5 Back-to-school Fashion Tips for Middle Schoolers

middle school-aged girl sitting at desk
Middle school is about the time kids begin to test boundaries through their clothing. Encourage your children to be creative but still age-appropriate.

In many ways, middle school can be a tough time, and a kid's fashion choices are no exception. In those sometimes awkward years between elementary and high school, kids' clothes might suddenly seem babyish, and outfits meant for teenagers can seem too grown up.

So, finding cool clothes for middle schoolers is all about thinking outside the box. It's not just about hitting the mall for a whole new wardrobe: Layering and accessorizing can make a few items of clothing go a long way. Shopping at vintage and consignment stores can save you lots of money, and smartphone fashion apps let you find new ways to wear clothes that are already in the closet.


On the next page, our first piece of advice might sound like an invitation for disaster, but it can work.

1: Share Clothes with Siblings

This idea isn't for every pair of siblings. It won't work if there's an age difference -- and it definitely won't fly if you fight like cats and dogs. But if you have a sibling who's about the same size and you happen to have similar fashion sense, why not share a wardrobe? You can mix and match pieces from each other's closets or go shopping to buy things together. If you don't want to share everything, you could make a pact to pool your money for big-ticket items you both want but might not be able to afford otherwise. Even if you're not total BFFs, we bet you can get along well enough to snag two wardrobes for the price of one.


2: Layer and Accessorize

close-up of girl's arm wearing lots of bracelets
Funky, colorful accessories like these bracelets are key to making an outfit look unique.

Not everyone can wear a totally different outfit every day of the week, so why not use things you already have to make well-worn clothes seem new again? If you feel like you're wearing jeans and a T-shirt every single day, spice things up by layering a bright tank top under -- or throwing a jacket over -- the whole thing. Layering short sleeves over long sleeves is a cool twist, too. And chances are no one will ever guess you're recycling outfits when you put a fresh twist on them by adding headbands, jewelry and belts. Shopping for accessories can be a whole lot more fun (and definitely less stressful and expensive) than shelling out for a week's worth of clothes!


3: Use Fashion Apps

welcome screen of Seventeen magazine's smartphone app
The Seventeen magazine fashion app showcases the latest looks -- and where you can get them.

Need some fresh outfits for school but don't have the funds for a whole new wardrobe? If you're lucky enough to have a smartphone, you can use fashion apps to download photos from your closet and create outfits from what you already have. Apps like Stylebook let you mix and match photos and see your old clothes in a whole new light. So it'll save you money -- and all that time and effort changing clothes in front of the mirror! And if you're looking to splurge a little, check out Teen Vogue Haute Spot and Seventeen Fashion Finder. With the click of a phone button, you can buy the latest trends straight from the pages of the magazines.


4: Shop Beyond the Mall

While it's convenient to shop at a mall because of its sheer number of stores in one location, it's easy to end up looking like everyone else. Hitting up consignment and vintage stores for back-to-school looks doesn't mean you'll end up with mothballed 1980s clothes that your parents wore in middle school (although the '80s are, like, totally back these days). It might take a little bit of digging, but you'll probably be able to find practically new -- and cool -- stuff for a fraction of the price you'd pay at the mall. And you can kill two birds with one stone if you sell some of your old stuff to a consignment store: You'll clean out that cluttered closet plus get credit to buy new-to-you clothes at the store!


5: Experiment With Your Style

Understandably, many middle schoolers just want to blend in. Rocking the fashion boat can bring a lot of unwanted attention, but it can also be liberating. Don't be afraid to stand out and have your own style! If you see something cool, wear it on the first day of school and tell everyone it's all the rage in France. Even if no one really believes you, they'll still be curious -- and you'll definitely score points for being a risk-taker. As long as you're in compliance with your school's dress code and sticking with age-appropriate outfits, experiment with looks until you find one -- or several -- you like. Chances are your classmates will be following your lead soon, instead of the other way around.


Lots More Information

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  • New York Magazine. "The 10 Best Fashion Apps." July 19, 2010. (July 19, 2011) http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2010/07/the_ten_best_fashion_apps.html
  • Plato's Closet. "How It Works." (July 21, 2011) http://www.platoscloset.com/how-it-works
  • Swapstyle. http://www.swapstyle.com (July 21, 2011)