It’s not uncommon for parents who fight the culture on a daily basis to assume they’re alone -- that no one else shares their concerns.
But the responses I received when I wrote a column last month about my near-futile efforts to find modest clothing for my 13-year-old daughter, Kristin, proves otherwise. Many parents are fighting the same fight --and quite a few were kind enough to write me encouraging notes. The details of our frustrating shopping trip, which yielded only two acceptable items out of the dozens that Kristin tried on, evidently touched a cord.
So with back-to-school season underway, let me share a few responses:
• “Your column really hit the mark. I am the proud father of a beautiful, blue-eyed 12-year-old tween. We also have body-honoring standards of dress in our family. One of our most stressful times is clothes shopping. … Clothes made specifically to ‘adultize’ our little ones do not pass muster in our house.”
• “I thought we were the only ones having a problem with current fashion. Please tell Kristin to keep on being strong for morality among her peers. You both are needed as a witness in this world of near nudity.”
• “I have just had a very similar experience (in the UK!) with my lovely 13-year-old daughter, who is also desperately battling the conflicting messages she’s getting from magazines, TV and her own peers. She knows what’s right, but she’s desperate to be seen as ‘cool.’ We read the article together, and it really helped her to know there are other girls like her out there -- and also other mums like me!”
• “My wife and I have two beautiful teenage daughters. Every time she takes them bathing-suit shopping, she comes home exasperated. The girls try their new suits on for me, I complain that they’re too immodest, they complain that these were the most modest ones they found.”
I could go on, but you get the idea. I have a folder filed with similar responses. They come from everywhere -- from fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. So let me assure the parents reading this: You aren’t alone! Thousands of families are going through the same thing. So don’t give up.
And don’t despair -- there are modest alternatives. Some readers recommended Lands’ End and L.L. Bean, both of which feature one-piece suits and “tankinis.” In my book, Home Invasion, I list two others: Modest Apparel USA (“an alternative to the promiscuous fashions that are prevalent in clothing stores today”) and Modest By Design (“clothing your father would approve of”). There are many others. As one reader said, “If you Google ‘modest swimsuits,’ you’ll find literally thousands of options.”
Still, even with an array of options, it can be tough to take a stand in favor of modest clothing. But it can be done. Just ask some of the friends Kristin has brought to our house.
Occasionally, a girl visits wearing something inappropriate -- a midriff-baring shirt, a short skirt, a low neckline.
I smile and say, “God made you a person of value. You’re somebody special who deserves to be respected. So when you’re in my home, I want you to dress in a way that reflects the treasure you are. So let’s go upstairs. You can pick out anything you like to cover up while you’re here.” There may be a gasp -- often, nobody’s ever told them that their body is a treasure to be respected. But then they get it. And you know what? A bond is created, and they appreciate what I’m doing.
Women and girls who decide to dress modestly often have another surprise in store -- men and boys treat them differently. In the book “Dressing with Dignity,” former model Colleen Hammond explains why:
“I believe it is because, subconsciously, men can read women’s body language. If they see a woman who dresses with dignity and carries herself with grace and femininity, they pick up on that. They take it as a sign to approach her with the respect, reverence and honor a woman ought to have.”
Exactly. And if a girl dresses like a streetwalker, they pick up the opposite message. Is that the signal we want our daughters to send?
I’ll close with something Muhammad Ali’s daughter says her father told her:
“Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. … Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered, too.”
So hang in there. You’ll be glad you did.