As my 13-year-old daughter and I shopped for school clothes, I soon concluded that nothing was appropriate. The jeans were cut too low . . . the skirts were cut too high . . . the shirts were too tight . . . the blouses were cropped so her stomach showed. At one store all the blouses had spaghetti straps and looked like silk pajamas. (Amazingly, we had the same problem in December shopping for ?winter? clothes!)
And even as we walked from store to store in the mall, the messages on clothes accosted us:
?It?s all about me.?
?Spoiled and Selfish.?
?Saw it, wanted it, pitched a fit, got it.?
Some of the messages were coming toward us?across girls? chests. And some were going away from us?across girls? rear ends. And it wasn?t just on teenagers. Even kids in the 2x to 6x size bore messages.
According to the media, sex is what sells. And the age-group advertising appeals to is getting lower and lower.
At this point I began to wonder, What is appropriate dress? As a Christian, what values can we use when shopping in a secular world?
What?s a girl to do?
Modesty used to mean wearing long sleeves and long skirts that dragged on the ground. Then modesty changed. Women could wear short dresses, but not pants. Hose was a must; you wouldn?t be caught with bare legs, and heaven forbid if your toes showed! Now the definition of modesty has changed again. This time you can wear whatever you want, as long as most of your private parts are covered.
Last week on national TV I heard a mother comment, ?If my daughter has the body, she should flaunt it. The boys are the ones who need to control themselves.?
Yet for the Christian, the definition of modesty should never change. Philippians 4:8 says, ?Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report . . . think on these things? (KJV).
And Ellen White states, ?In dress, as in all things else, it is our privilege to honor our Creator. He desires our clothing to be not only neat and healthful, but appropriate and becoming. A person?s character is judged by [her] style of dress. A refined taste, a cultivated mind, will be revealed in the choice of simple and appropriate attire. Chaste simplicity in dress, when united with modesty of demeanor, will go far toward surrounding a young woman with that atmosphere of sacred reserve which will be to her a shield from a thousand perils? (Education, p. 248).
This means wearing clothes that don?t attract the eye to the breast, butt, or belly! I believe that you can dress tastefully and in style without being immodest.
OK, let?s say you agree. But how do you deal with your children on a daily basis? How do you put these values into practice? There are two discussion questions I take shopping with my daughter. We go over them when we get to a questionable item.
? What does this outfit say about me? (I?m sexy, I?m available, etc.)
? How do I want people to perceive me? (smart, creative, talented, sexy, etc.)
Shop till . . .
Now you?re ready to go shopping. You head to the store with your questions, Bible texts, and good intentions. But the first store you go into has nothing appropriate! Your daughter pitches a fit, and having a logical discussion is out of the question.
Janet Sasson Edgette says in her book Stop Negotiating With Your Teen: Strategies for Parenting Your Angry, Manipulative, Moody, or Depressed Adolsecent: ?So many times, the child may have a temper tantrum, become sullen and sulk, or whine about how everyone else is wearing it. So often parents fall prey to their teen?s demands for a voice, rights, and freedom of choice by not balancing these freedoms with responsibility. When parents abdicate authority and power, rather than making the teenager more receptive to the parents? preferences, the relationship can spire out of control.? In other words, giving in isn?t the answer.
I heard a speaker suggest a great way to deal with teens, especially if every discussion ends up in a fight. (I?ve tried it, and so far, it?s worked in every situation?staying out late, dating, etc.) Your first response to every negative comment is ?I know.? Let?s take a few examples:
Your child You
?I hate you.? ?I know.?
?You?re a fuddy-duddy.? ?I know.?
?You have no sense of style.? ?I know.?
?Everyone else is wearing it.? ?I know.?
Get the idea? There?s no fighting. You?re agreeing with everything she says, but it doesn?t allow the conversation to turn into an argument. You?ll agree, but not give in. End of discussion.
I?ve realized that my job is not to be my daughter?s best friend, not to try to dress like her, but to be her mom. And that?s ultimately what she wants. (Here?s another good tactic: Try wearing that style yourself in front of her friends. She?ll be horrified! And it opens up another opportunity for a good discussion.)
What my daughter really wants is for me to set boundaries, to care about what she wears and how she looks, and to be involved in her life and love her no matter what.
Until my daughter has proven that she can be responsible, we?ll shop together. Or she can go shopping with her friends?with no money!
Melynie Johnson Tooley lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, with her husband and three children: Sydney, 13; Ryker, 12; and Courtney, 8. She does full-time real estate investing and is a church organist.