An Interesting Article About Clothing Fashion
Among Teen Girls Today

(It's Enough to make any concerned parent look for an Islamic school right away!)


Preteen Clothing Struggles: Countering the 'Britney Effect'

by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.
reviewed by Laura Jana, M.D., F.A.A.P.

    You're shopping for school clothes, and your 12-year-old daughter picks out a skimpy top emblazoned "Hottie" and hip-hugging pants that leave at least two inches of skin north and south of her navel exposed to the wind (not to mention the stares of passers-by). You protest, but she insists: If she doesn't have these clothes, she'll look awful, the other kids will tease her, she'll feel like a nerd. Here are a few responses to help get you out of this jam:

bulletLook up school policy. Lots of schools have dress codes that specify no bare bellies, shoulder straps that are at least an inch wide, closed-toe shoes with low heels, no sexually suggestive mottos on T-shirts, etc. Before you hit the malls with your daughter in tow, look in her student handbook or call the principal's office to see if her school has instituted such a policy, and then do what any self-respecting parent would do: Hide behind it. "Sorry, I'm not spending my money on that when you can't even wear it to school" often works wonders in these situations. (If your child's school does not have a dress code, talk to the principal about instituting one--although this strategy won't help in the short run.)

bulletTalk about the message she'd be sending. Of course, the Britney look (along with the fashions sported by Destiny's Child, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, and many other pop icons) is all about sex, but many preteens and younger teens may not see it that way. Point out that tight tops, low-slung pants, and bare bellies send a specific sexual message: "I am available" or "I want you to desire me sexually." When you put it that way, many children are horrified and realize that they really don't want to send that message at all. They want to be admired, they want to feel attractive, and they want to fit in, but they probably don't want to be treated as though they were "easy." You might point out that these sexual messages are obvious not only to a child's peers, but to adults as well--teachers, friends' parents, and adults she doesn't know. That's sure to make her think twice.

bulletTry reason. If your daughter is one to listen to reason, point out that Britney is 20 years old, not 12, and that she wears her outfits on stage, not to school. In fact, what she wears is a costume, specifically designed to create a theatrical effect. Her look only works with the right choreography and camera angles.

bulletPull rank. There's nothing wrong with just saying "no." You're the parent, you have the responsibility to set limits. When saying "no," it's best to acknowledge the feelings that you are trampling on: "I know you really want to buy that top, I know you feel that all of the other kids are wearing tops like that, but I'm not going to buy it for you. I'm sorry, but I just think it's inappropriate." Once you take this firm stance, it's important to stick to your guns. If your daughter conjures up a lot of highly original and inventive arguments to try to change your mind, you don't have to answer her with similarly brilliant counterarguments. Simply keep repeating your "no," trying very hard to keep your cool. Even the most persistent of debaters eventually quits.

bulletMake compromises where you can. There's almost always a compromise--jeans that are cool and fashionable but don't rise quite so low, tops that are cut just a bit more generously and read "Angel" or "All Star" instead of "Open for Business" or "Ready When You Are." Maybe you can give her more freedom about the way she wears her hair--allowing highlights or a trendy cut, for instance--or allow her to buy those awful, clunky skateboard-style shoes she's been coveting. Compromising where you can makes it easier for you to put your foot down when you need to.

Some approaches worth avoiding:

  1. The body trap. You may not want to point out that your daughter shouldn't dress like Britney because her body is too round, too thin, too flat, too soft, or just not nice enough. Preteens and teens--both male and female--are intensely body conscious and prone to self-criticism. A seemingly innocent, mildly critical comment can be crushing and result in lasting hurt and anger (not to mention unhealthy dieting and eating problems).

  2. The money trap. You may be tempted to argue that it's your money, so you're going to decide what it can and cannot buy. This may work once or twice, but sooner or later your daughter is likely to have money of her own, from birthday gifts or babysitting or another job. When that happens, she's sure to remember the principle that whoever has the money calls the shots. A better position to take is the one outlined above: Parents have to say "no" sometimes--it's their job.

  3. Name-calling. Although you might be tempted to tell her that girls who dress this way are "sluts" or use some other derogatory label, your daughter is likely to become defensive or think that you "just don't get it." Avoid derogatory labels, and try not to lose your cool--or your sense of humor.


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