Jenn Giroux
Mother-daughter fashion wars
By Jenn Giroux
April 19, 2011

It is springtime and the first truly warm day on campus. Girls are returning from morning class scantily clothed with tight shorts, mini- skirts, and shirts exposing both stomach and breasts. Other girls can be seen jogging nearby wearing nothing but a skimpy pair of spandex running shorts and a sports bra.

Is it possible that these girls have been dressing like that since junior high, elementary, or even preschool? More importantly, are these the fashions that show up on college campuses when we, as mothers, refuse to engage in teaching the proper fashion balance between trendy and modesty in our daughters?

Many mothers have battle scars due to "fashion wars" with their daughters. We know this dynamic well because we were all adolescent daughters at one time and we remember how we unknowingly caused our own mothers these very same battle wounds. These fashion battles are a 'Rite of Passage' in the adolescent years; both the victories and the losses can have a profound effect on our daughters' proper interior formation as well as the mother-daughter relationship. Caving in to pressure to allow immodest dress sets the stage for the domino effect where daughters begin to cop the attitude that they can wear what they want, go out with whomever they want, and in short, not really to listen to their mothers. Allowing our daughters to wear tight, low-cut, and revealing clothing is an invitation for them to take charge of other decisions they are faced with during these formative years. It pushes mom's wisdom, guidance, and authority out of sight and mind.

What happens if we let them dress like that? We send them a clear signal that we approve of everything that flows from it, namely, sexual promiscuity and destructive behavior. When we give in, we have effectively stepped aside and let popular culture determine the path of their future. As moms, let us not underestimate our maternal influence over our daughters in such a fundamental matter of how they dress themselves. They desperately need our guidance and our 'feminine genius' in making these daily clothing decisions even though they rebel against it.

I will be the first one to admit the feeling of profound dread as soon as I hear the question, "Mom, can we go shopping?" I am always hesitant to enter the teen department and come face to face with the latest fashion trend, knowing full well it is likely a few inches shorter and a tighter fit than what I already complained about last season. But I dare not let them go alone. Therefore I look at it as an opportunity to form and protect my daughters. Being perceived as a "cool" mom must take a back seat to what is needed to assist our daughters in dressing with dignity and self-respect. I need to remind myself of that during every trip to the mall when it is the last place I want to be.

These fashion showdowns are worth fighting because if we don't hold our ground now, we will be incapable of fighting the inevitable battles later. Some mothers say that they have to "choose their battles." But I say that is nothing more than an excuse for caving in to the temptation to be the "Cool Mom" in exchange for backing down. Caving in on fashion now often means caving in on sexual morality later. You can't win the latter unless you show yourself to be a warrior mom for the former.

Of course I prefer to see my daughters smiling and happy and thinking they have the 'coolest mom in the world.' It is, however, at these very moments that I know that I am helping to set the stage for the way the world looks at them on the outside and for the way they look at themselves, as children of God, on the inside.

It's never fun.

It can be the ultimate endurance test.

In fact, it can be downright miserable.

Who needs or wants that?

Like it or not, these are the emotional weapons of the fashion wars that we have to contend with as we embrace one of the many struggles that come with the joys of motherhood. It is our vocation and duty to give it our best to assure proper formation of our daughters' self image and integrity as persons.

Dressing trendy does not have to be synonymous with dressing like a tramp. We are called to teach our daughters to respect themselves and to understand what it truly means to 'dress with dignity.' This begins by our words of praise when they do make good fashion choices and by our unspoken example. However, when all else fails, we are called to pull out the parental authority trump card.

Don't feel guilty!

Until we as parents get comfortable with saying the necessary "no" again and prevail in teaching our daughters to say "no" themselves with confidence to immodest clothes and immoral behavior we will not succeed in changing the overall culture of society and the Church.

The sustaining power in our sacrificial "no" has a long, forward reaching effect on our daughters' souls and helps them ultimately to see their inner beauty and strength. It is with this confidence that we begin to arm them with the tools necessary to subvert peer pressure and take the difficult next steps in saying "no" to other popular trends like serious teenage romance and sex outside of marriage.

This is, indeed, how we truly empower our daughters.

So the next time you head to the mall with your daughters, keep in mind that these difficult mother-daughter fashion wars are about sharing the timeless secret with our daughters that authentic beauty is not found hanging in a closet. It is rooted and nurtured in the depths of their souls. Only then can they realize that they are truly worth waiting for.

Are you a mom raising a teenage daughter? Tell us about your struggles and joys -all comments remain anonymous.

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© Jenn Giroux


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Jenn Giroux

Jenn Giroux has been a Registered Nurse for 29 years, where she has witnessed firsthand the physical, emotional, and spiritual fallout of the women's movement, especially in the areas of contraception and abortion. In response, she has answered God's call to be a witness to the hidden truths on these subjects... (more)


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