You Dress Your Age and I'll Dress Mine

Helping our daughters dress their age teaches them to feel good about who they are. And moms could take a lesson out of that playbook, too.

A recent physical for my daughter uncovered the shocking fact that she was no longer my little girl.  Quite the contrary, because she now stands within an inch of me, and her shoe size might just be a bit bigger.  I asked if someone could please show me to the room that MY daughter was in and my sweet, not-so-little girl groaned at my feeble attempt at pediatric humor.

I so don’t get it…right?

What this sudden growth spurt really means is that it’s open hunting season in my closet (and my sister’s, for that matter) and I don’t like it very much.  From shirts to boots to underwear…nothing is sacred and nothing is just mine anymore.  I walk into my closet and I can see where she has left her mark; piles of shirts thrown back onto the shelf and shoes strewn about in heaps of  “this didn’t work so let’s try that!”  If that’s not a decent visual, imagine her bedroom…piles of tried on, “not wearing those” and stacks of “unacceptable choices” that I will bust her for before she gets a mouthful of soggy Cocoa Puffs.

I am trying so hard to channel my eighth grade self and all I’m coming up with is my faded Lee overalls and my coveted brown earth shoes, accompanied by my preppy Papagallo purse. What has changed the most, it seems, are the styles of clothes and the fact that cleavage has become a fashion accessory for teenage girls. 

The constant discussion (or debate if we take a ‘tone’ with each other) is whether or not wearing your mother’s clothes is appropriate or even necessary.  Just because something fits, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for a 14 or even an 18 year old.  What a forty-something-year-old woman wears is not always for her daughter and newsflash…what your daughter is wearing is not necessarily something you should be sporting either.  Get some sleeves on. It’s cold out.

Recently, a friend linked to a fantastic blog entitled “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls” by Kate Elizabeth Conner.  Blog envy.  She beautifully describes all of things we really want to talk to our daughters about, but cannot always articulate.  My favorites range from wearing clothes that do NOT attract nice boys, (no reason to have that belly exposed except on a beach) to girls who claim they “hate drama” (but love to engage in it anyway), and last but not least, playing stupid or helpless to get attention. 

Being smart is attractive; playing dumb is not.  Our girls need to feel good about who they are, not what their cup size is.  It’s a sad realization for moms who vicariously live through their daughter’s short skirts, low tops and high heels.  Preach early.  Preach often. And dress how you want your daughter to dress, too.

So when the 14-year-old goes for the good boots or the nice top, it doesn’t matter that it fits.  What doesn’t look right is having a young girl dressed in clothes that are either too expensive or too mature or too revealing.  I’ve used this column to make this statement in other ways, but it bears repeating.  The Jimmy Choo may fit, but it doesn’t mean she gets to wear it…and if you’re taking too much pleasure out of how your daughter looks rather than who she is, it’s time for an extreme makeover of a different kind.

I’m not admonishing the act of giving our children the opportunity to express themselves through what they wear. I think letting teens explore that is a really healthy part of growing up.  It recognizes the importance of discovering who you are on the inside…and helping our kids feel good about what they do and who they are.  Watching your young adult daughter dress in provocative, skin-baring clothing or allowing her to wear expensive designer garb that is clearly Mom’s is giving her the message that it’s cute and okay.  And is it really okay?  I’m not so sure.  She’ll have her whole life to dress her age…there’s no rush.

So for now, I’m reining in my closet rights and watching what comes down the stairs very carefully.  I’m wise enough to know this isn’t the end of the clothing wars…it’s just the beginning.  But I’ve promised her this; dress your age and I’ll dress mine. No need to confuse the two…until I need to borrow those cute sandals she got at Target.

Ricki Zabrin May 01, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Don't worry, I can assure you the overalls and Earth shoes are safe!!! Great story Deb.!
Debby Shulman May 01, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Ricki, I love that we enjoyed the same high fashion as teens!! :)
Betsy Johnson May 03, 2012 at 01:55 AM
So funny and so true!


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