5 Ways to Help Your Daughter Select a Modest Homecoming Dress

92861759 full sizeWhen my oldest daughter was asked to her first high school dance,  she was excited at the prospect of dressing up, going to dinner, and then attending the dance itself.  Of course, one of the first things we did was shop for a dress.

Financially, the journey to find just the right dress was a challenge.  We eventually found one on a clearance rack that was just perfect.  However, defining “just perfect” took quite a journey of communication before we arrived at our destination.

What was the issue at hand?  Modesty.

Modesty is a term that isn’t used much in today’s society.  Webster’s Dictionary defines “modest” as “dressing in a way that is considered proper; decent.” Quite frankly it comes down to the amount of skin showing in the clothing we are wearing.

Today’s “shrink-wrapped” fashion makes the goal of modesty a challenge.  Young women want to be in style, look their best, and wear the latest fashions—but what about young women (and their parents!) who believe that modesty should be taken into consideration when pursuing those fashions?

When shopping for Homecoming attire with my daughter, she kept pulling out dresses that were indeed very beautiful—at least what little dress there was to consider.  As we continued to shop I began to realize that I had information that my daughter did not have.  I have an understanding about the way men and women are drawn to what they see (skin!) and what it does to their mind and their body.

Now don’t get me wrong, that’s a really good thing in a marriage relationship.  God knew what he was doing when he created us sexual beings!  However there is value for a woman learning to keep unique aspects of her femininity for one man—her husband, or in a young woman’s case—her future husband.

Dannah Gresh in her book, Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty explains from a purely scientific aspect, “many of our bodies’ responses are activated by the automatic nervous system.  This system is not controlled by the will, but by the environment.”  For instance, when a mother suddenly realizes she doesn’t know where her two-year-old is, a panic that includes a raised heartbeat, a sick feeling in the stomach, or a feeling of light-headedness happens in her body.  The reactions are not something she chooses to have happen, they simply happen because her body responds to the environment.  That’s how the automatic nervous system works.  Dannah goes on to explain, “Sexual arousal works the same way.  Things in the environment—what we see, what we hear, what we smell—work together to tell the brain that the time is right for sexual response.”  We don’t choose that response—it can happen naturally.

Women don’t experience the same intensity of an automatic nervous system when they see a scantily clad man.  Women respond more to emotional stimulation and men respond more to visual stimulation –thus the value of understanding the importance of modesty for women.

Quite frankly, why does Victoria Secret have large pictures of half-naked women in the windows of their store?  Why does Abercrombie and Fitch use large sensual pictures of men and women selectively showing large amounts of skin?  They do that because it brings about a response in consumers.  Sometimes it’s a physical response, sometimes an emotional response, and they are hoping it will be a financial response as well.

So what does a parent do about understanding modesty and helping daughters (and sons!) learn to consider it in their clothing selections especially as we enter the season of Homecoming dances?  Here are some ways to approach the subject:

  • Make sure you are not creating a “do as I say, not as I do” requirement.  In other words, mom needs to evaluate what she is wearing and if it meets some modesty guidelines.
  • Have a frank discussion with your pre-teen/teenage daughter explaining to her the power of modesty and the effect of immodesty.  Revisit that discussion often, explaining the implications of immodesty rather than just giving rules.
  • Define limits on clothing such as no cleavage, no bare belly, no short shorts, no spaghetti straps, and no bare backs.  One mom stated that the three B’s had to be covered: breasts, bottom, and belly.
  • Make a game out of finding fashionable, yet modest clothing.  Go through a catalog together making note of the cute clothing that works within a modest mindset.  There’s a great website to find modest, but fashionable Prom and Homecoming dresses here.
  • Take a shopping trip just to see how many outfits you can find that meet the standards you have set for your family.  Select 2 or 3 outfits that your daughter can add to her closet.

On that shopping trip several years ago I finally put a halt to our looking.  I realized that I had some teaching to do.  I suggested we take a break and get a specialty drink at the coffee shop in the mall. I used the time to explain to my daughter the workings of the automatic nervous system.  I told her about the wonderful way that God created our bodies and how sexuality is a beautiful part of the marriage relationship. She blushed several times during our discussion, but the next few hours bore the fruit of our discussion.  She would pull a dress out and say, “Isn’t this pretty?” Then she would notice the lack of fabric and say, “Well, the color is pretty” and place it back on the rack.

Got TeensIt may be a challenge to consider modesty in today’s fashion culture, but it’s not impossible.  We, as parents, need to lead and equip our children to make good choices in the clothing they wear.

What about you? What strategies have you used to teach your kids about modesty?

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13 Responses to 5 Ways to Help Your Daughter Select a Modest Homecoming Dress

  1. Rachel L says:

    Hey Jill, I think you are exactly right with the issue of modesty, especially with our young women/daughters/ourselves, etc. Modesty is a really important issue for me because I feel people need to see the ‘real’ you and not the ‘physical’ you. First impressions and the way we or others dress create a reaction and judgment about what they think of us and I would rather dress nicely and modestly than be an object of physical attraction the moment someone looks at me. Thanks for your post, I really appreciate it. There are many websites that have modest prom dresses and clothing, if you google what you are looking for you will be surprised by what you can find. Sadly most of modest clothes at least for prom cannot be found at a local store since that is not the current fashion. I am a newer wife and mom and I plan to teach my children the value of modesty as an important principle in their lives.

    • JillSavage says:

      Rachel, good point….we want people to see the “real” you, not the “physical” you.

  2. Laura C. says:

    My 19 year old son and I were just having a discussion about modesty this week and the way that many girls dress. I told him that they probably don’t understand the way boys think and react to seeing how they’re dressed. He said, “That’s right. I have told many of my female friends that if they knew what I was thinking when I saw them like that, they wouldn’t dress that way.” I told him to spread the word! 🙂

  3. Leanna says:

    So very true, Jill. I love all of Dannah’s resource in guiding our young girls on this topic. I just wish the fashion industry would listen to the SCORES of moms out there who want more modest clothing. It’s so frustrating! Shopping for those adorable little girls was SO fun when they were little…now it’s just an exercise in frustration.

  4. Erin says:

    This is such a great reminder. I am a huge proponent of modesty, even in my young daughter.

    I am wondering if you would address the topic of dealing with this sort of thing with our boys. I have two sons who are eight and six, growing up in a world that unfortunately seems to be doing everything it possibly can to derail them from a pure life. I have to face the facts that most girls *won’t* dress modestly. How can I teach my boys to deal with this? Sometimes this world scares me so much . . . I can give my daughter definite rules for clothing, but what guidelines can I give my sons to help them resist these temptations?

  5. Richele says:

    This is a wonderful article and one very close to my heart as my business partner and I have built our company on teaching young ladies of faith to honor the Lord and respect brothers in Christ with their dress and actions. Thank you for writing this!

  6. Jennifer says:

    Amen! My husband and I have been working with my 7 year old daughter on this for the past year. She just moved from a 6x to a 7. There is a world of difference in the clothes that are appriopiate for a 7 year old. We want her to look and enjoy being a little girl not a 7 year old in women fashion. Our theory is, if you can’t wear at school and if Mommy wouldn’t wear it, then you are not wearing it.

    Teen girls really need to think about what message they are trying to send. Our pastor has even made the comment about what girls are wearing to church. It’s not just boys that think that way but the husbands/dads/grandpas that are sitting behind them at church too. They’re minds can wander even there!

  7. WendyBennett says:

    My girls are only 5 and 6 but I’ve already had to explain to them why they can’t wear 2 piece swimsuits. Although the convenience of slipping off the bottom for potty breaks makes them tempting I didn’t want to have to back track when they grew older and they are truly inappropriate. It’s tough to have to explain modesty to kids so young but it’s important that they learn that right from the start.

  8. Susan T says:

    Another fantastic resource is “Good Girls Don’t Have to Dress Bad” by Shari Braendel and her blog “What to Wear Wednesday”. I loved hearing her “What Not to Wear” Seminar at Hearts at Home about 2 yrs ago. 🙂