Trends among teenage girls are an ever-changing hellscape. Even millennials — people who are not that old, thank you — can have trouble navigating the world that’s ruled by TikTok and seemingly untouched by The Awkward Phase.
Funneling those trends into a gift that she’ll like and use for longer than a month seems nearly impossible. But you know who does get teenage girls? Other teenage girls. We asked our families, polled our staff, and scoured the internet to see what the teenage girls have on their holiday lists.
When the same items started to pop up frequently, it became obvious that, for example, the VSCO girl lifestyle wasn’t just a meme left to die in 2019. Thanks to social media influencers promoting products directly to teens on Instagram and TikTok, Gen Z girls are loyal to a defined handful of brands and have very specific aesthetic goals. They don’t just want workout gear, they want Lululemon leggings. They don’t just want skincare products, they want serums from The Ordinary. They don’t just want a reusable water bottle, they want a Hydro Flask.
Some things about a teen girl’s must-haves stay the same over the years. The youths love Apple. AirPods or an Apple Watch was on nearly every list we saw, regardless of age. Nike and Lululemon hold their positions at the top of the clothing list.
Vintage styles also maintained their stronghold. Levi’s jeans, record players, instant cameras, and roller skates are all still winning ideas. No one frothing over the AirPods in 2018 would have guessed that some (only some) Gen Z members would be crowning wired headphones as cooler than Bluetooth ones, but here we are.
Preteens and teenagers under driving age swayed toward gifts that allowed them to feel self-sufficient. Three of our respondents — Audrey, 13, Lauren, 15, and Natalie, 15, who are all daughters of friends and coworkers — confirmed this. All of the girls had relatively short lists, but Starbucks, Sephora, and Ulta gift cards all made the cut on each.
In the DIY realm, crafts and other projects made some appearances. One respondent, 13-year-old Kieran, wants to be able to make boba at home.
Older girls also mentioned gift cards, but their lists were more focused on college and self-care. We saw requests for room decor, like lights and candles, as well as skincare.
Here are the best gifts for teenage girls in 2021: