Daisy Duke has a lot to answer for. The darling of the old TV show “Dukes of Hazard,” she is the woman who made America slice their jeans into hot pants and bare a billion butts every summer for more than two decades. This is also the woman who, along with Britney Spears, is making your daughter dress like a tart.
“Modesty be damned!” declares teen-age fashion and off your darling trots to junior high tricked out like a MTV harlot. Inspired by rock videos, glossy magazines and role models like Posh Spice, teen fashion has never been fleshier.
Confronted at the mall by racks of slashed T-shirts, hipster jeans and micro-minis, where does a parent draw the line? Bargaining power between you and Miss Lolita comes with knowledge.Knowledge of your daughter’s peers, her body type, a smattering of teen-trend literacy (for example, pop star Gwen Stefani no longer wears a bindi between her eyes) and the stores where better styles can be found.
To a teen, clothing is a life and death issue. They want to fit in, they want to look pretty, they want to show the world who they are and they don’t want to be ridiculed. Such intense expectations can lead to terrible tensions at the cash register and a secret wardrobe of clothes stashed in school lockers and backpacks. To help your girl go to school in the clothes she actually left the house wearing takes smarts and sensitivity. Try and remember what you wanted so desperately at the age of 15… Madonna boots? Fish nets? Teased hair? And smile at your present parental dilemma.
Clothes, at any age, are dreams connected by stitches. If your baby dreams of dressing like a Britster she can still do so with her dignity and your sanity in tact.
Style and safety
Preteens feel stifled when you refuse them a perm, tight jeans, makeup or heels. The trouble is they know so little about the power of suggestive dress. Keeping a code of modesty is a way of protecting a young body from unwanted attention. Without making her feel ashamed of her body, you need to teach her how to dress it with style and safety.
Rock stars have body guards. That allows them the liberty to wear a belly button ring, a bra, low-slung hip huggers and a python around their neck without impunity. Your daughter lacks the same level of protection so don’t feel like a prude for trying to police her wardrobe. My mother had a very simple rule: if you can bend over in it, you can wear it. That means a skirt that cover your knickers, shorts that cover your thighs, tops that contain your boobage and jeans that don’t offer up butt cleavage every time you sit down.
Small sexy touches and ladylike deportment are what win the Prince in the end but it is hard to explain that to a teenager.
Strike a compromise between fun fashion and common sense; a miniskirt instead of hot pants, hipster undies instead of G-strings (yes, they make G-strings for preteens now!), tinted lip balm instead of lipstick and a T-shirt bra to keep prying eyes off her sproutlings.
For older girls, allow her small concessions to vampishness: a backless halter top, a henna (not real) tattoo, kitten or wedge heels, a great red lipstick, her own perfume and a little black dress. Stress style and elegance over trash and treasure.
Take her vintage shopping for cute accessories that make her feel sophisticated as well as sweet: drop earrings, a plastic pearl necklace, a great 70’s shoulder bag, a beaded cardigan or her very first lace cocktail dress.
Shape and size
All teens are not created equal but they all yearn to be generically slim with neat little breasts and hips. The fact that jeans are a universal uniform doesn’t help. If your daughter is heavy, super tall or just a little lumpy and gangly, now is the time to give her a sense of dressing to suit the proportion of her body.
Try a pretty blouse for girls less confident about their bosom, a cool a-line skirt in denim instead of jeans for a chubby bottom and a beautiful choker for a long (soon-to-be-elegant neck). Kids like to hide in baggy clothes or overcompensate in ultra-tight clothes. Show them that fit is more important than any fashion trend and that dress size is only on the inside of the label.
Square peg survival
The courage to cultivate a less conformist taste needs to take seed early.
Shopping for school clothes can be a nightmare in the face of so many subtle codes of dress. To create a new sense of cool assure her that she doesn’t need to dress like everyone else or that she can wear one super trendy piece (a wind cheater, a picture T-shirt, feather earrings) with other pieces that actually suit her. Ask her if she really likes expensive runners or if she is just trying to fit in. Let her know that clothes are not a sure-fire guarantee for popularity either. For movie role models of teens who look Different watch “Pretty in Pink,” “Beetlejuice” and “Fly Away Home.”
The princess budget
Common sense about clothes and shopping in general comes from a good budget. Set aside a realistic sum from her savings, pocket money or Sunday job and set up a clothes allowance. Make her name the four items she can’t do without then let her research them for a full week, online, in stores and in magazines. When she finds the lowest price and the best style, they are hers. That seven-day wait slows down the futility of impulse shopping and takes the pressure off both of you. When you finally do you go shopping, you have a list and a mission, not just a headache. Learning to build a seasonal wardrobe around four pieces also leaves room in the budget for small splurges: — a new sweater or a baby T — and stops the cycle of endless buying. Budgets also trigger creative clothing alternatives. Thrift shopping, home sewing, customizing your own jeans or organizing clothes swaps are all fun ways for “getting a look” without paying retail.
Love is in the details
Beware of the messages you are sending out when you are shopping with your daughter. A woman’s body image, self esteem and shopping compulsions are often established from the shopping she did with her mother. Don’t critique her body. Don’t prove your love with a credit card. Don’t buy her clothes that you want to wear yourself or use shopping as an emotional reward.
Do allow her a private change room and the freedom to choose the stores you visit. Try to remember that shopping is not a bonding experience for everyone. If your tastes and personalities clash over clothes then imposing your will is a waste of time. Respect her needs and set sensible guidelines for shopping on her own. It may be your money she’s spending but it is still her life. If this year’s fashion doesn’t involve cleavage or multiple piercings, cut the girl a little slack The beauty of youth is the right to make mistakes and, sometimes, wear frankly ridiculous clothes.