My 13 year old stepdaughter dresses herself in ratty clothes for school and cares nothing about her appearance. I'm having a difficult time getting her to understand that she needs to dress more appropriately and that t-shirts aren't the only things you wear to school. Her mom has never been in the picture and her Dad has done the best he can, but I think he allowed her to start dressing herself at too young of an age and she really doesn't care about how she looks or smells. I don't want her to become known as the "smelly, homeless looking girl" in school. How do I get her to start caring about her appearance? Am I being too overbearing?

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Shawnn - posted on 08/22/2012

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Well, I do understand!

My requirement for my kids was that they be dressed respectably. Nice t-shirts, and non holey jeans were a requirement. They both have their "dress clothes", and they've always known that they need to dress appropriately for family events (Button up shirt, nice, newer jeans or slacks)

I don't think that you asking her to be more presentable for family gatherings is out of line, but be careful how far and hard you push at this point. Her dad needs to be on board and supportive in this. Without her mom being in the picture too much, she hasn't had much of a female example until you got there.

How about this: You buy her a couple of nice outfits. Stipulate that these are for family occasions, or in the event that she's invited to something that requires a dress-casual code. Bend a little on the day to day outfits, but definitely put your foot down on the 2-3 days in a row wearing of items. A good guideline that we've followed is that jeans or pants can be worn 2 days, 3 if they aren't showing visible dirt. Shirts, underwear and socks need to be clean each day, and no visible holes if wearing shirt to school.

Don't pick outfits "for" her. She's old enough to have an opinion in what she likes, and what she's comfortable in. Let her help decide on her "good" outfits, and don't force the whole dress and nylons bit, keep it low key with slacks, perhaps a casual skirt, and nice tops. Maybe a "Casey and daughter" shopping trip, complete with a lunch in there would help. You can let her know that she's a beautiful young lady, and that you'd like to see some of that beauty shine through.

Also, at 13, she's experiencing a lot of body changes, and my not be entirely comfortable with everything. Make sure that you are supportive, and understanding, and that she knows she can call on you for anything.

Good luck, and I hope i didn't ramble too much...

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Shawnn - posted on 08/22/2012

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Casey, it sounds like you're on the right track, and you just need reassurance that you're doing OK!

Girl, you're approaching this just perfectly.

As far as shoes...Most of the girls I know are more comfy in sneakers, but then again, there are those few who only want flipflops, or things like that. A loafer as a casual dress option is a good way to go.

I love the idea of you both trying on things just to see what they're like. Perhaps have her pick something for you to try on, etc. It sounds like you really have a good handle on this, and that you're moving forward.

Casey - posted on 08/22/2012

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Shawnn, thanks for you advice. But an FYI, I don't force skirts/dresses on her at all unless it is a dressy event normally if we go into the city for the theater (which she loves). She's very uncomfortable in them, as well as anything that has frills or glitter. So, she knows I would never ask her to wear something like that unless it was for a special occasion.

The only other female example Jess has had in her life is her Nonna and they absolutely adore each other, which is really great to see. But of course Nonna has only had so much influence on Jess' life because she hasn't been there everyday.

We are having a shopping excursion this weekend and I know she's nervous about it...as I am. But I try to get her to have some fun with it too, such as trying something on that she normally wouldn't wear, just to be goofy. She's very uptight and I want her to relax and just have some fun with it. I try on clothes that I normally wouldn't wear as well to make it more comfortable.

I am also planning to start to show her how to do her hair because she normally likes it parted down the middle and plastered to her face. She has such a natural beauty and big curls in her hair that most women would die for. I told her that we're just going to try a few different styles, take some pictures and then when she's more comfortable at trying something different with her hair she'll have some examples to work from. Getting her to wear a ponytail for softball was absolute torture and she sometimes broke down in tears, which I think was just her hormones. But she's coming around to it and that's what I've noticed with her. If you present an idea to her that she rejects at first I tell her to think about it for a little while. She'll take a day or two, will come back to me and normally she's considered the idea with possible compromises, which is something I have always told her as well. There's always room for compromise.

Here's another question, if you have experience with it and some advice. Do girls ever wear anything besides sneakers to school? I see all these great shoes for girls to wear but I know Jess wouldn't go near them. We've compromised to her having at least a pair of loafers for a casual/dress shoe. Thanks again!

Casey - posted on 08/22/2012

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No I do not live in an upscale neighborhood. But I do see in the stores we shop at more stylish clothing then what my stepdaughter is wearing. So, I guess if all kids are wearing "ratty" clothes, then these companies probably aren't making much money on their nicer items. I don't mind a nice pair of jeans with a cute top (I would rather she wear that), but wanting to wear the same t-shirt 2-3 times in a week is not what I consider appropriate. I'm also new to being a full-time stepmom. We've been living together for almost a year now and I just want her to understand that looking appropriate instead of slobby isn't a bad thing. If we go to a family event I'm not about to have her wear the clothes she now wears to school, so am I supposed to just buy an outfit for that 1 event that she'll never wear again? We don't have that money to waste. Once again, I'm new to parenting and it just becomes annoying to see clothing that looks great on her collect dust in her closet until it doesn't fit anymore.

Shawnn - posted on 08/22/2012

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Casey, are you in some upscale neighborhood? I don't understand your sentiment that "t-shirts aren't the only things you wear to school", considering that t-shirts and jeans have ALWAYS been a teen staple as far as clothing goes.

Have you looked at other kids her age? Have you noticed that most of them dress like homeless people? Usually the ones wearing blouses and skirts are the extremely controlled kids, or the ones considered to be geeks/nerds. And, in case you haven't noticed, they sell the "ratty" look as brand new these days, ripped jeans, torn shirts, etc. Just look at any teen store.

I agree on the hygiene issues, no one wants a stinky classmate, boy or girl, but as far as her dressing "ratty"...if there's not a school policy restricting what is allowable, you're not really going to make much progress.

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