WAYNE - Nicole Boscarino really wanted the dark blue tank top with silver stripes, a low-cut front neckline and open back. It fit perfectly, she thought.
But her mother, Diane Boscarino, wouldn't have it. The shirt was not appropriate, it was too summery. Boscarino, a Paterson teacher who lives with her 14-year-old daughter in Wayne, didn't approve of it for Nicole's school attire.
"It's adorable," Boscarino said. "It's not going on you to school. It's too low. It's too low in front."
Though Nicole admitted that in disagreements over clothing, her mother usually wins, these negotiations for her back-to-school wardrobe were hardly over.
The mother-daughter back-to-school shopping trip is an annual rite in many families – and rife with potential for conflict: generational differences about style, age appropriateness and what's too tight, too short or too revealing for school, not to mention price.
According to the National Retail Foundation, back-to-school spending is expected to reach about $18 billion this year for clothing, accessories, electronics and other merchandise.
The Boscarinos got along well during their recent outing at Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, disagreeing only significantly over the tank-top. Both mother and daughter have learned when to give and just when to take.
"Usually, there's a lot more controversy about what I can or can't wear," Nicole said, in between outfit changes outside a Hollister Co. store dressing room.
"Maybe I'm just learning not to pull things that she won't let me have. So then I don't pick things and fall in love with it."
After an hour or so of trying various combinations of T-shirts and camis (camisoles — thin tank tops that go under everything, Nicole explained) and one short, pleated mini-skirt under which Nicole acknowledged she'd have to wear leggings, the mother-daughter diplomacy turned serious. Nicole had $100 in gift certificates to spend from her July birthday, and her mother said OK to the pink polo and palm-tree-decorated cami combination. But then it came to everything else, blue-and-silver tank included.
Mother: "I don't like it, Nic. I will limit you as to how much you can wear it, so you're not going to wear it much."
Daughter: "You already said that."
Mother: "Nicole, I really don't want you to get that shirt. I'm going to have to pull rank on you."
Daughter (using slick tactic): "If I get another shirt, not this, will you pay for it?"
Mother (acquiescing): "Yes."
"It costs you money, but you have to make deals," Boscarino acknowledged after Nicole went in search of a replacement tee. The total bill came to $250.90.
That was right on target, according to National Retail Foundation statistics. On average, families with school-age children will spend about $232 in 2007 on clothing and accessories.
During a pre-school shopping outing in Passaic, Charmaine Peart and her daughter Brianna, 14, hunted for the perfect sneakers on Main Avenue. Brianna, who will be a freshman at Eastside High School, had her eye on orange Nikes with an $80 price tag. Charmaine said the hardest part of shopping with her daughter was the teenage indecision involved.
"It's hard for me to shop with them because they can never pick what they want," she said. "They have to go to 10 stores." Brianna estimated that, so far, they had visited six stores and come up empty. She wanted to buy the sneakers first, then get clothes to match.
Charmaine, who guessed that she'd spend about $300 on back-to-school apparel for Brianna alone, doesn't try to impose her tastes on her daughter. She knows it would be fruitless.
"I can't really choose for her," she said. "She would never wear it if I pick it out."
Down the street at Expo 2000, Ivette Perez rested against a rack of clothing as her daughter Stephanie, 16, and two cousins browsed through the stores' wares.
Most of the time, Stephanie said, shopping with her mother instead of her friends is fine. But on occasion, it poses a problem.
"The only time it ever matters is if I find something I want to get and she won't let me and I wish she wasn't there," Stephanie said. "Because if I bring it home, I know she won't make me take it back."
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1 - PHOTO - Kevin R. Wexler / Herald News - Stephanie Perez, 16, left, shops for school clothes at Expo 2000 on Main Avenue in Passaic with her cousin Shelly Shockley, 16. Conflicts between parents and children over back-to-school clothes are common this time of year.2 - PHOTO - Leslie Barbaro / Herald News - Nicole Boscarino, 14, and her mother, Diane. "It costs you money, but you have to make deals," Diane says about back-to-school shopping with her daughter.