For me and my daughter, it has been over clothing. It seems that if something is not too tight then it’s too short or too low. And “short and low” applies to tops as well as skirts and shorts, to chests as well as midriffs. I’m sure you understand.
I don’t completely fault my daughter; the styles today are difficult to navigate while remaining modest. But it comes down to a personal choice to either live by the Prophet’s wise council or not. We each need to come to an understanding of why to obey and how.
Actually, I’m very blessed—most of the above-listed teenager-parent feuds have spared me and my 17-year-old daughter. Life is largely harmonious, and the tears I dry on her cheeks are those shed over challenges with others, not me – until its time to get dressed.
Even when my daughter was young, she had a style of her own. I remember days on end when the same red shorts would be paired with purple, green, yellow, and even pink-flowered shirts. When she was four all she wanted to wear were dresses, the pinker and frillier the better. We were a team well-suited for Laura Ashley mother daughter outfits. Then came the years when I couldn’t get her to wear anything except pants and shorts. She knew Sundays were non-negotiable, but otherwise, bribes were not beneath me to get her to wear a dress for special occasions. It’s little wonder that this would remain our area of conflict.
So, how best handle this roadblock? I’m grateful for the Church’s dress standards for young women. I know they would never be followed if presented as “my” guidelines. Yet, when delivered from the prophet and shared with care and concern for the girls’ own benefit, they are received and accepted easier. I believe my daughter and her friends truly want to do the right thing and follow the standards closely. Over the past couple of years she and I have learned a few tricks, which we share in the rest of this article. However, even with these insights, it still hasn’t been easy.
Pants, for instance, are the first offense. I’ve taken up a personal battle with jean manufacturers everywhere, except of course for those who make the pants I wear, which my daughter wouldn’t be caught dead in. To her, the waist goes past my ribcage and the legs are far too straight. But they do cover both hipbones, and when I bend over I don’t resemble the handyman with a heavy tool belt (you get the picture). I do understand her concern with being hip. I am a product of the 1970’s and spent my teenage years wearing hip huggers and bell-bottoms.
The problem with low-cut jeans is that no one (but me) seems to tuck anything into them anymore. My ribcage-clutching jeans make tucking in a cinch. For my daughter, however, her pants leave an area of her body that seldom gets covered by today’s tops. We hunt for certain T-shirt brands that make their tops longer, but they’re difficult to find.
So we resort to layering – you can never own too many undershirts and tank tops. You’ll see white and colored tank tops showing underneath short-sleeved, long sleeved, and cap-sleeved shirts as well as sweaters, blouses, and even sweatshirts. Not even the heat of summer can keep my daughter and her friends from layering away. I’m pleased that they at least try to cover up when their arms are down. I realize that the minute they’re away from home and even move a fingertip, the shirts ride up ever so slightly. But you do have to choose your battles, and this is one I think we’ve come close to agreeing about.
Skirts are often fine when we bring them home from the store. But over the years, as a young woman’s legs grow longer and her waistline stays the same, that same skirt that hit her knees one year creeps upward the next. It becomes one of those clothing items that is best donated before it becomes an argument: “It’s too short.” “No it isn’t, it still fits just fine.” “Then wear tights,” (as if that solves anything.)
We’ve finally agreed that if you sit down and have to tug at the sides to keep it close to the knee, then it’s too short. The good news: she now makes the decision on her own. The other good news: for those attending Especially For Youth, skirts or dresses are required and they must be knee-length or longer. This means we usually buy a new—and longer—skirt each year.
Prom dresses are probably the hardest clothing item to find in modest styles. Designers and manufacturers are getting better, but girls still prefer the sleeker off-the-shoulder styles. So the next best thing is to find a dress with a scarf-like shall that can be sewn into wide straps and tiny caped sleeves. The dresses aren’t the sexy numbers they’re meant to be, but they look far more appropriate on 16-and 17-year-olds and fit the modesty requirements. However, it usually means (in our household anyway) that adjustments are being made only 12 to 24 hours prior to the big night. Success is achieved if all seams are sewn and safety pins tucked out of sight.
The good news through all these dress ordeals is that young women, and men, are learning to exercise self-discipline and understand how modesty can impact behavior. I know this is a lesson that doesn’t escape my teenage daughter and her friends, and my guess is that it resonates with many of our youth. Particularly reassuring is the idea that modest dress is not taught to our youth in a vacuum; rather, it is in concert with greater principles of scripture study, prayer, chastity, and a general lifestyle that brings us closer to the Lord. With this higher understanding, following a modest dress code becomes manageable and even desirable.
So, start where you are and slowly work forward. As you both come to understand each other, success will come. I’ve recently noticed an easiness sweeping into my daughter’s and my discussions over clothing. She understands and accepts the standards and is making wise choices; we avoid many of the old prickly challenges. I can even imagine a day when we can go shopping together and both pick out the same cute shirt, even though I’d tuck it into my straight-legged jeans she she’s wear it out with her low-riders.