Musings + Essays

Gifts for Teens + Other Random Round-Ups from Reader Questions.

By: Jen Shoop

I’ve recently had occasion to do research in answer to a number of diverse lines of inquiry — for myself, for friends, for readers.  (P.S. — Please send me your questions at; I love receiving them and try to answer every single one as promptly as I can!)

So, I thought I’d share this assorted fruit plate with you today…

Q: What are some ideas for gifts for teenagers?  I have no clue but need to get a gift for my niece!

A:  I feel as though several of the gifts I raved about here would be good options for a teenager;  I remember reading Vogue and Elle when I was fourteen or fifteen and lusting after so many of the luxury items listed there — I’d have liked to be gifted as though I was an adult!  A couple of other items I’ve dog-eared that feel youthful but fashionable: this fun watch, this neon duffel (for the athletically inclined — perfect for a skiier or snowboarder!), one of these brightly colored totes, or a fun makeup set by a good brand like Nars (what teenager doesn’t love to experiment with makeup?! and high-end makeup to boot!  I was into Wet + Wild back in the day because it was all I could afford but would have loved something from Nars or Dior).  If you have a sense for the teenager’s style and this works, I feel like something retro-chic in the athleisure department would go a long way (like this throwback Champion sweatshirt) or these Kenzo pool slides — or, for the preppier set, a Lilly tote (cute!) or a monogrammed cosmetic bag.

Finally: I remember receiving a few amazing gifts from Tiffany from my parents and good friends when I was a teen and feeling like a million bucks.  This bracelet or these earrings would be such lavish but teen-appropriate gifts!

P.S.  Gift wrap ideas!  I love the look above — someone painted those bows on kraft paper!  Going to try that next year.

Q: I’m so bored of Hunter boots, but need some rain boots.  Ideas?

A: While I’ll never cede my Hunters, I hear ya.  Too #basic?  I eyed these for a long while (so edgy and chic! — available on super sale in select sizes here) and I also love these.

And this is the best umbrella ever.  Mine recently broke after years of (ab-)use and I sent it in and they repaired it for me free of charge.  Le best.

Q: I need outfits for wedding-related events — bachelorette, shower, and rehearsal dinner — and have no idea what I’m doing.  There’s so much pressure!

A:  AHHH I know.  I opted for white/ivory for all of these events, so my thoughts would be: this darling Milly dress (those bows!); this stunning, of-the-moment dress; this semi-flashy Rebecca Valance (on sale!); and this once-in-a-lifetime silk jumpsuit.  Also: thank God kitten/midi-heels are in right now (sorry, Jen Schuf), because these would be darling and comfortable with any warm-weather bridal look!

Q: I want to invest in a great pair of flats for work.  I don’t want anything super-trendy because I work in a traditional workplace.  What would you buy?

A:  You can’t go wrong with a timeless Chanel flat in an everyday color like beige, gray, or black.  I haven’t purchased a pair yet, but I’ve heard wonderful things about Margaux’s styles, which nail the Chanel look for less.  I personally feel that a pointed toe is always in vogue, so I might also opt for these stunning Pradas in nude.  I can’t imagine a look they wouldn’t go with!  Finally, I have long felt that if I worked in a more traditional setting, I’d invest in a pair of these, equally at home with a sheath dress as they would be with a pair of pixie pants.

Q: I’m stuck in a fashion rut.  I feel really self-conscious wearing anything too trendy but wear the same old sweater and jeans look all the time.  Do you have any suggestions?

A: Ahhh I know what you mean.  I shared some trendier looks I’m obsessed with recently, but if none of those float your boat, what about an edgier floral statement top like this or this (both under $100).  I love how a statement top can transform your favorite lived-in jeans and go-to-flats/booties into something fresh to death.  SWISHHHH, girl.  Or try a pair of jeans that are a cut slightly outside your comfort zone, like these Levi’s (under $100).  (You’ll note that when I’m testing a trend I typically try to err on the side of caution by limiting the spend!)  When I’m feeling super stale, I troll Pixie Market and Reformation for trendier styles with great styling.

Finally: my little secret for feeling fashion forward when I’m in a rut is dressing monochromatically or matchy-matchy.  Think about wearing a camel sweater with camel pixie pants — WOW.  In a rut myself, I just ordered an all-pink look for Valentine’s Day: these cigarette pants in the pink, and if they don’t fit, I’ll invest in a pair of these, and this sweater.  Alternately, go for a Candian tuxedo — I have and love this shirt (a super lightweight so it’s easy to tuck in) and would pair it with any denim wash.  Purists will say you need to have contrasting denim colors or you’ll look weird, but I’ve seen tone on tone chambray work perfectly.  Or go print on print with this blouse and this skirt.

Q: I just got back from my 36 week appointment and it sounds like I’m in the same situation you were in about a year ago. Baby girl is breech AND I have high blood pressure so I’m looking at a c-section in about 2 weeks. I would love ANY and ALL advice you have on every aspect of having a c-section and recovering from one. 

A: I can completely relate to how you feel, and I shared some of my thoughts when I discovered mini was breech here.  My emotions ranged from disappointment (I’d so wanted to rush off to the hospital in a heady rush of excitement, and to experience labor — it seemed like a rite of passage!) to anxiety.  But anyway, here are some thoughts now that I’m nearly a year out from mini’s birth (!):

First — you can do this!!!!  You are so much stronger and braver than you think; trust that in a few weeks’ time, you’ll look back and be so proud of yourself — and you’ll have the sweetest baby to love, too.

Second — let’s be real.  It’s not all sunshine and rose petals.  I remember the crazy mixture of nerves, fear, and excitement that made those few weeks leading up to the delivery almost unbearable.  Hang in there and make space for all of those emotions.  Go easy on yourself.
Third — I enumerated some practical tips on recovering from a c-section here, including what to order in advance.  To this comprehensive list, I would also add:
a)  Buy a step stool so that you can get into and out of bed easily.  I hadn’t thought about this, but I’m so glad we had one at home already — I don’t know how I’d have done it without it!
b)  If you have stairs in your house, go easy on yourself.  The doctors said to avoid stairs unless absolutely necessary, but I still went up and down them a few times a day (oops).  I was so frustrated the first day or two, when I’d be weak and woozy in ascent, and I remember bursting into tears midway up the stairs one time, annoyed with myself and my body.  Mr. Magpie was very firm about this: “Take.your.time.”  Take breaks!  Go super easy on yourself!  Everyday tasks are going to take more time.  Period.
Most importantly: every day will get easier and easier.  It gets better and better.  Trust that.  I remember thinking maybe five days in: “will I ever feel better?!”  YES.  YOU WILL.
A few of my friends had told me to stay on the pain medication schedule TO THE LETTER.  So I did.  I have no idea what it would have been like had I not, but I’ll just pass that little nugget along.  As my friend said: “You don’t need to be a hero and deny pain meds.  You already are one — you just had a baby.”
Sending lots of love and support!!!
Q:  Where do you buy cute kids’ swimsuits?
I am obsessed (!!!) with Sal E Pimenta and have bought several of their suits for mini.  (Also sold here, potentially with cheaper shipping.)  I love their sweet prints and bow details — very much my style.  I also love the monogrammable styles at Cecil + Lou — mini wore this one last season, and I’m eyeing this one now.  I was also eyeing these cute long-sleeved styles from Cover, which boast a built-in SPF!!!  For rash guard style suits, check out Boden.  Random, but I love the swimsuit print suits here and here.  Finally, if you want to splurge, check out the precious suits from Marysia and Minnow.

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8 thoughts on “Gifts for Teens + Other Random Round-Ups from Reader Questions.

  1. Love your suggestions for teens. I agree that many teens — maybe I’m speaking about the teen I once was? — would be endlessly pleased with “adult” gifts. And co-sign on the makeup palettes and Tiffany jewels … definitely two of my fondest gift memories as a teen!

    (I also still have my two enormous, monogrammed L.L. Bean duffels that have come in handy when moving house in my adult life!)

  2. For teenagers : Herschel or Fjällräven Kånken backpacks. Glossier makeup and Vans or Converse . Brandy Melville gift cards too . Trust me I work at an LA private middle and high school! Also Urban Outfitters. and Reformation are very popular!

  3. Another idea for teenagers is a movie pass subscription. My kids are making full use of it with friends. For 9.95 a month, they can see unlimited movies. It’s really coming in handy during these cold winter months when outdoor activities are limited.

    1. GREAT idea. I just realized I only listed ideas for girls — this and Kate’s idea below are wonderful for any gender!

  4. I have five teenage nieces and one nephew. I almost always go with makeup/skincare for the girls. It’s a hit! This year I bought a bunch of different facemasks and divvied them out. The girls had fun trading on Christmas morning, and they have all posted a selfie with a mask on. My nephew just wants athletic gear. Last year we got him a few pairs of Nike ID basketball socks and that was a huge hit.

    For graduation gifts, I like what my mom does. She either buys monogrammed towel sets from Landsend or those huge monogrammed duffles from LL Bean. All my friends still have their duffles!

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