The Fashion Battle For Teen Girls: Is It Worth Fighting?
By Dannah Gresh
“What’s the number one thing that causes you to feel sexually tempted?” my husband asked a roomful of lanky teenage boys. They wasted no time answering. They mentioned a few common things and then hit on something they were all struggling with.
“I think the worst thing by far is…” he began then hesitated. “Well, the way girls dress in church.”
A room of bobbing heads affirmed him.
“It’s like church is supposed to be a place where you don’t have to face temptation and you walk in and …bammm! There it is.”
“How do you avoid that?”
They all turned their still-boyish eyes to the front pleading for a good answer.
Today’s teens are in the midst of a war as fashion pits girl against boy in daily battles for sexual integrity. Our girls believe the lie that seductive, sensual exposure is merely fashion. It’s not a subtle message. Candies, a popular teen clothing and shoe label, is currently running an abstinence campaign. It’s promoted by the sale of t-shirts—teeny, tiny, belly-revealing, breast hugging t-shirts that read “Be SEXY: It doesn’t mean you have to have sex.” The “virginal” Brittany Spears redefines purity with her revealing fashion. She teaches girls to be the forbidden fruit all-the-while masking it with the label of “pure.” Too many of our Christian daughters are either following the trend or fighting us because we won’t let them.
Is it just fashion? The Indianapolis News once wrote, “Those who minimize the correlation between immodesty and sexual promiscuity deceive themselves and others…”
There is support for such a brazen statement. It’s found in studies that analyze the risk of teen sexual activity that consistently point out that a girl who looks older than she actually is has a greater risk of sexual activity. These girls are made to look older by fashion and make-up, most of which hints at or blatantly advertises her sexuality. There is a strong case to argue that the end result of today’s immodest fashion is sexual promiscuity. It’s time for parents and churches to enter into the battle.
Most Christian parents recognize the need to address it, but many are at a loss as to how to do this. They fear creating a spirit of rebellion or robbing their daughter of her innocence. How is a parent to tackle the issue?
Affirm Your Daughter’s Female Allure
Researchers have thoroughly studied what makes a person spend time looking at advertising. If you really want to stop the reader, use a woman. It seems a photo of a woman will increase the length of time someone spends with an ad by 14-30%. What power!
God’s word affirms that power. Proverbs 5:17,18 says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a loving doe a graceful deer. May her breasts satisfy you always. May you be ever captivated by her love.” That word “captivated” would be better translated “intoxicated.” The God of the universe looks down at woman and comfortably acknowledges the power she has to intoxicate a man.
Short, tall, thick, thin, freckles or fair skinned…your daughter is created with an incredible power. I like to call it the female allure. It is a power that your daughter must use wisely and modesty is a tool of using it well. You see, there’s a catch to that intoxication and if you tell her about the power, you’d better tell her specifically what God had in mind when he gave it to her.
Pinpoint the Purpose of That Power
Check out that Scripture passage once again. It tells a man to “rejoice in the wife of your youth….” In other words a man is to be intoxicated by just one woman. Again and again the Bible reconfirms that this intoxification is only to be shared with one man…and within the context of marriage. Until then, it’s under wraps—a secret to be shared with one man.
As you might have noticed, girls today aren’t the best secret keepers. They are clearly missing the mark of God’s intended purpose for her allure. Instead of intoxicating one man with her beauty, she intoxicates many men.
Explain The Male Mind Without Robbing Her of Her Innocence
Most young girls wear fashion with much naiveté. That doesn’t mean that there are not the occasional young girls who understand fully what they are doing when they flaunt their bodies, but I find them to be the exception.
You have a responsibility to explain the male mind without robbing her of her innocence? Now there’s a challenge! I think it can be done, though. I like to use a visual design theory when I talk to girls. The Gestalt Theory teaches a graphic designer to control a viewer’s time. Completing the incomplete intrigues the human brain, so a person will always pause to finish an unfinished picture. Check out these couple of squiggly lines. What else do you see? You think you see a person, because your brain completes the image.
How do you think this theory works when a girl walks down the street in front of a guy wearing a tight shirt with her belly bared? He completes the picture. It’s only natural for the human brain to do this when invited. What invites a mind to do this? A bared midriff, a low cut blouse, a tight t-shirt, a long slit in a long skirt or a mini-skirt are just enough of a peek at the body to cause a person to finish the picture.
If a young woman wants to use the power of her allure as God intended it to be used, she needs to be cautious not to awaken the imagination of many men by inviting them to complete the picture of her body.
Establish Dialogue & Expectations Early
If you explain these simple principles to your daughter when she is eight, nine and ten—rather than after she’s fully developed— she is more likely to embrace them. Talking to her before she develops also allows you to avoid making her feel like her new curves are “bad.” The issue is not her body. God made it and it is beautiful. The issue is the clothes. When we wait until our daughters develop to address modesty, they often feel self-conscious and guilty about the beauty that’s growing in them.
My Lexi is 8. Last summer we said “good-bye” to tiny spaghetti strapped t-shirts and we’ve talked about sitting in front of the mirror with her legs crossed so she can see what others might see when she’s wearing shorts and sits down. She likes the responsibility that comes with these mature guidelines. And, she’s quick to ask me if I’ve also tested my fashion choices. Because I’ve introduced it early, it’s kind of a neat “girl-thing” for us to share and not some rule that’s between us.
Remember, The Battle Is Not Just For Your Daughter
Remember, you have wisdom that your daughter does not have. While you may understand what men and young boys will think when she walks through the hall in an outfit, she does not. Don’t be fooled into compromising because it’s a little battle. I’m convinced it’s not so little.
If you find yourself in a moment—and you will—when you wonder if this is a battle that’s really worth fighting, think of your son or the other young boys in your life.
After a long discussion, the boys my husband was talking with that day decided upon a battle plan for those days when a girl wore something to church that awakened desires. They developed a “front row code” which meant they’d simply approach another friend and say, “Will you sit in the front row with me today?” Together they’d avoid the temptation.
I’d like to think that when Lexi is a teenager and my son Rob, is in college, he could ask his sister to be the one to sit in the front row with him. That’ll only be possible if she’s embracing modesty. As beautiful and alluring as she is becoming, I want her to keep those secrets for just one man.
Dannah Gresh is the author of And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity and the newly released Secret Keepers: The Delicate Power of Modesty which is the first resource to teach teen girls to embrace modesty