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Taking on the World of Fashion
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

A Helping Hand
For Teens: Hit the Runway
For Kids: Dress Ups



Last fall I took my daughter Maddie shopping after her birthday. She turned 11 last November, but you never would have guessed it judging by the clothes on the racks. I quickly discovered that somewhere between the ages of eight and nine the options went from ruffles and lace to midriffs and skinny, skinny jeans.

Having grown up in the late '80s and early '90s, when everything I wore was baggy and three sizes too big, I was appalled.

But, to be fair, it's not just the stores that are giving me fits these days about appropriately dressing my pre-teen. No, Maddie's doing her fair share of that, too. Especially with her penguin pajama pants that she insists on wearing almost everywhere we go because, “They're soooo warm and comfortable, Mom.”

She probably comes by it honestly, though. Fashion has never been all that important to me. I don't own stylish shoes, purses or dresses. And my wardrobe staples tend toward jeans and bulky sweatshirts. (Apparently you can take the girl out of the '80s, but not the '80s out of the girl.) But I do know what's appropriate, and a lot of what I see these days for my daughter is not.

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A Helping Hand

Judging by discussions I've had with the parents of Maddie's friends, apparently I'm not alone in my frustration. Then recently, as I was surfing the Internet, I happened across a reference to a program called Pure Fashion (www.purefashion.com). According to its Web site, Pure Fashion is a faith-based program that encourages teen girls to live, act and dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God.

The program works with local leaders, clergy and laypeople to promote the virtue of modesty, to protect and preserve purity, and to foster an awareness of the dignity of the human person. It also strives to impact the fashion industry in a positive way by motivating customers to choose clothing and accessories that are fun and fresh, yet modest and respectful of human dignity.

I was especially intrigued when I read that, in the spring of 2004, Ella Gunderson, who at the time was the same age as Maddie, turned up the volume on this topic with a letter to Nordstrom department store.

"Dear Nordstrom, I am an 11-year-old girl who has tried shopping at your store for clothes (in particular jeans), but all of them ride way under my hips and the next size up is too big and falls down," wrote Ella. At the time Ella and her family were helping to put on a Pure Fashion show and included her letter and Nordstrom's apology in the press kit. Her letter grabbed the media's attention, and eventually Nordstrom launched a new category for junior customers on their Web site called "Modern and Modest."

Excited by the concept, I went to the Web site to take a look. Unfortunately, I was unable to find it and learned from a follow-up call to the store that the line is apparently no longer available. But the concept got me energized to find ways to make it easier for moms like me to be able to spend some quality time with our daughters involving clothing—and not have it turn into an all-out battle of wills. Here are some ideas:

Speak up. Let companies know that you want more modest, wearable clothes for both yourself and your children. Think it won't make a difference? It did in 2005 when a group of teenage girls from Pennsylvania launched a "girlcott" of Abercrombie & Fitch over some of the store's attitude T-shirts, which the girls found offensive. Eventually, the store pulled the shirts.

Be a role model. Take a look at your wardrobe and think about the message you're sending with the clothes you wear. Perhaps my daughter's love of her penguin jammy pants finds its roots in my jeans-and-sweatshirt regime. Instead of telling your children how to dress, show them with your own clothing choices.

Share the wealth. My four-year-old daughter, Riley, loves to dress up. Luckily, my friend Teri and my sister Beth keep her well stocked with stylish clothes. When their girls outgrow clothes, they gather them up and send them our way. And recently we passed on some of them to a friend who was having a baby girl. It's a nice way of getting the full use out of clothes even after your kids have outgrown them.

Be encouraging. Ever since he was little, my seven-year-old son, Alex, has been quite a stylish dresser. He has a collection of ties, and one year for Christmas actually asked for a dress shirt, tie and bow ties—yes, bow ties. I have always tried to encourage his decision to dress nicely in hopes that it will keep the trend going. I have also made a point of reminding him when others have complimented his style choices, which seems to make him puff out his chest just a little bit more.

Be generous. If you have clothes you no longer need or that no longer fit, consider donating them to a local charity so that someone else can get some good use out of them.

 

Clothes play a big role in the lives of teenagers, but it's not always easy to buy all the latest and greatest fashions. Having been blessed with two older sisters, I was always able to expand my wardrobe by “borrowing” from their closets. In fact, we still do it with clothes, purses, shoes, etc.

You can do the same thing with your friends. Gather a group of friends or your youth group for a fashion show and clothes swap. Go through your closet and find some items that you no longer want, wear or fit into. Then put together some outfits and hold a fashion show. At the end of the evening, do some trading—either whole outfits or individual pieces—and you'll go home with some new outfits and accessories.

In our house we have a big tub of dresses, clothes and costumes my kids use to play dress-up. Sometimes they come up with outfits and then ask my husband, Mark, and me to serve as judges. It's always a lot of fun to see the combinations they come up with and watching them strut their stuff.

If you already have some old clothes to use, gather your friends and create a fashion show. If not, ask your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles if they have any old clothes, hats, shoes, etc., that you could use to create your very own dress-up kit.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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