We have all had that moment. That moment when your daughter walks out of her room and you say “NO WAY are you leaving the house dressed like that!” Maybe it was shorts on a snowy day, or grungy play clothes for a fancy dinner — in which case, consider yourself lucky! Even if your daughter didn’t like it, it was hard to argue with “it’s too cold for that” or “those clothes aren’t appropriate for our destination.” Those are concrete facts. But when she appears in a low-cut top or too-short shorts — what will you tell her then?
Let’s be honest, no parent has ever loved the more racy styles her teen daughter has found so fetch. For generations mothers and daughters have butted heads about wardrobe choices, and today’s skimpier pieces are causing parents everywhere to consider what is appropriate for their girls.
For all of the wonderful ideas our new brand of feminism has brought us — hello equal pay for equal work! — there are a few that might need some further discussion. A prevailing thought is that it is a girl’s right to wear whatever she wants, no matter how revealing, and how others react is no concern of hers. In an ideal world, that would be true. But we all know we exist in a time that is far short of perfection.
We all make snap judgments about others in milliseconds — without even knowing it! Our perception and intuition work together to tell us if someone is trustworthy or if a situation is dangerous — our brains are doing this work before we have a chance to think it through. This even applies to our clothes, and no matter how far we have come, revealing clothes can still lead others to assume the wearer is looking for attention or is promiscuous. And that is absolutely the LAST thing we want for our tween and teen girls!
This can lead to some major disagreements with our daughters, especially since our culture advocates skimpy clothing as a the new brand of girl power. Kim Kardashian says you own your right to show what you want, and it’s not for anyone else but yourself. (If that’s the case, then why showcase it for throngs of followers on social media?)
It’s a slippery slope for sure, but the bottom line is that as the parents, WE have to teach and model the behavior we want our children to imitate, and this includes clothing. After all, some younger girls choose more provocative styles simply because it’s what models or celebrities are wearing, but they don’t understand that it is too revealing or meant to be sexy.
So how do we address the dress? Sit down with your daughter and a couple of fashion mags for teens. Flip through the pages and notice the styles and poses of the models.
Ask your girl what she thinks of the clothes. Does she think they are comfortable? What activities might one do in those clothes? Can she move without revealing too much?
These questions can help your daughter (and you!) start to think about clothing as functional — something that doesn’t hinder her from doing the things she enjoys.
Then ask her about the aesthetics — what patterns and colors does she like? How would she mix and match those pieces? What makes her feel pretty? How could she accessorize? This will help her learn what her own style might be. You could even plan a shopping date to grab those styles if her wardrobe needs a little update!
When you’ve explored what clothing is for and how it can make you feel, then you can talk about what clothes tell her about a person. Let her look at those same models and ask her what that girl’s appearance says about her. The girl with the tennis skirt and athletic shoes is active, the girl with the glasses and buttoned-up cardigan is shy. Help her understand, in age appropriate terms, that revealing clothes could speak louder than her her amazing personality.
Ask your girl to list qualities that she’s proud of. Is she smart, funny, athletic? Let her know that those are the traits we want others to see. Even if she can’t reveal how amazing she is at origami through her wardrobe choices, she can avoid having others make assumptions based only on her exposed body parts.
I mean, if you only judged by Kim K’s clothing choices, you’d never know she completed 100 hours of community service in high school… and that’s way more exciting than a book of selfies!