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Teenage Fashion: What's a Parent To Do?

We all know that parents need to choose their battles wisely, so when it comes to teen fashion and school clothes, where do we draw the line?

I had a dream.

I dreamed that all the teenagers across the land came to school in real shoes and real clothes. They were clean and neat and they looked and smelled freshly showered. Their eyes were bright and clear and they were grinning ear to ear. They were excited to be here and eager to learn.

Then I woke up. Uh oh.

It was just a dream. Bummer. 

You just did the laundry and stacked the clean T-shirts and jeans neatly on the dresser top, but your teenager inevitably wants to wear the only T-shirt that did not make it to the laundry. It's amazing how that happens. How hard is it to ignore the tears and insist on clean? Hard. Very hard.

But you can do it! I know that you can.

I realize it’s only high school, and parents need to choose their battles carefully, but we are still trying to prepare our youngsters for the real world, right? And in the real world, as a clever Tide ad says: "Style is an option. Clean is not."

As a former high school counselor, please allow me to give you some advice.

First and foremost, be a role model. If you believe that dirty flip-flops do not belong in the classroom, then please don’t wear yours out to supper with the family—even to an uber-casual restaurant like Palmer’s Place. And if you think wearing clothing with stains is a no- no? Then, you need to toss that blouse with the salad dressing stain in the garbage right now and make sure your child sees you do it! As you know only too well, no matter how we try to remove them, some stains simply refuse to disappear completely and they leave a tell tale shadow. 

Second, remember that YOU make the rules. That's right. You are the parent and you get to say what items are ok and what items are not.

But please, make the rules clear and make them few.

La Grange Style's No-No List

  • No dirty clothes or shoes EVER.
  • No graphically undesirable T-shirts (as determined by the parent in this house).
  • No sweats, pajamas, or ripped jeans.

That's it. No exceptions.

Then I would pray that they did not hide dirty gym shoes or t-shirts with inappropriate messages in their back pack and change once they arrived at school.

As an example, I love this story a mom shared recently:

Teen: Hey Mom. Have you seen my “School Sucks” t-shirt?

Mom: Oh Honey, I’m so sorry. It had a big fat Frappuccino stain on the back so I had to throw it away.

When I asked if that t-shirt really did have a big stain on it, she replied: “I have no idea.”

So, Mom, please take heart and do not give up. I have great hope for this younger generation. I hope that Princess Kate's fashion sense and style will ultimately triumph over Lady Gaga's. I hope that your child's smile will light up a room someday when she/he finally feels that illusive sense of confidence and control as a young adult.

And when you actually get to see that? I hope you are wearing waterproof mascara because you’re going to need it!

Well done, Mom. Very well done.

Tyler August 11, 2011 at 11:39 PM
This is a bit totalitarian. Many workplaces today that high-school aged children will be employed in will be more relaxed than those of their parents' generation, but all of that aside (some of them will be working in banks, of course), I don't believe that children who don't look to Princess Kate as their fashion role-model are bound to end up never grasping the concept of work attire versus casual wear. Give the kids some credit. Those t-shirts you despise won't be around forever, and if they grow up with some (very basic) common sense, we probably don't need to worry about our children showing up to a job interview dressed like Lady Gaga. Furthermore, I'd like to add that while I'm not a fan of Lady Gaga's fashion or her music, I'd much rather my child look up to a figure of passion, creativity, and yes, perhaps even some rebellion rather than emulate Princess Kate. Wouldn't you? Maybe the best advice for parents dealing with a teenaged child's fashion statement is to be open about the issue (or any issue, for that matter). This means not the passive-aggressive disposal of a t-shirt for a seemingly nonexistent reason, but perhaps instead a mature conversation about why "School Sucks" isn't an appropriate t-shirt slogan for school and will not be allowed. Teenagers write the book when it comes to lame excuses, and they tend to spot them well. If we want our children to make intelligent decisions, we should try to treat them as intelligent individuals.
Nancy Pipal August 12, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Tyler. I wholeheartedly agree that respect and dialogue are essential factors of all our relationships. I also believe that in some cases, however, discretion is the better part of valor!

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