Sue Scheff: Teens and Fashion Today

New Modesty Movement
“What we are struggling with is a limitation in the marketplace that makes it impossible for our girls to dress modestly.”

– Brenda Lord, organizer, Modesty in the Mix fashion show

Like most 17-year-old girls, Amber Heaton loves to shop. But unlike many girls her age, she prefers a more modest look.

“I usually go for things that don’t show your midriff; things that have sleeves on them and not too low in the front either. And, I don’t wear short shorts or short skirts,” she says.

Amber is a part of a growing movement. She recently modeled in a fashion show featuring “modest” clothing. The show has sparked nationwide interest to host similar events. Organizers have even launched a petition aimed at retailers.

“We’re not trying to enforce any sort of a dress code or restrict anyone’s right to dress any way they like,” says Brenda Lord, organizer of the Modesty in the Mix fashion show, as well as the petition. “What we are struggling with is a limitation in the market that makes it impossible for our girls to dress modestly,” she says.

That market may be changing. Still, as in most things, experts recommend balance, especially with teenagers: parents should set guidelines, but also allow some give and take as kids begin to develop their own fashion identity.

“Respect your child’s choices and interests,” says psychologist Carol Drummond, “yet help them learn how to set the boundaries about what is appropriate. And try to find ways to help them feel good about themselves other than how they look or how they dress.”

Heaton says her sense of modesty comes from values instilled by her family.

“I think [modesty] is just dressing in a way that shows respect for yourself and for the people around you, and not giving in to the popular fads of the world.”

Tips for Parents

The battle over modesty versus fashion is waged daily between parents and their children.
Before shopping for clothes with your child, it’s important that you and your child identify your attitudes toward certain types of clothing, and define limitations. Also, discuss with your child how a person’s clothing makes a first impression – and he/she may be giving off the wrong impression with clothes that are too promiscuous. Dannah Gresh, author of And the Bride Wore White, and facilitator for the Pure Freedom events, has developed a list of questions she recommends that young girls ask themselves when deciding what to wear. Parents can use these questions to start a discussion with their children:

Is my shirt too tight, Part1?
– Take the tips of your fingers and press into your shirt right where your ribs come together. When you take your fingers away does your shirt immediately spring back like a small trampoline? If so, your shirt may be too tight. Solution: You may want to try a different bra; sometimes that can make a big difference in giving you a more room.

Is my shirt too tight, Part 2?
– When wearing a button down shirt, stand sideways and look in the mirror. Is the space between the buttons gaping open, even just a little bit? If it's pulling enough to cause a gap, you're in danger of exposing too much (and maybe losing a button!) Shirts that are too tight are a bad idea if you want to dress modestly. It's not just about how much of skin is showing, but also how much shape is showing! Solution: Try buying a size or two larger, or try a t-shirt under the button-down and leave it open for a layered look.

Am I showing too much? – Stand and lift your hands up in the air with your arms fully extended. Is this exposing any belly skin? Solution: Go for layers and put a longer shirt under a shorter one. Try wearing a ribbed t-shirt or tank top from the men's department. They're a little longer and stay tucked in under a cool, trendy shirt. Also, check to see if your bra straps are showing.
Go for tank tops that have slightly wider straps.

Can you see my underpants? – Can you see a distinct outline of your panties through your pants, skirt or shorts? Either your pants are too tight or your underwear is too bright – or both. Solution: For lighter colored pants and skirts, keep a few pair of plain white underwear on hand for a safe look.

How short is too short? – When you buy either shorts or a skirt, try this test. Sit in front of a full-length mirror. Sit both crossed legged on the floor and with your legs crossed in a chair. What do you see? If you see too much thigh or your panties, so can everyone else. Solution: Today's skirts are about extremes. There are long, flowing skirts, ruffled skirts, straight jean skirts. Go for extremely long and/or extremely ruffled, but pass on extremely short. As far as shorts go, look for ones with slightly longer inseams.

Are my pants too low? – Again, sit cross legged on the floor. Bend forward as if you're trying to touch your nose to the ground. Now, reach behind you and feel what’s showing if your jeans are too low. Solution: Some low riders are just too low. Find a pair that won't cause viewers to blush for you.

As a parent, you can try to prevent your children from being influenced by immodest fashion styles, but the messages are everywhere –concerts, magazines, friends, movies. Therefore, it is important to help your children recognize the difference between modest and immodest dressing; to understand their own feelings about it, and to realize that certain fashion styles make a statement – a statement your son or daughter may not really want to make. Nancy Stafford, author and host of the weekly fashion series, Main Floor, has developed several suggestions to encourage your child to dress modestly.

Talk about modesty with your children, including how pop stars dress. Most importantly, discuss the implications of dressing immodestly. Encourage them to ask, “What am I saying when I dress like this?”

Teach your children that style is more than clothing; it is created by personality, confidence, intelligence, character and relationships.

Appeal to your children’s desire for individuality. Encourage them to be their own person when it comes to fashion.

Remind your child that he or she is a role model for younger children. Explain to your 11-year-old that an eight-year-old looks up to him/her. This may give your child a feeling of responsibility.

Encourage your children to ask themselves, “How does this clothing relate to my family’s moral values? To my morals?” Teach children that their moral beliefs deserve first place in all areas of life, including clothes.

Set the example for your children. “Moms need to be conscientious in how they dress,” says Nancy. “Moms are the first role models for their children.” Moms can show their children that they can be hip and stylish while maintaining modesty.

Kids need guidance. Even thought the want to be hip, cute and fun, parents cannot assume that their children can make clothing decisions on their own. Shop with them and offer your opinion.

Pure Freedom
Renewing the Heart

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