An Adult Shops the Junior Section

11 Oct

I have three problems: I am petite, I am poor, and I love clothes. The last two are only a problem in that they occur simultaneously. I have trouble fitting into and affording real people clothes. But as a 30-year-old mom of a toddler, the day I used to fear in college has arrived—I can’t really pull off dressing like a teenager.

Or can I?

There are certainly looks that, now that I am no longer a birthday enthusiast*, are less than appropriate (narrowing eyes at you, crop tops). But since I am a big shopper on a little budget, I can get my clothing fix much more often and for much less damage by going junior. Besides, the fact of the matter is that my personal style still skews younger, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Well. Maybe an eensy weensy bit abashed—who wouldn’t be, wearing a baby into Hollister?

SOANYWAY let’s jump right in to the advice. Because I am becoming known for writing novel-length posts, I’ll be breaking it up into a series. First, a few nuts and bolts matters.

*To be defined as a person who readily and happily reveals the age they will be on their next birthday, generally caps at 25.

WHERE to shop?

Generally, I prefer to do my junior shopping at places where I can be somewhat inconspicuous—for instance, I avoid most mall stores (exceptions: American Eagle, because their pants fit me well and Forever 21 because I’m not alone). Department and big box stores like Kohl’s, Target, and Macy’s allow you to pretend you simply stumbled into the juniors section by accident. H&M is a great crossover (or would it be hybrid?) store, with something for everyone from 16 to 55. I also think Urban Outfitters still has some good finds, although I only bother at sale season. Discount retailers like TJ Maxx and Marshalls occasionally put lady items in the junior section, and vice versa, so it’s always worth checking. I found one of my favorite trendy pieces—teal skinny jeans—in the junior section at Ross. And I’ll admit, I have found great things at gently used resale stores like Plato’s Closet—they often have designer jeans (Current & Elliot and Joe’s Jeans are two brands I’ve spotted), especially at the locations near ritzy ‘hoods. If you’re a tad self-conscious shopping there, bring a bag of clothes to sell. Even if they don’t take anything, you have an excuse to be there.

HOW to shop?

Five things to be aware of on junior items:

  1. Fabric. Many junior items are inexpensive because they’re made of cobwebs. Or they might as well be.  Press your hand on the inside of the shirt. Can you see your skin through the knit? If yes, then NO. (Exception: silk blouses that are intentionally sheer). Check the hems and sleeves. Errant strings and loose stitching? NO.
  2. Size. Do you remember 5-7-9, the store that only carried sizes 5, 7, and 9? In real life those sizes would have been 0, 1, and 3. Junior sizing runs capriciously small, so expect to fit in items a few integers to the right of your “real” size.<—Is there any such thing?  Aside: while you’re looking at the tag, check the garment care directions and cross your fingers for machine washable.
  3. Structure. There are plenty of us mommies (me included) who like to go a bit loose on top to avoid sucking in all day. You know what I’m talking about. But when junior-section shopping, I find it best to skew towards structured details. Look for things like darts, pleats, and buttons.  Hint: Color-blocking can sort of fake a structured look and is a great junior purchase.
  4. Shiny. Extreme bedazzling, fabrics that look like tinsel-blend, and all that glitters is usually (though not always) veering into Disney Chanel territory. Litmus test: ask the nearest 4-year-old girl if she would wear it herself.
  5. Hemlines. Even for a vertically challenged individual, some minis, dresses, and short-shorts are just too short for public consumption. It’s a tragic development for those of us who have always liked showing the gam skin. Fortunately for me and my still-never-worn black sequin mini, leggings and opaque tights can make some of these pieces wearable (just keep them out of the office).

Coming up: let’s get visual, visual. I’ll show you exactly what to look for and what to avoid like the plague a Justin Bieber concert.


One Response to “An Adult Shops the Junior Section”


  1. An Adult Shops the Junior Section, Part Deux | Cushion Cut - October 18, 2013

    […] second installation in our series, let’s focus […]

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