Recently I discovered the blog Feminine Modesty, and it has me doing a lot of thinking on the subject. I think especially being the mother of a little girl, the thoughts just keep tumbling around in my head. So here goes my attempt to write them down.
I think we need to teach our children how to dress and behave modestly. Our boys too, yes, but in our society parents of daughters need to make it a point to teach our girls how to dress properly.
I think what "modesty" means varies from person to person. It's affected by your spiritual beliefs, your upbringing, and the society & community you live in, but if you think about it, it's there somewhere.
I think as parents we need to define what it means to dress modestly for our family, and stick to it.
More specifically, we can't dress up little girls in adult clothing and think it's cute, then lament when they grow into teenagers that dress the same way.
For example, if you don't want your 16-year-old going to the pool in a string bikini, then don't put your 4-year-old in one. If you don't want your 14-year-old daughter shaking her booty for everyone to see, then you can't giggle when you're 5-year-old does it because it's "so cute".
Basically, we have to think of these things now, set the standards now, while our daughters are young & cute & innocent. If we wait until they hit puberty, their bodies are developing, and they want to test the waters, then it's too late.
My own views of what it means to dress modestly have changed throughout the years.
In my younger years, I was raised in a home where girls did not wear pants and no one wore shorts. As girls/women we wore long skirts (knee length or longer) or coulottes. If it was really cold out, we put long johns, tights, or sweat pants under them. Nothing we wore was tight, but it could be fitted.
My parents made exceptions for gym class / athletic activities (sweat pants, no shorts) and participating in sports (softball uniform = pants). Most families in the church did not.
Somewhere in there, my parents changed the rules. I'm not 100% sure why, but I can tell you I remember getting my first pair of jeans from the thrift store when I was 13 years old. I specifically remember shopping for them, as it was a momentous occasion.
And at some point I was permitted to wear shorts.
My parents never had to worry about me wearing anything too low cut, as I have a scar on my chest that is above the cleavage line that I was very self-conscious about. I used to sew panels or trim into my shirts / dresses to make the neckline higher to hide the scar. I could have cared less how my cleavage looked.
Because we were very active in our church, who (now) had a much stricter view of modesty than we did, much of my wardrobe remained in long skirts & coulottes. I remember going to college at 18 years old, and still wearing coulottes. I wore them until they wore out.
Through my experiences, I've learned a few things.
If you set standards when your kids are young:
- most kids won't feel deprived. I cannot tell you how many people have made comments about how difficult it must have been for me to grow up in such a strict home. Nope. Wrong. As a young person, your "normal" is what you live, you don't know it's different until someone tells you. And life is much easier for kids (well, everyone really) when standards and rules are set in place and enforced. It's clear. There's no confusion, there's no second-guessing. You know what is expected of you and you do it.
- performance will almost always be below expectation at some point. Yes, teenagers & young adults have a habit of testing boundaries when it comes to modesty & behavior. If you set your standard at long skirts, your daughter may test you by wearing something tighter than you would prefer. If you set your standard at mini skirts are okay, your daughter may test you by wearing a micro-mini that she can't bend over in without risking an arrest for indecent exposure. Both of those examples are extremes, yes, but the fact is the higher your standard, the higher your child's performance.
- the standards you set for your children will follow them thru life. Yes, the truth is that I now wear things I would never have been allowed to wear growing up. I sometimes wear things that for me are right on the limits of what my modesty permits me to wear: my "sexy" clothes, per se. But I've had other people call these same items of clothing my "old lady clothes". My point is that what is revealing to me, others consider overly modest. Since the people who make these comments are friends of mine, we can talk about it. It comes down to our upbringing, in regards to our clothing. What was acceptable to them growing up was completely unacceptable to my family. So while I feel like I'm pushing boundaries, they see me as being dressed conservatively. Feel sexy, but the world sees me as modest? Yes, please.
Listen, I'm not saying everyone has to be raised how I was raised to be able to dress modestly. I am fully aware that everyone has different ideas of what it means to be dressed / behave appropriately. And I will tell you that we are not raising our daughter in as strict of a home as I was raised.
What I am saying is that it has to be taught, there has to be a standard lived out in your home. Your kids are watching you and following the standard you have set for them. The question is: what is that standard? Because if you haven't made a conscious decision about it, then are you really sure you're okay with it?
As always, thanks for checking in.