Short shorts and midriffs: dressing our daughters

Posted at Catholic Insight

Brigit 2According to, girls begin a growth spurt around the age of 9 or 10, with the fastest growth at around 11 or 12 years of age. Typically, girls grow about three inches per year during this period. That’s what happened to my youngest child this past year.

At the beginning of summer, it became obvious that my daughter needed new clothing. At the age of eleven, she is at the tail end of a long line of six brothers and a sister who is thirteen years older. She isn’t familiar with the time-honoured tradition of hand-me-downs. For her, a trip to the mall is a necessary, sometimes expensive occasion.

Have you shopped for an eleven year old girl lately? Have you, like I, wondered why it has become acceptable to dress our daughters in clothing that is too short, too tight, too revealing, too adult? Our daughters (and sons)  are constantly subjected to overtly sexualized images and ideas and clothing selections reinforce this disturbing way of thinking.

Brigit 3In the spirit of turning of all things into good, what could have been a disastrous shopping experience became a lesson in modesty and self-respect, thanks to a reasonable eleven-year old girl and maternal determination. As we rejected more and more pieces of barely there clothing, we talked about how our clothing choices can convey the wrong message of who we are and the type of people we want to attract. We discussed how clothing can enhance our appearance in a dignified, modest way and how our over-all appearance is important to our self-image.

Two days and two malls later, we had enough outfits to satisfy her budding, tasteful fashion sense and my always vigilant mom-meter. Thanks to the availability of young women’s size zero and extra small in some of the retail chains, we bought stylish skirts that end at a decent but fashionable length, shorts that don’t look like underwear, jeans that don’t cut off circulation, and tops that actually cover her midriff. Admittedly, she hasn’t yet reached adult height and that’s why the clothing fit her appropriately. I’m not looking forward to clothes shopping when she’s a fully grown teenager.

Brigit 4It seems to me that sending letters of complaint to clothing manufacturers and retail stores will not change what they sell, and learning how to sew an entire wardrobe isn’t realistic for most of us. But with some common sense and determination, we can use a potentially bad shopping incident to teach our young daughters that their self-worth isn’t measured by how much skin they flaunt. It isn’t determined by how closely they resemble the clothing and actions of barely clad women in music videos; nor is it measured by an undue focus on physical appearance.

Along with training them to develop an eye for stylish yet appropriate clothing, a day at the mall can teach our daughters that dignity and attractiveness starts inside of themselves and that the charitable disposition of  their heart and mind is the most important element of beauty. We can explain that people will discover how beautiful they are if they aren’t focused on an overly sexualized appearance. We can urge them to treat themselves well because they are loved and valued. And we can remind them that the gift of being a cherished daughter of God is mirrored in the beautifully appropriate way they present themselves to the world.


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15 Responses to Short shorts and midriffs: dressing our daughters

  1. Imelda says:

    Modesty is an important lesson to learn especially in this day and age. I think half your battle is won because she sees you. 🙂

  2. oarubio says:

    Good job! If more parents would have the courage to do what is right, it would be easier to defeat the objectionable aspects of the infamous “Obamacare” here in the U.S. and Justin Trudeau’s outrageous requirement for Liberal candidates.

  3. SR says:

    I loved this! You made so many valuable points, not only to the young but hopefully their parent’s as well. Just yesterday I went to see Mom at the nursing home. There was a young girl walking in and her shorts were so short you could actually see the cheeks of her rear end flopping up and down as she walked. It was absolutely pathetic looking. What really got me is, she was so beautiful. Beautiful skin, eyes, hair, and face. The sight of what she was wearing and what it revealed took away from the “true beauty” which she had. Good post and God Bless, SR

  4. 9jaime says:

    Totally agree! It is so hard shopping for teens and tween girls these days. I am lucky that my girls are on the short side—the skirts and dresses these days are outrageously short! Good job finding some beautiful clothes for your daughter that shows she respects her body.

    • Thanks. You’re so right. The only reason the skirts we bought fit the way they do is because she’s only about 4’10” or so. I’ve seen similar skirts on fully grown teenage girls and young women and they fit soooooo short!

  5. Patricia says:

    Way to go mom! 😉 I think there are some places online which specialize in modest but fashionable clothing, and a couple of books by former models about modest dressing. Here’s a link to one place I heard about on Catholic radio.. I don’t have any daughters, and so far, my granddaughter is dressing modestly at two months old 😉

  6. Reblogged this on Will Write for Tomato Pie and commented:
    I am reblogging this as a mom of two tall tweens. I’d never thought of the mall (a place we avoid in favor of thrift stores) would hold lessons in self-respect. Thanks, 8kids!

  7. Kathleen says:

    I’m so glad my only girl is tiny and always will be by virtue of her extra chromosome. I hope that means everything will always be longer on her than it was designed to be!

  8. cg says:

    The skirt’s a little short. Think of when she sits down. BUT, you did good on your first time out in a while. Keep up the modesty training. My older 67 year old sister, wears low necklines and so do her daughters and granddaughters, and wall papered on tops. I cannot conceal my shock, the last time I saw her. And, first time ever, my older sister flipped me her middle finger. She would rather insult me and the good Lord, than correct herself and her posterity. Mom would not recognize her own family, if she was alive. I’ll pray for you all, and do pray for my family. Thanks!

    • Believe it or not, that was the most decent skirt length and it is really for a young woman who is fully grown. My daughter isn’t even 5′ tall yet since she’s only 11. See the problem?

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