees to put under her short-sleeved dresses, thereby getting two seasons a year for four years out of some of her dresses. I really should get a Nobel Prize for my wardrobe-stretching abilities.)

But as I have been shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to purchase Ali’s latest allotment of dresses, I’ve found myself in a deep crisis.

Ali turns 8 in January.

Which means that I don’t want to buy her size 8 dresses, or she’ll grow out of them before I feel they’ve been adequately used.

But guess what size doesn’t exist for girls?

That’s right.

A 9.

Or an 11, for that matter. Or a 13.

And so now I’m stuck, with many questions and zero answers.

Why the flip does the clothing industry decide that nine-year-olds don’t deserve their own size? Does no growth happen at nine? Are nine year olds such a black hole between little girl and tween that they don’t deserve clothes that fit?

And is a 10 two sizes bigger than an 8, or just one size and they’re trying to make it seem two sizes bigger? And if so, why not just call it a 9 and let us have what we want?

Why does an 18 month old get their own half-year size, but there’s a two-year gap when many pre-adolescent growth spurts start happening? Do babies deserve less ill-fitting clothes than angsty and changing little girls?

And most importantly, I DON’T WANT TO BUY MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD CLOTHES THAT ARE TAGGED FOR A TEN-YEAR-OLD. That smells of tween spirit. And I am not prepared for running a Tweendom.

Please enlighten me, Moms-that-are-ahead-of-me. I NEED YOU.

22 thoughts on “Smells Like Tween Spirit.

  1. I can be no help for you. Sorry. I went to sleep sometime in the summer and come late fall I woke to a 11 year old boy wearing size 18 pants and men’s small in shirts. The girl must have drank the same growth elixir because she is 8 (in July) and now wears a size 14 in pants.
    They look like my children but NONE of their clothes fit until some Christmas came early thanks to two grandmothers that love to shop. Vanity fair had quite a bit at pretty good prices. (MIL choice) We shall see.
    Good luck.

  2. For the record, I believe that Gymboree carries size nine. That said, you’re entering the stage of having to buy according to height. My girls (I have four, from ages 8 to 16) are all super tall, and skinny to boot. This has made clothes shopping more than a little bit of a pain. It requires lots of creativity with leggings and such. I’d say that 8 to 13 is the hardest. After that, it becomes a little esker with petite, regular and tall sizes. Good luck!

  3. Hey Rachel! I am mom to an extremely tall 8 year old (we are also in Bham). Now I know where she gets it from, I am most 6′ tall. My daughter used to have to get pants 2-3 sizes too big just for the length. Thank God for the adjustable waistband. Now however she has a tummy on her and wears between a 14 & a 16. These sizes are NOT appropriate for an 8 year old. Unfortunately she wear has to a lot of jeans and t-shirts. We do find long sleeve t-shirts that are appropriate. But anything “dressy” or “fancy” are usually out of the question because of the grown up styles. Kohl’s is the worst! I wouldn’t wear any of the dresses that come in that size. Believe it or not we have good luck with stuff from Wal-Mart. And since she grows out of stuff so fast, we haven’t spent a lot of money on things she may only wear one season. Good luck and I feel your pain!

  4. I remember when my daughter, who’s a bit wee, hit age 5 and it felt like all the clothes were for 15-year-olds. Plus, I really don’t think they make clothes for girls to last as well as they last for boys. Hand-me-downs from my nephew are going strong a few boys later and I’m lucky to get from one daughter to the next. I’m looking at you, Old Navy, with your cheap shrinking clothing and I’m looking at everyone else with your unnecessarily sassy sayings t-shirts and prosti-tot necklines.

    ANYWAY. We started shopping at Hanna Andersson and never looked back. Their sizes are in cm and cut very generously, so I have been able to get 2-3 years out of the dresses using the system you employ (dress – dress with leggings – shirt).

    1. Hanna Andersson IS super cute! I always think of it as super expensive, because I just get their catalogs and never their sale info. But it looks similar to Tea…I just need to learn to shop their sales. Thanks!

  5. Hey Rachel, as a 50-something year old at 6 ft. tall, it’s a hard life for those of us who want to be girly and feminine and have clothes that fit. Eddie Bauer has great things for grown up talls; check and see if they do anything for kids.. I buy long sleeved t-shirts at Wal-Mart for myself and they work really well so you might check the Faded Glory brand for kids. Also, check Gap or Old Navy for longs in their pants. I’m afraid you’re going to have to catch as catch can until she hits her teens and can actually buy Long or Tall sizes. Oh, American Eagle does jeans in longs, however, I’m not sure they make children’s clothes. You might check.

    I cannot stress this enough; please make her proud of her height and never make her feel like it’s a problem for you to find her clothes. My mother is 5’4″ on her best day and my only sibling is probably 5’6″. I have no earthly idea where my tall gene came from.

    Good luck, and encourage her to stay active and to build a healthy body.

    1. I’m 5’11” and 52 years old and buy all my pants from Eddie Bauer and most of the rest of my clothes too. I like being tall but it was hard finding pants when I was growing up. My mom let the hem out of all my pants and sewed bias tape on ends so that we could hem them right at the end of the pant’s fabric. Every inch helped. Then I had socks that matched my pants perfectly. And, I wore flat shoes. Yes, my pants were sort of floods but not bad. I thought I looked cute eventhough now when I look back, I’m just glad my mom didn’t tell me that I looked a bit awkward. Good luck. I like being tall now but it was hard back then.

  6. Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better… my daughter just turned 12. She is also 5’8″, which means she does not fit in any kid size clothing. She actually hasn’t for the last year or two. This means she has to wear teen clothing, which is ridiculous to try to find something modest that makes her look her age. Adult women’s clothing isn’t much better and is so much more expensive. :-(

    A few years ago when she was in girls sizes, I was able to find her a few cute things from Lands End. I usually could find a good deal on them too. Maybe look there for Ali?

  7. You are thinking about children’s clothing the wrong way. After the “T” sizes all clothing numbers are subjective. 7 does not mean 7 year old, and 14 does not mean 14 years old. Vanity sizing reaches further than you think it does. After toddler sizes you start the life long struggle to find clothes that fit while ignoring the size. My daughter is 9 and she has to get (mostly hand me downs) Aero and Hollister size 00. She is so tall and she already has a booty that those are the only pants that fit her body type. And since we encourage longer shirts nobody notices if they are cut an inch lower than children’s jeans. (they still are not low cut) I suggest letting Chris take her to the shirt section of Walmart and let her pick out cute tops (they have the only shirts that are modest) and secretly going over to the boys section and getting some pants you think will fit her. She wont notice the difference in the fitting room.

  8. Following this thread closely…. My 11 year old daughter is on the tall side as well. I struggle to find appropriate tween fashions!!!! What she wants is way too grown up, everything that fits is too babyish! Ugh!!!!

  9. I find it fascinating that your kids’ sizes are in age. I mean, not every 4 year old is the same height, weight, etc.? We have kids’ sizes based on their height. As I’m quite small, I sometimes still fit in the largest kids’ size (very convenient as these clothes are cheaper) and my mother in law only wears children’s clothes (maybe that’s what the grown-up looking styles are for?)! :-)

    (Sorry, not helpful. Still no kids around here! ;-) )

  10. My 10 year old is extremely tall and is finally starting to fill out a bit too. I used to think the sizes were based on age but she blew that out of the water. She grows so fast that I can’t keep up with sizes. I just bought her size 14 pants. I actually shopped in the women’s department to get her pajamas last month. YIKES! Luckily she prefers shorts to pants and I just have to find the longer shorts (so many stores only sell the super short-shorts) and she wears them all year until they get holes. I wish she liked dresses more and then I could deal with the leggings to stretch the life span of her clothes. Good luck!

  11. A note about children’s sizing: Quite simply, the reason sizing spaces out is because the growth rate isn’t as radical. An 18-month dress is as wide as it is tall. From about that point onward, the height/width ratio skews lots. Around 3 (I think) the measurement standards show the waist becoming equal or less than chest (boy or girl), When you’re talking about 8 and 10, it’s REALLY more about height than chest circumference. Once the difference is less than say 1/2″, it’s not practical to have a distinct size drafted. Vanity sizing has edged younger and younger, as Katie mentions, with mass retailers. Most pattern designers use a standard set of measurements released by some US department of whoseits averaging by age.

    As far as appropriateness of style, you’re preaching to the choir (well, a childless choir who has firm opinions about society’s effects on young people). If I’m not making something from scratch for a friend, I refer them to Tea Collection, Boden Mini, and Emerald August, pretty exclusively because of classic styles as well as durable construction. Some are more affordable than others, but as you mention, sales and Zulily can help with that.

  12. If you are ever in Colorado your daughter and my niece need to meet. They would be soulmates. Except in the height arena. My niece is, like, miniature.

  13. Technically I am behind you but K is currently wearing a size 10. Most of her clothes are 7/8 though, just her dance clothes are in 10’s because apparently ballerinas aren’t tall and thus any ballet outfit is WAY too short in the torso for her. How tall is Ali? (now I’m curious) K is 4’2″. I noticed someone else’s comment about the size not correlating with the age. My kids have almost always been in their age/size. Although S has been in 5T for a few months and isn’t quite 5 yet.

  14. I would also like to know where to buy clothes for the other end of the spectrum. I have a short 4 year old (11th percentile for her height) who has a muscular build from gymnastics. Once you get out of 5T and move into a 6 girls, the pants actually get skinnier and six inches longer. I’m afraid jeans just are not going to happen for her this year. It’s a good thing that leggings are cheap because they do not last long on the playground.

  15. I haven’t seen LLBean mentioned here yet, but they have the cute dress/legging combos that are soft cotton and twirlable. Also Crazy 8 has more affordable “lines” similar to Gymboree, but on sale. I have an only, my girl is 13 now, but with no youngers it never made sense to invest in companies like Hannah Anderson. She loved the cotton LLBean and LandsEnd dresses (back when LandsEnd hadn’t sold out to Sears), but she has always been rough on clothes so we’d be lucky to get three seasons out of one dress.

    By the way, we homeschool too!

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