Teenage Fashion Dilemma

We, as a culture, seem to be attracted to black and white opinions. We see things as good or bad, flower or weed, Republican or Democrat, yum or yuck, right or wrong.

As a parent it’s easy to be labeled as either the “go-to” parent or the “hard-ass”. Between Craig and I (generally speaking) I am the one who is more inclined to say “yes”. 

But it really isn’t as simple as that…

I think the more important question here is “What do you want–really?” and “Is this request getting you closer to your goal or the opposite?”

I’m navigating a different opinion over clothing choices right now with my daughter. She is 13 going on 23 and just finished middle school. Aubrey is intelligent, confident, outgoing, and loves all things make-up and nails. She also likes clothes that are tight, short, and tummy-revealing.

I prefer her to cover up.

The pretty lace of her bra often peeks over the edge of her neckline. (She claims this “just happens”.) She was a dancer until this past year and it’s “a thing” to have fancy-back leotards and the bra showing is part of the look. This has recently translated to her wanting to have shirts or dresses that show her bra in the back.

I am not comfortable with this look.

She leaves for school in the morning wearing a hoodie or zip-up sweatshirt. She says that it’s cold in the school.

I see how her friends dress.

She has beautiful skin and a gorgeous young figure.

I want her to love her body…to enjoy the strength in her legs and the shine of her curly hair…

AND…I talk with her about the dress expectations that colored Grandma Sandy’s school years. (She would come to the breakfast table wearing one shirt. She’d get her coat on and ready to leave and SUDDENLY forget something upstairs. Rushing upstairs, she’d quickly change, put back on her coat, and head off to school.)

AND…I talk with her about my joy in clothes when I was her age. In 9th grade, I was voted one of the “10 Best Dressed Girls” in our class. With the ability to wear clothes from my mom’s closet, as well as my own, I rarely wore the same outfit twice. I also remember thinking that if a shirt or accessory was more than a year old, it was old, and very “last year”.

So, do I give my blessing to my daughter’s revealing clothes? Or, do I put my foot down and definitively say “absolutely not”?

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve taken a middle road.

We talk about why her school has chosen not to have a dress code and why some schools do. Wh consider the pros/cons of school uniforms.

We get into how what we put on our bodies sends a message to the world around us. Different people “read” us differently depending on how we look and what we put on our bodies. 

We have some say in the message we WANT to present. 

So, in my daughter’s case, wearing a cropped shirt that reveals her navel says, “I am beautiful and feel comfortable.”

To her math teacher, it may say, “I don’t care what you think.”

To the boy she talks with at lunch, it may imply, “If you can see it, you can touch it.”

I want to help my daughter negotiate this growing up thing in a loving and respectful way. My goal is to bring her up in a way that makes her fee empowered and that she can be trusted to make good choices for herself.

My goal is to raise Aubrey to value her own inner voice and be smart about how her choices effect her present and her future. She is growing up so fast and I want her to have the tools and insight to navigate through the world with purpose and convfidence.

A simple yes or no won’t accomplish any of these goals.


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