Teenage wardrobe question

All right. I’ve sent this question to a couple of teens that I know, but I figure the wider the spectrum the more chance I have to not screw up. Please — if you are an adult, only answer if you have a teenager handy as a reference guide or if you can provide a handy link to a resource with actual teens.

I need to dress the teenager in my current WIP. Normally, I only make passing reference to clothing, but in this case I need to know exactly what she’s wearing.

Cassandra is sixteen and I have no idea what she’d wear to school in early October (N.C, Tenn, or anything up through PA is fine. No mountains.) She’d run in the art crowd, but plans to be a veterinarian. She’s a serious reader. Very smart. She does not like fantasy because she has an actual fairy godmother and the books never, ever get it right. Loves the Bronte sisters and Asimov. Her parents are upper middle class, but she’s been a latch-key kid for years, so is used to dressing herself.

Her mother is always on her to “gussie herself up” so I’m looking for the casual, rebellious end of the clothing spectrum but also with a desire to fit in. So no Goth, no Steampunk.

One specific need, plot-wise. I need footwear that is unsuitable for riding a horse, but that it’s not unbelievable for her to have worn while running through the woods.

Any ideas? I just have no idea what she’d wear. ZERO.

Kids these days. Why when I was a girl…

Edited to add: I just realized that I am an idiot. At the point when she is running through the woods, she has just escaped an intruder at their house. They don’t wear shoes at home (Dad sells Japanese antiques, adopted the no-shoes rule at home). She’d be in stocking feet. Now I need to go back and rewrite the running through the woods scene…

The question still stands for the rest of the clothing though. Thanks!

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26 Responses

  1. Samantha

    Sneakers/tennis shoes that don’t have a slight heel are not suitable for riding a horse.
    My oldest will be 13 soon (a little young for your protag) — but if it’s helpful, she does not like girly stuff and likes the kind of clothing ine finds at Tilly’s — brands like Roxy (although she doesn’t like the ROxy name on it) — greys, plums, skull motifs (but not goth) — kind of surfwear that’s not bright colors.

  2. Ann Leckie

    From my admittedly limited exposure, cashing at a high school snack bar–she might wear a sweatshirt with a hole cut in the ribbed part of the sleeve for her thumb to go through. Or fingerless gloves and/or a scarf, even indoors where it’s warm and her coat is hanging in her locker.

    I managed to score Aunt Points by noticing the above and knitting a scarf for my neice for Christmas so she could be stylish at school. But I can’t be much more specific about other items of dress–the line needs to go through very quickly and it’s quite long, so I mostly notice hands and sleeves.

  3. Samantha

    Oh yes, I forgot about the thumb hole! Even if it’s not made that way (any most are now, IIRC), they’d cut it. And the fingerless gloves I’ve seen here are the kind that cover the wrist and palm but stop short of the fingers — wrist warmers, maybe? And they’re black, muddy green, or grey.

  4. MD

    I’m answering as someone who is not extremely far removed from having been a teenager, has friends with younger siblings still in or fresh out of high school, and whose parents’ friends’ children are still in or fresh out of high school.

    I’d say she’d wear jeans, probably with a slight flare (boot-cut), tennis shoes (Converse or Vans slip-ons), a silkscreened t-shirt (not necessarily an ironic print), and a zip-up hoodie (and I vouch for the thumbholes thing). Knee-socks under the jeans, probably striped. Necklace would be a home-made affair, like a short string of tiny beads with a blown-glass charm or something. If she’s very cold, a plain thermal would go under the shirt.

    Hope that helps 🙂

  5. Julia

    She is going to be wearing darker blue jeans and a black hoodie. The hoodie may or may not have some design on the back. She will probably be wearing a t-shirt underneath it, of some summer camp she went to as a child (but the shirt they gave her was too big then so it fits fine now) or perhaps something she took out of her mother’s closet since vintage is in. The shoes probably aren’t anything to write home about–possibly Chucks or Chuck knockoffs, though, and well-worn/dirty. They might be written on, too–a very bright young lady I know used to write all over her shoes and her jeans too, and she still has one heck of a way with words.

    Armwarmers are completely mallgoth Hot Topic and Cassie, from what I know of her, isn’t that type. She could have worn thumb holes through her hoodie sleeves, though.

    Hell, I’m 26 and this is how I dress when I’m not expected to look adult. 😉

    1. Julia

      Oh, and I’m sure I can provide a visual example of this overall look if you need me to. 🙂

  6. Julia

    The no-shoes rule, as I know it, seems to be not only in Japan, but anywhere it gets very snowy and wet. In Newfoundland, for example, which is where I used to live, you would not wear your shoes past the front hall/right next to the door. Only exception would be women in knee-high boots and similar, and they would make sure their shoes were clean and dry using the mats in the front hall before ever setting foot on your carpet. 🙂

      1. Jeff

        …as was Hawaii. Largely in part due to a huge influence of Japanese culture—largely in part due to polynesian culture…mainly because of volcanic red clay and/or sand.

  7. Karindira

    I second the ironically worn camp/grade school/state fair/N’Sync/soccer tee, as an alternative to the wifebeater. My kids prowled all the thrift stores in town the last time we went up to Idaho, and brought back a several-year supply of 4H, NKOTB, Junior Lifeguard, you name it, they got it, and what’s best, it all says Idaho on it.

    1. Julia

      Unless your children are above the age of twenty, they are not suitably experienced enough in life for the New Kids On The Block shirts. I must demand said hot boyband shirts be confiscated and mailed directly to me.

      *uguuuuuuu they were so cool when I was ten…*

  8. Janet

    Mmmm… be careful about the cut of the jeans. It was back to pencil cut recently, a la 80’s. And technically anything with a sole stiff enough to run through the woods can be worn to ride a horse even if it isn’t proper.

    My artsy 19 year old likes graphic T’s and hoodies. For example, we’ll be attending the Nashville Puppetry Festival this weekend and I’m sure we’ll bring home a shirt.

    1. Julia

      Skinny jeans are for scene kids, though. You have to be careful about the scene. That requires a whole lot more hairdye, bad music, compulsive concert attending, and MySpace angles.

      If you’re not in the scene you wear jeans that have a slight flare from the knee, or relaxed fit. Lowriders, usually, and yes tight around the thighs, but only the Fall Out Boy groupies want to strangle their ankles these days. 🙂

    2. Mary Robinette Kowal

      I’m astounded by the variety and vocabulary of jeans these days.

      Darn. I had planned to attend the Puppetry Festival, but had to change my travel arrangements. Have fun at that!

  9. Lorelei Teegarden

    Disclaimer: I’m 15 and in high school, and kids will PICK ON HER no matter what if she’s not running with the “preppies”.

    That aside, I would say turtlenecks in dark colors or neutrals, with jeans she picked out. Sort of a polished preppy dark kind of thing. Her mom could get her “gussying up” jewelery, but she could also have a few punky accessories like glovets or studded belts or hoodies. Also, can’t go wrong with a messenger bag covered in buttons.

    I have no idea about shoes, though. I just wear converses. Those are fun and comfy.

  10. Mell

    for the Art/Skater/Punk teenager:
    think emo:
    Hoodies w/ Thumbhole – Must have. more than likely she has applied patches for her favorite bands
    Vans not Converse – again, self decorated. Alternatively – Doc Martins

    Shirts:
    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?ref=sr_gallery_1&listing_id=9252130
    – think hot topic/Liquid/Global Chaos

    Jeans – worn, ripped, has prolly drawn all over them, band logos etc.

    Old school lunch box – Garbage Pail kids, Superman – you know the ones we had in the 80’s? Yeah they’re back but now used as purses.

    Accessories:
    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?ref=sr_gallery_9&listing_id=13785095
    leather wristbands – think Geek 2.0 we have enough stuff that tells time we dont need a watch.

    for the hip/trendy/arty teen:
    Think Rockabilly punk
    Shoes:
    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?ref=sr_gallery_2&listing_id=14699588
    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?ref=sr_gallery_7&listing_id=14699282

    Version of the lunchbox purse:
    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?ref=sr_gallery_4&listing_id=14147409

  11. Mell

    P.S.

    Alternatively – if you’re looking for run of the mill teen without affiliation to either the skaters/emo/punk crowd (which imo is the most acception of the social strata) or the trendier/hipper/more dressy Rockabilly (which leans toward preppy/Mae West-ish but still rebellious ) you might look at how they dressed Ellen Page for Juno.

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