A basic wardrobe helps eliminate complaints by teens of nothing to wear.

How to Help Teens Develop a Basic Wardrobe

by Lee Grayson

Teenagers spend their own and parents' money to buy clothing. A 2011 Northwestern Mutual Foundation poll found that the majority of teens make impulse purchases with money meant for savings. These quick shopping decisions and the lack of basic wardrobe planning mean adolescents frequently end up with a closet full of exciting purchases, but fail to have a choice of basic fashion items to coordinate. This void requires shopping to complete a basic outfit or buying new clothes for a specific event. A basic wardrobe allows teens to have a core of adaptable clothing to meet any function or activity. Teens can then spend time and money on clothing accessories to update the core wardrobe each year.

Make basic wardrobe planning an annual event since teenagers frequently outgrow clothing during the year. Teen boys may need a quarterly wardrobe assessment after growth spurts for clothes to fit properly throughout the year.

Discuss clothing essentials with your teen and develop a written list of basic wardrobe needs. Divide the list into footwear, items worn on top of the body, articles worn on the bottom and underwear. List outerwear, such as coats, for teens living in cool climates.

Develop a written Itemized list of your teen's current clothing selection by making an inventory of the clothing currently in the closet and drawers.

Identify gaps in your teen's current wardrobe using the clothing essentials list and the current inventory of clothing.

Ask the teen to make a list of items needed to fill in the wardrobe gaps.

Make a wardrobe budget using the teen's available savings and income, and funds available from parents.

Discuss wardrobe needs versus clothing desires with the teen to determine the necessary purchases to create the basic wardrobe.

Price the wardrobe items targeted as "necessary" and use the budget to determine a hierarchy for new clothing purchases. Teens can be acutely fashion-conscious, but direct the conversation to focus on the function of the clothing item rather than buying items with company branding or designer labels. This allows your teen to buy more clothing with the budgeted dollars.


  • Many fashion magazines provide a basic list of wardrobe recommendations.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

Photo Credits

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