What is an appropriate way for your teenage daughter to dress? My 13 year old is quite clear that for her age it means not wearing tiny crop tops and refers to those that do as ridiculous and asking for trouble. My son on the other hand at 17+ likes a girl in a crop top, but thinks at his sister’s age it is too young. It’s clearly a fine line.
Over the summer a couple of innocent events and conversations with my kids have brought this issue to the fore and made me think not only about the messages our young girls give off with the the way they dress but also about how we as parents manage it.
An end of term school trip to France for my daughter highlighted “skimpy dressing” as an issue. The Madame in charge of the trip stipulated at a parents pre-trip meeting that the girls should not wear any tops resembling a bra or “short shorts” which caused a great deal of mirth amongst some parents as they pointed out that early July in Southern France would almost certainly be hot so shorts would be a good option for the girls surely. Madame, however, was unswerving in her views and drew a line across her own legs to indicate what length of shorts would be acceptable. Not “short shorts” meant to the knee, not above and absolutely no bottoms on display.
Lucky for me with a pale redhead for a daughter I spend my life in the lead up to summer seeking clothes that will keep her cool whilst simultaneously cover as much of her skin as possible to avoid sunburn, so I sat there feeling quietly smug that I already had the acceptable shorts nailed and that Madame would be happy.
My daughter however returned from the trip with stories of girls that flouted the rules and appeared at breakfast wearing the shortest of crop tops and the shortest of shorts. Each day they were told to change or stay behind, until the last day when maybe worn down by their persistence (we have all been there) they just let them get on with it.
On a different note, my son attended a party over the summer at which a girl in his group befriended some boys unknown to them and got herself into a situation my son felt uncomfortable with. As a result, he intervened and took her home in a cab but the post party analysis amongst her girlfriends in particular raised her style of dress as an issue.
When we asked our son his view he said “That’s what they all wear!” He is right of course, it is the fashion inspired by celebrities to show off your perfect torso…..and really shouldn’t indicate anything other than a nod to a trend and a desire to show you look after yourself.
It is tough for our teenage girls growing up in a technology saturated world which with the endless obsession of posting picture perfect selfies, exposes them to a more mature way of dressing earlier than perhaps than they otherwise would.
All teenagers need to be allowed to experiment with clothes and make mistakes in order to develop their own sense of style and individuality, this is a normal part of growing up. However, there need to be certain parameters that also allow for change as they grow and mature. What is appropriate for a 17 yr old is different to a 13 yr old and what one parent thinks is acceptable another will think is tarty and wholly inappropriate. It is a moral minefield but as parents we have a responsibility to reflect on our changing world and set the tone which will guide them.
Personally I don’t like to see very young girls in skimpy clothing and I count myself lucky that my daughter as a redhead needs to cover up more than most in the summer and is naturally bashful so doesn’t like to draw attention to herself. I am not saying she goes out in a nun’s habit, she loves clothes and we regularly hit Oxford Street for some R&R, but if in Topshop rather than gravitate to the racks of “barely there” clothes, she will head down to the vintage section to seek out something a bit quirky to mix with a pair of skinnies and trainers and she does wear “short shorts”, just not with a minuscule top.
Ultimately it all comes down to age appropriate clothing and some parental guidance. My daughter’s instagram and snap chat feed is full of pictures of some girls in her school year dressing in what she deems as inappropriate clothing. It is one thing wanting to look nice and to wear the latest fashion but quite another promoting your sexuality, particularly at too young an age. The line is a fine one for sure and as parents the moral compass is in our hands.