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Tween Beat

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In Victorian times, the length of skirts dropped as a girl aged; the reverse appears to be true chez Justice. But one is hard-pressed to find anything truly offensive, especially considering that Justice evolved from the Limited Too, a juniors’ store that Tween Brands, Inc. has now phased out and that once, among other offenses, sold a pair of panties emblazoned with the phrase, “Buy it now! Tell Dad later!” At Justice, the string bikini undies in a size 6/7 seem a bit unnecessary, but still offer ample coverage in patterns that do not advertise one’s jailbait status. The strangest find was what appeared to be a padded sports bra.

Unsurprisingly, 11-year-old Cosette Rinab forewent the bra when shopping with her father, Martin, recently.

“I don’t think that goes together too well. It’s a little wild for me,” observed Martin when she came out of the dressing room in skinny black jeans with a stripy tie-dyed pattern and a camisole printed with enough bubbly slogans to make Pollyanna claw out her eyes just for spite.

Cosette tugged at the pants, and looked in the mirror. “Yeah,” she finally agreed, “I just realized it doesn’t go so well.”

She eventually settled on a comparatively sedate Union Jack–and–zipper tee and a glittery plaid scarf.

“It’s summer, though,” Martin pointed out. “You’re going to wear a scarf?”

“Yeah, why not?”

Martin shrugged. “Well, you’re the fashion expert. What do I know?”

If the assumption is that being fashion-forward at this age means dressing older, or more provocatively, then Chloe Blackshire, age 10, suggests that may not be so. “This is my side, and this is my sister’s side,” she says, opening the closet in an East Village bedroom she shares with Ivy, 14, that’s cluttered with the detritus of girlhood (stuffed animals, Hula-hoops, stray socks). Raising her eyebrows, she points again to her sister’s side. “But sometimes my clothes end up here.”

Chloe favors outfits that are just as busy as her room. She has no qualms about mixing pinks and reds, plaids and stripes. Her style unfolds in a parallel fashion universe, one that is aware of adult trends, but not necessarily following them. A grown-up could never pull off Chloe’s look; on her, it’s divine, complementing both her shape and her temperament without giving away too much of either. But it hasn’t evolved without its growing pains. “Kids’ clothes always have stuff with, like, puppies on it. But I’m not, like, a puppy-lover.” In order to find clothing that fits but is not too childish, too vampish, or simply too boring, Chloe has often had to get creative, pinning up shirts from American Apparel, using jean-parts as leg warmers, and wearing adult tunics as dresses. She will look to Ivy for fashion guidance but also has learned from her that there are lines one shouldn’t cross. “Sometimes my sister is wearing, like, a wifebeater and sometimes it’s too small so it kind of shows her bra and stuff, and my mom’s like, ‘Hey! Come on!’ ” Chloe smoothes her patterned skirt demurely over her striped leggings. “But there are creepy people that do think that it’s fun to see young girls like that. So it’s better to not, probably. ”

Back at Macy’s, Connor tells her mother to wait outside the dressing room while she tries on the Material Girl outfit she’s selected: the zebra-print leggings, along with a plaid jacket and a black bodysuit. This last causes some confusion.

“You put the bodysuit on, and then you do the pants over it, okay?” Linda explains to Connor through the slatted door.

“Oh. The pants … ?” Connor pauses, trying to work out how things should go. “No, the pants go first.”

“Well, with the bodysuit, you have to snap it down … there,” Linda responds, dropping her voice to a whisper. “It goes on kind of like underwear, all right?”

Eventually, Connor emerges and does a little spin, wearing a getup that would be adorably daring if she were only a decade older and a foot taller. The leggings will have to be bunched up or shoved down into boots. The jacket hangs well over her fingers. Under the jacket, the clothes are a bit snug—not revealing, really, but they cling. Still, the look of sheer ecstasy on Connor’s small face is crushing. To deny her these clothes now would require a resolve few harried parents could muster.

“I like it,” Linda says haltingly. “The plaid and the zebra … it works. Who would have thought?”

Delighted, Connor runs off in search of jewelry.


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