Advice from the Trenches: High School Fashion

Dear C and Dr. B

It’s the first week of my daughters high school freshman year. She is a good kid and has always been a good student. She is well adjusted and has lots of friends. She is also fashion conscious and well up on the current styles in social media pop culture. She is seems happy being part of that. So here’s my worry: She came home from school and I noticed – boy, are her clothes revealing! Way more cleavage than I would be comfortable with. I did bring it up to her and she got really upset. I know that what she is wearing is fashionable. I know she wants to fit in, and she and her friends talk a lot about clothing.

I am aware that I could alienate her by being too pushy about this. At this point, she has no real interest in boys so this is not about that. Yes, I would like to wrap her in a book cover for her protection and I know I can’t do that, but what should I do?

Apprehensive Mom


Dear Apprehensive,

Unfortunately, you are right. You can’t roll her up in brown paper and put a fragile label on the package. You can express your concerns and inform her about the nature of boys, but it will do little good – people don’t often relate to, or see themselves and their own situation, in the warnings others give them.

Our culture is somewhat shallow and as such, fashion can be a large part of peer acceptance. It can establish where you are in the social pecking order and affect your self-esteem. I would hope, for all moms, that their daughters are above this, but mine isn’t and I doubt yours is. However, from what you say she seems to be a good kid and will probably be fine.

If you could get her to go to self-defense classes that would be helpful – or at least give her a pepper spray key chain. Otherwise if she is not violating school dress codes there is little you can do. But here’s another thought – what is considered as decency is entirely culturally dependent. In some places in this world, topless is the norm. In NY, the “free the nip movement” has gained a lot of traction, even changing laws so that being topless, for women, has been legal since 1992. The goal is equality; wherever men can be topless, women should be able to as well. Topless for women is currently legal in 10 US cities, so someday we might be having a different conversation about what to wear on the first day of school.

Dr. B


C says: In 2018, all you have to do is turn on the TV to see how acceptable it is for women to display cleavage.

But there are extremely varying degrees of it, not only in the cut of the top, but in the woman who is wearing it; so, let’s take a page from the Book of Liz Lemon. Tina Fey practically made cleavage her signature on 30 Rock, yet there was nothing seductive about her. She acted like the girls were just along for the ride. Her intelligence, and edgy personality, were what you took away from the show.

I know it has been said that “clothes makes the man,” but if you put those clothes on an idiot (our Tweeting Tyrant comes to mind) he still comes across as an idiot. If your daughter came across as a skanky ‘ho, I’d be worried. But if she’s just adorned by the fashion of the moment and has a good solid head on her shoulders, she’ll figure out what many attractive successful women of the past already know – boobs are a business asset if you learn how to make them work for you. Remember this bit of dialog from the movie, Erin Brockovich?

Ed Masry: What makes you think you can just walk in there and find what we need?

Erin Brockovich: They’re called boobs, Ed.

There’s something I’d like to point out though – revealing clothes, however innocently intended, have the undeniable effect of arousing adolescent boys to a feverish pitch. In Taiwan, where my grandkids are growing up, students wear a uniform until they graduate high school. Nearly everyone who leave high school goes on to enter college and get a degree. Not sure if there’s a connection, but it’s something to think about.

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