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Middle School Girls Know What the First Day of School Is All About: The Outfit

To pull that off, Kristina plans to wear bright, confident colors: A bold green T-shirt with a gray skirt and hot pink leggings. She also has a new pair of see-through Converse sneakers that "change color every time I change my socks," which she hopes will be a conversation-starter with new girls, and maybe even boys, in her classes.

Kristina and her best friend, Julianne Bidus, have been planning their outfits for weeks, modeling in their bedrooms and conferring over video chats. They scoured the mall for ideas, then went to discount stores to find similar looks within their parents' budgets.

"I really didn't want anything too cutesy," said Julianne, 12, who plans to accessorize her bright blue skirt and neon green Converses with peace sign jewelry that subtly tells people she doesn't like petty fights. "It's my first appearance to everyone, so I want to look good. But not like I'm trying too hard."

And fashion includes more than just clothes. Unlike in elementary school, most middle schools allow students to wear flip-flops.

"We're all really excited about it. It's really cool," said Madeleine Tunnard, 12, who will also be a seventh-grader at Frost Middle. Flip-flops are an inexpensive way to add a splash of color to an outfit. A girl might have one pair of sneakers but a bin full of flip-flops.

And then there's lip gloss. Last year at Silver Spring International Middle School, everyone wore lip gloss, said Elia Tzoukermann, 12, who started seventh grade this week.

"I love wearing makeup, but my mom really doesn't let me wear it to school -- but she lets me wear lip gloss," said Elia, who describes her style as "original and eclectic," full of scarves and influenced by her passion for acting.

Lip gloss can have transformative powers, as it did in a Lil Mama music video about a girl who is terrified about going to a new school until her mom gives her a tube of confidence-building lip gloss. Suddenly she is dancing through the hallways, rapping: "My lip gloss is cool, my lip gloss be pop'n. I'm standing at my locker, and all the boys keep stop'n."

Moms are still key fashion advisers for new middle schoolers -- a role they savor, knowing that at any minute they might be pushed away.

Last weekend, Brody Harkless, 11, had to decide what to wear to the first day of sixth grade at Silver Spring International Middle. She laid out four outfits on the floor and then had her mother and aunt vote on which tops and bottoms they liked best. The three finally decided on gray cargo shorts and a black T-shirt that reads "Power to the Planet" in bold white letters.

Turns out, the outfit was perfect and gave Brody the boost of confidence she needed to make friends with a new girl who is in several of her classes.

"She came home and said, 'Middle school is the greatest,' " said her mother, Kelli Harkless. "Luckily, it was a good day and not a come-home-and-cry day."

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