Teen PartyThirteenth birthdays are a big deal. It’s when “kids” become “teenagers,” and they get more grown-up privileges. They get to stay up later, go places on their own, get a Facebook account (legally), and have more freedom in what they wear.

I noticed that last privilege on full display last weekend. I was at a bowling alley in New York City, where a massive thirteenth birthday party was taking place. As the kids, er, teens moved from the bowling lanes to the dance floor to the fun house, my friends and I couldn’t help but comment on how they chose to dress.

The guys were typically dressed, mostly in button-downs and khakis with a few t-shirts and jeans in the mix — outfits that would have been as normal on a school day as on a Friday night. The girls, however, had put on their “finest” for going out on the town. Some outfits were similar to what my friends in their late 20s might wear, but most were tight and daringly revealing for 13 year olds. Add to that glittering makeup and jewelry, and they were doing their best to pass for sexy-yet-sophisticated young women…erring far more on the side of sexy than sophisticated.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at the girls’ outfits based on the findings from a recent Ypulse Report on student fashion. Teen girls are more likely than their college-aged counterparts to describe their fashion sense as stylish, girly, and trendy. Moreover, teen girls (23%) are as likely as college girls (22%) to say they dress sexy, and they’re more likely to say they dress risqué (8% vs. 5%).

Teen girls (48%) are also more likely than college girls (38%) to say their style is “a little bit of everything.” Teen years are a time for young people to experiment with their look and try on different personas with each outfit. For many of the party-goers, it may have been their first chance to dress (and try to act) like a grown-up woman…or rather how they thought a grown-up woman would dress for a party. It’s more than a little disturbing that they equate that with “sexy.”

But, on a typical day, however, teen girls describe their style as cute (63%) and basic (56%). Not surprisingly, teen guys most commonly describe their style as simple (67%) and basic (54%), which seems to apply regardless of whether they’re going out on the town.

No doubt some girls will look back on photos from last weekend and regret having picked out those particular dresses, but then again, most of us have felt that way looking back at photos of our teenage selves. Taking risks and making mistakes is all part of the process of growing up.