Juniors' vs. Girls' Clothing: What's the Difference?


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For tweens, getting to shop in the juniors' clothing section is a big deal. Finally! You get to shop somewhere with music that doesn't embarrass you and try on clothes in a fitting room that doesn't also include a diaper changing station. It's a milestone. And for parents, too. But what exactly is "juniors' clothing"? How is it different from "misses" or larger sizes in the girls' section? And when will your daughter be ready to hit the juniors' department? Here, we demystify the concept for you.

As you already guessed, juniors' clothing (AKA "junior" or "junior girls") is essentially for teenage girls, "but can span a little on either side from preteens into 20-somethings," explains Diane Pollack, a former clothing designer who is now a wardrobe consultant and personal shopper in New York City.

If your daughter's wearing a 14 and 16 in girls' clothing, she can probably also fit into juniors', since there's some overlap in sizing. But since juniors' clothes are made for young women who are "developing," expect to find clothing that's slimmer around the hips and chest and looks more "grown up."

Knowing when to move to juniors is as much about emotional maturity as it is about size, says Pollack. Gone are T-shirts and jeans festooned with little hearts or friendly animals. Prepare for edgier graphics such as skulls.

"Just as junior high is a transitional stage," Pollack says, "so is 'junior' clothing, when a girl starts to want 'cooler' and 'trendier' clothes vs. dressing 'cute.'"

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And no, your daughter's not just saying this to make you feel bad: juniors' clothing really is hipper than what the rest of us wear. "Junior styles are extremely trend-driven and change quickly to keep up," says Pollack.

If Ariana Grande performed in a lace bralet and peplum skirt at the last award show, you'll see multiple versions for sale in the juniors' department soon after. "You'll also find more colorful crop tops, ripped jeans, and tulle dresses," says Alexandra Orietta, manager of programs at Dignity U Wear, a nonprofit that donates clothing from the apparel industry to children and their families in need. 

Because all trends come with an expiration date, juniors' clothing "is usually available at very low prices," says Pollack, "but it's also usually lower in quality." (Especially compared to adult, or "misses," clothing that's made to be worn year after year.)

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Another big difference between juniors' clothing and the "misses" we moms wear: juniors are sized in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, etc.) while "adult" sizes are even.

But we'll let you in on a little secret. "There are size equivalents," Orietta says. And it's surprisingly small -- just about one size, depending on the manufacturer. If you normally wear a women's 9, you'll probably fit into an 11 or 13 in juniors. (That said, whether you want to wear a lace bralet and peplum skirt is entirely up to you.)

So what about boys? Do they have a juniors' section, too? Nope. Although some manufacturers may advertise separates for "big boys" or "guys," in reality, "they just go from wearing an XL in boys' clothing to a small in men's," says Orietta.