Not a perfect fit


The back-to-school shopping season is here, and that means one thing: Time for a good parent-teen battle.

You know how it goes. Parents say kids' choices are too sexy, too sloppy, too expensive. Kids find the alternatives, in a word, boring.

How do you find the fashionable-but-appropriate middle ground? We talked to four families to see how they cope and compromise.

Sonia Brown of Baltimore and her daughter Tiffany, 13, who will be a freshman at Baltimore City College.

Mom's point of view on back-to-school shopping: We enjoy shopping together. My sister, who is her hero, always comes with us. I feel as a mom I am in tune with what is going on. I know what is going on with the trends, but we still have a standard.

Things get stressful between us when have to come up with a compromise. Tiffany's whole attitude will change in the store when we don't agree on something. When she gets an attitude, we just don't buy it. For instance, the skirts with the slits in the front that were popular this year? I was fine with her wearing that type of skirt, but we just had to find one where the slit height was appropriate. It is tough.

Overall I am happy with the way she dresses. She does a great job with accessorizing, and she keeps herself well.

What Tiffany says: My mom and my aunt usually like what I wear to school, so shopping is fun. I run into more problems with my dad. He does not always agree with what I want to buy. My mom can usually talk him into something. When it comes to school, I like to wear boot-cut jeans and shoes that match my pocketbook. I always like my shoes to match my purse. That's important.

Where Mom likes her to shop: I like all the places my daughter likes.

Where Tiffany likes to shop: Lerner's, Parade of Shoes and the Limited

Nancy Gerstmyer of Sparks and her children: Noah, 20, a junior at Washington College, and Emily, 18, a freshman at Elmira College.

Mom's point of view on back-to-school shopping: Clothes and shopping are a nightmare! I fight with Emily all the time about what I think is appropriate and what is not. I think it is important to show respect while in the classroom by dressing appropriately. The teachers do; why shouldn't the kids as well?

Appearance matters. Appropriate dressing shows that you care. You care about yourself, you care about your teachers and you care about the school.

What Emily says: My mother and I do not even shop together anymore. What happens now is that I go and do the shopping. I will come home and show them what I bought. If they like it, they pay for it, and if they don't I have to return it. My mom likes to see me in flowers and prints, and I prefer less busy things and solids. My mom likes Talbots (because she used to work there), and it is not for me.

Noah: When I was younger, I wasn't interested in having Mom around. Since I have been in college, it is good that Mom comes along. She buys, and I am glad to have her opinion.

Where Mom likes them to shop: Ann Taylor, Cohen's

Where Emily and Noah like to shop: American Eagle, Target and Banana Republic

Deb Mariner of Ellicott City With Her Son, Andrew, 15, Going Into 10th Grade at Howard High, and Krista, 12, Who Enters 7th Grade at Ellicott Mills Middle.

Mom's point of view on back-to-school shopping: I've stopped making a big deal about it. It took me a while to realize I was the one hung up about the kids having new clothes for the beginning of school, and they didn't care about it. Andrew was happy to wear what he had been wearing all summer and the year before.

He likes the surf-shop clothes, and when we go out together, I find we have pretty similar tastes. The only time I think we really have an issue is with size. He likes to wear his pants really big and let his boxers hang out of his shorts. I don't like it.

Krista is at a difficult age where the junior clothes are too skimpy, so it is harder for us to find things that we both like. Right now our biggest struggle is with her shorts. She likes to wear them really, really short, and I don't think they are appropriate.

What Andrew says: Where my mom and I disagree the most is on price. When it comes to style, we are OK.

Krista: I prefer shopping with Mom. Dad isn't as familiar with the styles. Mom thinks my shorts are too short and tight. She and I also disagree on capris. She does not like me to wear my capris too tight.

Where Mom likes them to shop: Bass Outlet, Talbots for Kids, Gap

Where Andrew and Krista like to shop: Pacific Sunwear, Limited Too, Old Navy

Linda Oberlin of Phoenix and Her Children: Jessi, 18, a Freshman at East Carolina University; Joy, 12, a 7th Grader at Cockeysville Middle

and Jamie, 15, Who Is Entering 10th Grade at Dulaney High School.

Mom's point of view on back-to-school shopping: I have a real problem with kids' clothes these days. I feel like these companies are selling sex. All the clothes are so revealing now, and I don't think it is appropriate for school. There does not seem to be a delineation between what is going on in middle school and high school. There are thongs out there made for 12 year olds. I just think that clothing companies are pushing the envelope. It makes sexuality laissez faire. If I were a boy in class, I would have a hard time concentrating on my studies.

What Jessi says: I don't go shopping with my mom that much anymore. I usually go with my friends when I need something. My mom is OK with most things. If she doesn't like it, she just has to deal with it.

Joy: I like to shop with my mom. We disagree on some things. Especially at Abercrombie & Fitch. Mom thinks the clothes are trashy.

Jamie: Mom lets me pretty much buy what I want. I would say we see eye to eye.

Where Mom likes them to shop: The Gap, Hecht's and Nordstrom

Where Jessi, Joy and Jamie like to shop: Pacific Sunwear, American Eagle and Delia's

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