I grew up in the heyday of juniors clothing. I was in middle school and high school from 2000 to 2007, meaning that I was lucky enough to have Hollister, Abercrombie, dELiA*s, Aeropostale and Limited Too always easily within my reach when I frequented the suburban mall of my early teenage years.
I can't pretend that I wasn't painfully into many (if not all) of the garish fashions these juniors brands inflicted on the populace during those halcyon years. I can remember a specifically questionable denim mini skirt with plaid patches from Abercrombie and multitudes of peasant skirt travesties from Aeropostale that I'd rather not revisit.
After I left home for college and we as a country collectively left the early aughts, the majority of these locations from my youth spent buying Caribou Coffee icy freezes and walking around the mall began to fade into the background (and who am I kidding, most of them lost major amounts of money and are currently in dire financial straits).
Though I did eventually start wearing clothing from the women's sectionstores, as I've gotten older I've found it easier to admit that I'm still drawn to the juniors section, as though I'm being pulled by an invisible thread of teenage nostalgia and mall memories. Obviously, there are pro's and con's to occasionally frequenting the juniors sections as an adult. One huge con is that you do have to sift through many options that scream "teenage girl" before you find something suitable. Additionally, I'm completely aware that juniors sizing is totally different from that of standard women's clothing which precludes it from being an option for many people (myself included on some occasions).
Because I'm taller than your average junior girl, and because my hips are noticeably much wider than they were when I was in high school, I pretty much stay away from all pants, shorts, and skirts in the juniors sections (save for one pair of Target Mossimo black jeggings I have inexplicably had since my junior year of high school that have somehow defied gravity and physics to still fit me. Seriously makes no sense because I've gone up multiple sizes and *I'm on to your witchcraft, Target!*).
That being said, there are many affordable, cute, and downright fashionable options you can find in the juniors sections if you look hard enough. Scroll down for my list of five juniors clothing brands that adults can actually wear.
American Rag is like a baby Free People meets Nasty Gal, but somehow, classier (?). A Macy's exclusive line, I discovered American Rag when I found a perfect denim dress a while ago, only to realize that I was in fact, buying something from the Junior's section. Lucy Hale was a spokesperson for a while, and her adventurous (and sometimes terrible) style on Pretty Little Liars id a good reflection of the clothing types you'll find with American Rag.
There's some trite stuff, but also some great quality finds hidden within the line. Oh, and they also make good, affordable shoes.
So I'm not sure if LF is technically only for juniors? One time, an older woman I used to work with sent around an email letting some of our coworkers know about the semiannual sale at LF. I assumed that her knowledge of the store was due to her teenage daughter, but I was soon proved incorrect when she returned from lunch with a bunch of large LF shopping bags in her arms, raving about all the clothing she had just found for herself. No shame in her game.
I've shopped at LF since I was in my early 20s, and though I definitely go less frequently now, there is no beating their semiannual sales where all of their merchandise (which is normally pretty overpriced), is marked down to up to 75% off. Some of their stuff leans a bit too festival skimpy-chic for my liking, but there are good finds in the store if you know how to look.
Lush is carried most notably at Nordstrom — I cannot wait until Nordstrom finally hits NYC, by the way — and in my opinion it is the perfect juniors line to wear as an adult. The clothes are high quality wardrobe staples, and, though they run a little small, they are mostly suitable for adult wear without anyone being the wiser.
Yes, Amuse Society is another Junior's festival chic clothing line, and yes, I do sometimes gravitate towards those styles (I don't always know why). But, if you can look past the fringe and suede accoutrements of the Amuse Society line, you can find great summer staples like their long flow-y skirts and dresses for pretty affordable prices.
I know what you're thinking, but hear me out — I really hate shopping for swimsuits. Victoria's Secret suits fit me strangely, shopping online is hard, and I don't want to pay over $100 for a suit like you have to at a department store. Enter: Xhilaration Junior's swimsuits at Target.
I've never bought a swimsuit that I actually liked more than the four or five I have from Target. They come in fun colors and mix and match sizes. As a bonus, Xhilaration also has great rompers that hit me right at the romper sweet spot.