Does My Daughter Dress Slutty?

Most parents of teenage girls all have one struggle in common: the consistent battle over wardrobe!

Two weekends ago I met with a handful of youth workers, and one of them was a mom of two teenage daughters. I, a dad of two teenage daughters, was immediately engaged when she mentioned how difficult it was monitoring her daughter’s wardrobe.

She divulged, “We finally decided, no Yoga pants out of the house.”

I laughed. “I just had the yoga pants battle last week with my daughters. We established, only if they were wearing a sweater that completely covered the butt. But then when they were trying on sweaters, the argument was whether the butt was truly covered or not.”

She rolled her eyes. “We went through the same thing last Tuesday.”

The other youth workers at the table were just staring at us like we were monkeys at the zoo. They had no idea what it’s like being a parent of teenage girls today. (Yoga pants are the rage!)

Today it’s yoga pants; tomorrow it will be v-necks. The battles might look a little different, but it’s the same war. The difficult part is discovering the balance between being over-protective and overly permissive. The goal would be to create some realistic guardrails that equip our daughters to begin making these decisions for themselves.

So what are fair and “realistic” wardrobe guardrails for our daughters? After all, any parent of a teenage girl will attest, it can be very difficult to shop for our daughters today.

We have some good friends at our church who raised three amazing daughters, all gorgeous. Their mom wasn’t overprotective with them in any way, but at the same time, taught them modesty. In the mornings, her girls would often find themselves trying on an outfit and asking, “How’s this look?” or, “Is this too revealing?”

One of the phrases this mom would always use was, “Reach to the sky, then touch your toes. If anything shows… it goes.”

In short, if too much skin was exposed when they reached up or bent over… the outfit wasn’t appropriate.

Her girls always dress fashionable, but modest. I asked their mom her trick. She simply replied, “We’ve mastered the art of layering.”

If a sweater’s v-neck is too low, then they add a cami or a tanktop. Skirt too revealing? Add tights. Layering usually does the trick.

Lori and I have definitely gleaned some wisdom from this family. But reaching for the sky and touching your toes doesn’t cover everything. What about bathing suits in the summer time? What about the trend of leggings and yoga pants?

The appropriateness of bathing suits will always create an interesting discussion in Christian circles, and these discussions can often vary by geography. People who grow up on a California or Florida beach have seen bikinis since the day they were born. People walk around the piers and local beach shops in bathing suits. Try walking around like that in Nebraska and you’ll get a few stares.

I’ve made it simple with my girls. They can wear bikinis with family and their girl friends. But when their teenaged guy friends are around, they wear one-pieces or tankinis.

None of these rules are rules “just because I said so.” I regularly talk with my girls about how visually stimulated guys are. I point out “sexualization” in the mall and in the media, using every opportunity to talk with them about true beauty. Furthermore, I let them know that “sexy” is not bad. God made sexy, and someday their husband is going to love their sexiness as well as many other qualities. But they don’t need to advertise that to everyone right now, regardless of what the world is teaching.

The key to all of this is frequent conversations where parents have the opportunity to instill Biblical values. After all… what good are guardrails if our kids don’t know where the road is leading?

What about you?
What are some of the tough battles in your house?

What are some “wardrobe” guidelines that you enforce?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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6 Responses to Does My Daughter Dress Slutty?

  1. Carmen says:

    What helped my daughter and me the most was watching WHAT NOT TO WEAR on TLC with Stacy London & Clinton Kelly. They could say what I was thinking & put it in such a way that she actually heard what they had to say. Their comments about women getting the wrong kind of attention was huge and there were some women with body issues (curvy or not) who needed to see the beauty as they were. We taped it and then would watch marathons. It helped our relationship greatly. Now if there is a great outfit for her (or me) we let each other know that Stacy or Clinton would approve. It was also good for her to see age appropriateness in moms’ clothing so she understands that some trends are for her & NOT for me. They also address hair & make up and that was a huge help.

  2. Charlie says:

    Great article and good advice. One concern is that even around family and close friends, bikini photos somehow end up on Facebook or twitter.

  3. Jason says:

    Jonathan, the thing I love about you is, you will talk about what everyone else is thinking but is scared to say. Great article! My daughter is only 2 now. I can’t imagine what I’m going to be going through in about 12-14 years. Hope you’re still around writing about it :)

  4. Wes says:

    Culture and society make this tough enough…toss in parents or in-laws who buy your daughters stuff they KNOW you don’t want them wearing. “How come my cousins can wear that…?”

    We started early, when our kids were 2 b/c what is cute then becomes distracting at best when they are teen-agers.

    My oldest daughter is almost 12 and daily I am becoming less cool. If we had waited until now to have these conversations I would be hosed. There would be very little chance that we could help her see the many very good reasons to embrace modesty in our “flaunt it if you got it” society.

  5. Paula says:

    I have three beautiful daughters. My oldest is 13 and clothing discussions are becoming more challenging. Thank you for your insights and personal examples of guardrails. It’s a great help and encouragement to me. Keep writing!

  6. charly says:

    Hey , i’ am a teenage girl well nearly an adult and my mum has had the same trouble with me in the passed , but the thing is by telling us what we can and cant wear it only makes us want to wear it more and do things like :
    1: hide the clothes and put them on when we are no longer with our parents and change into our clothes you all agreed on b4 meeting you again
    2: Ask friend to bring you some of her clothes ( ask friend who dresses like a whore )
    I know you guys are worried , but don’t be , its just a stage of there life , it will pass soon enough , just make sure they know that a boy will like them more if they are dressed nicely rather than dressing like a slut , as when they see a girl dressed like that they only want one thing from them . Just be there for then , but don’t smother them , they will end up resenting you . Best off luck .
    PS: tell them to look through Vogue they will soon see that what’s in right now is tops that cover everything and long dresses .