First of all, we first must identify what makes a girl popular. In my daughter’s elementary school years ago, many so-called popular girls were cheerleaders…not because they passed an audition but because they parents paid for summer camp and the uniforms. Anyone could be a cheerleader; apparently it brought instant status to every 10 year old that could shake a pompom. The “super popular” girls were those who wore the most revealing clothes allowed by the school board, such as skimpy skirts and tank tops in the middle of winter. My daughter asked one once, “Aren’t you cold?” to which the other fifth grader replied, “Of course I am-but this looks good.” Sad, isn’t it? The stakes are raised in Junior High. It’s still not about looks or personality as much as power and sexuality- a “really popular” girl posted pictures of herself on Myspace, wearing a shirt with a drawing of hands over her breasts, as well as a suggestion with an arrow pointing downward. Is this what the popular girls are now wearing to make themselves popular?
I have spent a lot of time lecturing (yes, I believe there’s a time and place for it) on the concept of self-respect, standards and other stuff teens don’t wish to hear. But if I didn’t, I’d be remiss in my duty. Meanwhile, dozens of teen flicks abound with mean “popular girls” who contradict our words that their actions are not the way to behave. But, unfortunately, kids are vulnerable, naïve and insecure, and being around others who seem to have no fears of being able to get away with anything is liberating. Even when they badmouth others and connive, popular girls can give off an aura of having a special magic. (Often, it’s just misplaced confidence, super-ego, and bad attitude, but no one will admit it.)
Anyway, for those girls whose goals are to simply look good and fit in, without drawing unnecessary negative attention to themselves, I have the word straight from the horse’s mouth. It will probably differ by the time school resumes in four weeks, but the basics should be the same:
1. Knit shorts of all colors, hitting mid-thigh, with the waistband flipped over to expose the white elastic. (I don’t get it, either, but it’s big with those under the age of 16.)
2. Short skirts with patterns, not flowers…flowers just aren’t cool, apparently.
3. Jeans and capri’s-but not sweatpants or culottes, and definitely not gauchos-ever.
4. Differently patterned tops and bottoms are OK, as long as there’s a color connection.
5. Too much co-ordination is a no-no, like wearing a top that’s basically green with a hoodie in the same shade of green.
6. On that same note, hoodies are in, but cardigans and pullover sweaters are not.
7. Slip on, printed canvas shoes (like Vans) are the thing to wear-it appears that white designer tennis shoes or even simple Ked-like shoes are only for us older folks.
8. Black and white-checked items are really popular. (My daughter has this pattern in a purse, backpack, belt, earrings, and shoes.)
9. Tank tops are considered “hot”. (If your kid has significant cleavage, re-stitch the seam at the tank’s shoulder, bringing the neckline up an inch or so. She may not appreciate it, but there will be less of her for males to appreciate.)
10. Short, barely-there ankle sox are now more desirable than regular crew sox or slouchy socks of the past.
Let me end by saying that not every “popular” kid is badly behaved or spoiled, and they’re not the only ones who end up being successful. In fact, some of the "mean" popular kids’ success in high school is pretty much the high point of their lives; the real world takes a whole lot of acquiescing and humility that never had to be acquired. They may or may not learn that life is not a popularity contest, and it’s a darned good thing that it isn’t. If the people who didn’t win would allow it to affect their lives, there would be millions crying in their beer while the few winners would be trying to run the world. Now that’s a scary thought, isn’t it?