Needed: Teenage Fashion Rebels | MercatorNet

Fashion has been hijacked by our hyper-sexualized waking culture. The magnitude of this struck me this summer when I saw two young women near our home. The first was walking her dog with her boyfriend. She only wore a string bikini. The second was standing at the bus stop. She was a very young, cute, fresh-faced girl wearing a red and black bikini attached to various garter belts, stockings, and high heels. And it was the same day in a suburban neighborhood!

Now that it’s fall, there’s only a little less skin. It is common to see young women in the mall wearing lace-up shirts in which a good ten centimeters of skin is exposed from the neck to the navel allowing passers-by to see half of their breasts. This problem is not going away anytime soon.

Three of our daughters have grown into young women (with the others just behind). We haven’t had any outfits like these, but there have been various forms of “expression” that expressed a bit too much in some ways. My husband and I decided to sit down with the three eldest and discuss our house rules and the reasons behind them.

Before doing this, I looked on the internet, hoping to find ideas for conversation. There were a lot less than I expected, so I sat down and wrote down some ideas for the message we wanted to convey to the girls. (And soon, I’ll be taking these basic ideas and talking to my younger ones as well.)

We told the girls that we wanted to have a little meeting with them. I printed my thoughts (below) and started with these ideas. We let the girls talk, of course, as it was supposed to be a conversation, but it was helpful to have the thoughts on paper in front of us for times when the conversation got out of hand. Another thing we did was pick a time when they were all relatively happy and open enough for conversation.

Here is the message we sent to them:

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We are delighted that you can tell us about things that matter to you and we really want to be able to talk about them even if we do not agree. It’s okay to disagree about some things. We can still love each other like crazy.

That’s why we think it’s important to dress in a way that respects our bodies. You can also frame this as a question to allow for more dialogue and insight into what they’re thinking.

  • It’s GOOD to feel good about yourself, even in a bathing suit. We have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not about shame! You are such beautiful young women. You have great figures and we want you to dress in a way that flatters your figure. We are not suggesting that anyone should wear only ugly, baggy clothes. We want you to look good!
  • We’re not going to talk about the fact that men between the ages of 10 and 80 have an actual physical reaction when they bare clothes, because it reminds them of the sex organs underneath. This is NOT the subject of this conversation. (You can skip this part or say it quickly and not dwell on it. Teenage girls HATE the argument that they have to dress in a way that doesn’t provoke men. I’m sure they would say: controlling their eyes!” And, honestly, that’s not the main reason to dress up.)
  • The point is, you are all of HUGE value. You are indeed priceless treasures! Your personalities are all so unique. You are smart, talented and you are meant to do great things in this world. Your clothes and your behavior reflect this reality.
  • Certain parts of our body are private because they are linked to sexual love (which is a beautiful gift from man) but also a very private act which is only beautiful and true within the framework of marriage.
  • It’s hard to remember because we’re bombarded with messages through shows, ads, and media that tell us it’s okay to show our bodies. But what would you think of a woman walking down the street with a sheer top and no bra or not wearing bikini bottoms to go to the beach? Why is it wrong, but showing cleavage is OK?
  • Even if a person is not naked with a bikini (or tight top, crop, etc.), this way of dressing draws attention to those sexual areas (so the “look” becomes about that, not to be comfortable in our own skin). And keep in mind that clothes are different for different body types. A two-piece swimsuit can be even more modest than some one-pieces. It depends on the cut and the morphology of the person. So we’re not talking about rules like skirts have to be several inches above the knee, etc. We are all individuals and this must be assessed individually.
  • We need to rebel against this culture we’re in that pushes sex as a recreational activity, dehumanizing people, treating people like objects to be used. You girls are leaders, not followers! (If you have any budding feminists, this is a good point to talk about more.)
  • You are of HUGE value – you are an incredible and priceless treasure.

So, with us:

  • We wear clothes that are beautiful, flattering and respectful of our bodies
  • That means… no cleavage or lots of belly (especially in church or more formal occasions) or anything tight (leggings are ok, with a proper shirt)
  • Sportswear is great for exercise. If you’re alone in a room, you may wear different clothes than you wear in a gym.

We love you guys so much. You may not understand or agree with us, but we tell you these things to help you grow into mature, happy and confident young women. We do this with your ultimate good in mind. What do you think?

Then discuss. Hopefully amicably.

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It all looks great on paper, of course. In real life, conversations rarely go as planned, so my husband and I set off expecting some hindsight. And, yes, there were, but the conversation went pretty well. And, very important, we expressed how we felt to our daughters, trying to do it with love and giving them the main reasons why we respect our bodies with the way we dress.

Now that the conversation is over, our goal is to continue giving them lots of love and keeping the lines of communication open. Most likely, one of the girls will struggle with some of these ideas. They are young and influenced by our culture and it is difficult for them to understand. They will therefore have to be reminded again. And even. We will also have to keep our word about the consequences.

In his book Thrive and survive raising thirteen, Anne Perrottet describes a case where her daughter came out of her room wearing a dress that was too short, telling her mother that her demands were too high. Anne asked her if she would like her to set the bar high or low. The girl surrendered. She wanted to set the bar high.

Anne says, “Believe it or not, kids actually want rules, norms and boundaries; they know they need it and they want direction – they need an anchor to pull them back if or when needed.

I have to be honest. All my daughters would not have reacted like Anne’s. But whether they find out now or in the future doesn’t matter. In the not so distant future, they will mature and, if we have been both kind and firm, they will understand and be grateful.

A final thought: in many ways, women are more powerful than men. What women do, men follow. (Think of Adam and Eve.) This argument has been made by scholars like Alice von Hildebrand, Gertrud von Le Fort and, more recently, Dr. Carrie Gress.

Our power can be destructive or a force for good. It may seem like a small thing, but the way women dress influences others. It’s not just a matter of discipline for the parents. It has great cultural ramifications. Teenagers want to rebel and protest against oppression. In this area, let’s encourage that.

Ida Gazzola is a mother of 6 girls and a boy and lives in British Columbia, Canada. Before embarking on the adventure of parenthood, she studied and worked in the financial industry. Team Baby: Create… More by Ida Gazzola

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