Tween Sewing Survival Guide + Photo Shoot

Tween Sewing Survival Guide + Photo Shoot

While I’m sharing tips about tween sewing; please enjoy this photo-shoot. The girls brought their favorite outfits and accessories and modeled them just for this post. They designed several tween “looks” for you. For the integrity of the shoot, it was important to me that there weren’t adult opinions and preferences influencing their fashion choices. I’m referring especially to my daughter in the basketball jersey and fur vest, below. It’s very Flava Flav. She just needs a clock and a helmet. And that’s okay with me.

Tween sewing is a whole different ball game than little kid sewing. Tweenagers can be ruthlessly picky about clothing. Many are becoming body conscious for the first time, asserting their independence, and developing their sense of self. Fashion is a pretty big deal.

I’m happy when my daughter is comfortable, can express herself, and feels great in her clothing. This summer I made it my mission to stop committing crimes against fashion, and sew some wearable clothing for my brat.

Do your tween sewing projects end up in the closet, never to be seen again? You’re already on dork status and you didn’t even know. Luckily for me, my daughter leaves me with no doubt where I rank in coolness.

If I sketch a design she doesn’t like:

“Mommy, that’s hideous. I’d rather die than wear it.
Seriously, ew.”

If I make something without consulting her, she tries really hard to offer constructive critism.

“I like it, except the parts that look like a pilgrim. If you tried a different pattern with different fabric, it would be perfect!”

Don’t worry! If your kid has put you on fashion probation, I can help you! I’m just transitioning from little girl sizes into big kid stuff, but I’m picking up fast. Here are some things I’ve learned about tween sewing.

How To Shop For Patterns

Retailers don’t order as many tween sewing patterns since they are less in demand. Chain businesses like Hobby Lobby & Joanns have little or no control over inventory. Patterns are ordered before the beginning of each season’s release; and they don’t typically re-order until the next season.

The mega sales at Hobby Lobby and JoAnns are the best deals you’ll find, so get there before they get picked over.

Independent shops can’t always do the huge sales, but can often order with you in mind. Get friendly with whoever runs the place, and let them know what you’re looking for.

Don’t be afraid of used patterns online. A lot of them are timeless, even if the illustration is dated. I don’t show Bella a pattern illustration if its nerdy looking or its a younger girl. I sketch them out instead, otherwise she’d shut me down before I start.

More PDF designers are drafting tween sewing patterns. We don’t have a huge selection anywhere, but indie pattern companies are starting to close the gap. Check out my Tween Pattern MasterList page!

Junior/Tween Fashion vs. Women’s Fashion

Fashion trends are dictated by current events, the economy, art, and politics. These trends are translated onto runways around the world.

Then, runway fashion is made into couture, one of a kind items that are custom made and tailored to fit the purchaser. This is called avant garde. Very wealthy and famous people get to wear this stuff.

Avant garde and runway fashions are translated into ready-to-wear: garments that are purchased in stores. There’s designer and knock off RTW and it comes in all different price ranges and quality levels. Some people call ready-to-wear “off the rack”. (We’re just trying to sound fancy.) I promise there’s a point, keep reading….

So fashion trends take a while to trickle into stores. But RTW to wear for tweens, teens, and junior sizes (typically) employ a different marketing strategy than women’s wear. For one thing, the consumer who buys “younger” clothing tends to have less disposable income. That means their clothing is made cheaper, priced cheaper, and don’t hold up as well. It is meant to be purchased and replaced more often, allowing trends trends move faster. That means tween styles aren’t consistent. Texture, palette, and design elements change lighting fast within this demographic.

You’ll need a good selection of “staple” patterns to keep up. Basic designs with a lot of variations or that can be easily modified are gold.

Style: Classic & Trendy

Classic style garments don’t go out of style quickly. It’s a shape or silhouette…like an a-line dress or fitted blazer. It’s your little black dress that you’ve worn for ten years…and you’ll wear for another 10.

Trendy garments are what’s hot right now. It’s a color or print; like neon and tribal prints the last couple years. Shoulder pads in the 80s were a trend. Stirrup pants in the 90s. Trends are fast!

To sew a successful tween wardrobe, you need both classic and trendy styles. You can use a classic pattern with trendy fabric or embellishments. An edgy garment can look great in a subdued fabric or classic print.

You need to be able to identify styles and shop accordingly for patterns, fabric, and notions. My advice for patterns is to invest in classic patterns that can be used for a long time. Don’t be afraid to splurge on trendy patterns, but get them on sale.

A great stretch denim or classic striped knit will be in style forever. Tweens also love trendy fabric (like mustaches, is that finally over?) For trendy fabric purchases, I recommend having a specific project in mind, using it quickly, and not buying extra yardage.

For examples of trendy and classic patterns, check out my McCalls Tween Pattern Review!

Essential Sewing Skills

Sew with knits. If you’ve been putting it off, learn. Stretchy fabric is essential for the tween wardrobe. Tweens aren’t going to wear as many wovens. Kiss your cute peasant dress sewing days goodbye.

Learn to install a zip fly. Elastic waists aren’t always going to cut it. I’ve tried zip flys twice; & failed miserably both times. But I know I’ve got to try again until I get it right.

Learn some basic pattern adjustments. A common alteration needed for commercial patterns is the rise in pants, especially for girls. Some of them develop hips early, have a long torso, or junk in the trunk. Rise adjustments can fix all kinds of fit issues.

Double Needle Stitching. Tweens wear lots of jeans and t-shirts. No matter what their style, jeans and tees are in the dress code. Jeans require top stitching, and twin needles will take them to the next level. If you can afford a cover stitch machine, get one. They are fabulous for knits! If not, twin needles will help your projects look pro.

A Couple More Tips for Tween Fashion Sewing

Don’t hoard your expensive/designer fabric. Use it on the stuff they wear a lot, not just special occasion clothes. Don’t feel like you’re wasting that fancy fabric on a simple project. If it gets worn, it’s not a waste!

Know fashion. You don’t have to be a fashy to know what’s going on. Pay attention to what your kid wears a lot. Look at what their friends wear. Read clothing catalogues. Watch one of those teeny bop shows, and ask your tweenager her opinion on the characters’ styles.

Be open minded. You know what store I hate for tween clothing? Abercrombie. My kid won’t be wearing crop tops, hanging her buttcrack out, or sporting sexy catch phrases on her booty. I don’t mind copying the little details though. I can steal some of the cool elements but make it age appropriate.

Have a heart of steel. It took a lot of eyeball rolls and unworn garments to learn how to make stuff my daughter loves. (I now require her to sign a consent form before I sew.) I never let my disappointment or hurt feelings show though-I don’t want her to filter thoughts for my sake. I hope she can always be honest with me. It’s only clothes now; later there will be boys. Oh God.

Know your kid. When Bella was littler, I made her clothes that I liked. She didn’t care what she wore, and I had freedom. My selfish sewing days are over though…

It’s getting harder to get her in a dress, but if I’m so lucky, the length is important. If it’s below knee length, she swears she looks Amish, and if it’s more than an inch above the knee she feels uncomfortable. She won’t wear a keyhole or cut-out, anything wool or sweater-like near her skin, baby pink, floral, or girly. Seam allowances must be tiny and bulk free. etc. etc.

Her list goes on and on, but if you sew, you have control of design, fit, and comfort. Store bought clothing could care less where Bella’s knees are, or if she has sensitive skin. But I can do that for her. Meeting all her (diva-like) demands turns a mommy made garment into avant garde. And that makes me cool:)

If you have tween sewing tips or advice please share! Follow the Tween Fashion Sewing board on Pinterest; and let me know if you’d like to pin with us. We share posts, patterns, tips, and fashion inspiration there. Tweens are a tricky group to sew for…I think we need each other!

About The Author

Amy Mayen

Hello. I'm Amy and I'm addicted to sewing. I borderline-hoard fabric, buttons, & patterns. Sometimes I wish I could pile my fabric up on the floor and just roll in it!


  1. Rebeccafaith

    There are so many gems in this post I cant even compute it. Dork status, gotta be “fashy,” fashion probation, it’s just too good!!! Bella & her bff are so cute together! I can tell they probably giggle a lot amongst each other.
    Rebeccafaith recently posted…A Parent’s List: 5 Words That Hit HomeMy Profile

  2. ingrid@nowathomemom

    Hi, Amy, the girls did a great job modeling the clothing and your daughter looks adorable in the picture crossing her arms :-) loved the post very much even if I don’t have a tween, you have great tips! :-) hope you are having a lovely evening :-)
    ingrid@nowathomemom recently posted…Paper Mache Deer HeadMy Profile

  3. Mel

    ““I like it, except the parts that look like a pilgrim.” OMG that’s hilarious she is one tough customer LOL I think I am going to do some knit practise over summer and iron out the kinks before Winter hits :)
    Mel recently posted…Paper Straw StarsMy Profile

  4. Kelley

    This made me laugh and I dont have a tween or sew outfits for my littles. My daughter is 3 and I think she would give me attitude about what Im making her if I did. Shes very sassy. Ha! The girls looked like they loved the fashion show!
    Kelley recently posted…What I’m LovingMy Profile

  5. Pam @Threading My Way

    A FABULOUS post, Amy… full of oh so sensible and practical suggestions. A heart of steel… definitely my downfall… I just know I used to let my disappointment show through, but I totally agree with your point. I had better make the most of the selfish sewing I’m now able to do, as it won’t last long. I just love how you added humour to this post!!!
    Pam @Threading My Way recently posted…Fabric Basket with Drawstring Top ~ Tutorial…My Profile

  6. Diana Rambles

    Lot it. Your fashion models are so cute! I love their clothing choices. People should be able to wear what they want…not conform to what is acceptable. I love how they each show their own style!!!

    Diana Rambles recently posted…Pin Me Linky Party 62My Profile

  7. Amy of while wearing heels

    What a fun post to read. I’m a little afraid of what’s to come with my own little one :). And, stirrups, I remember them well. I loved reading your daughter’s responses to things you have sketched or made. How funny. One day, she is really going to appreciate that she has her own personal seamstress to make her one of a kind, unique beautifully made things…though, I am sure she appreciates it now…one day it will really mean something special.
    Amy of while wearing heels recently posted…Sweater Star Christmas Tree Topper TutorialMy Profile


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