What did you teach your girls about wearing sleeved vs. sleeveless dresses to High School dances and elsewhere? Did they follow your advice?Summary:
It looks like most parents started out with no sleeveless clothing from when their kids were very young but some allowed sleeveless shirts, etc. Lots talked with their kids as they got older about preparing for the temple and not needing to throw out clothes after starting to wear garments. Many altered prom dresses or sewed them altogether. Some mentioned distinguishing between uniforms and costumes and regular clothing, covering up before and after swimming, etc.Answers:
We have two girls, and from the time they were very small, I tried to have them wear clothing with sleeves. I don’t think they ever had a Sunday dress that was sleeveless. I’m not saying that they never wore sleeveless tops in the summertime, but we just steered away from it as much as possible from the very beginning. As they got older, in jr. high and high school, they seldom wore sleeveless “anything” in public. When it came time for High School dances etc., it was never a question. Neither of them felt comfortable being in sleeveless (let alone straps or strapless) dresses. I honestly cannot remember it being an area of any prolonged discussion. So, yes, I guess they did follow our advice, and I’m grateful for that. It was probably unusual that they both made those choices on their own.
From time to time we did discuss how important it was that they didn’t have to purchase new wardrobes after they had been to the Temple. Saved a lot of money!
It wasn’t an option at our house to wear sleeveless things. From the time they were little, we chose short sleeved summer clothes etc. Later, even when there was something they kind of wanted to wear, I would discourage them about it. And since it felt so different to them, it wasn’t a big deal. Though you have to hunt more, it’s still possible to find kids clothes with cap sleeves or put a shrug over a sundress.
When we talked about it, I shared a story about an experience in the Singles Branch when my husband was the Branch President. I was sitting behind someone in Relief Society and heard her say that she wasn’t planning to get married in the temple, because she didn’t want to “give up her shoulders.” I was stunned! I explained to our children how sad it was to think of giving up something as important as a temple marriage, to be “in style.” Styles set by people who do not share our values and whose lives have often been scrambles because of it. In essence, selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.
When it came time to shop for Prom dresses, we had to make them ourselves almost every time, though on occasion we found modest dresses on the Internet that were affordable.
Most often, they chose a pattern I had for many years that had simple princess seams down the front and back (so it was easy to fit well) and we changed the sleeves, neckline and length to suit the style of the time. The fabric was the most important consideration in making them not look like each other. This particular style is slimming and classic, so they always looked better in it, than the “frilly, foofy” kind.
All our girls had at least one dress though that was more complicated and unusual. They never like them as well when they were done, because usually all those swags, gathers and petticoats only added weight (making them look heavier), scratchiness and discomfort.
One year, our newspaper did a story about prom and chose our daughter and her date as one of the couples. They included a budget of the expenses. I was glad the fabric we chose was $25 a yard (making the dress one of our most expensive) so our budget was a little less eye-popping in comparison. As it was, her outfit cost ¼ what the other girls spent.
One final thought: the most important thing is building a sense of being a “style leader” not a “style follower.” Finding ways to start something new or be unique because you’re more modest, not more immodest. (One time our daughter and her friends made all different colors of long skirts and wore t-shirts with them—just for fun!) At the heart, it’s helping kids feel like they’re as good as anyone else, and if they’re true to gospel principles they can stand for truth and be a light for others.
We started when our girls were very young pointing out "modest" tops. Sometimes while browsing through photo albums they would see mom in sleeveless dresses or tops and question why. Mom would just explain that it wasn't emphasized then and she wished it had been. We had discussions about modesty and the temple garments frequently. Truthfully, no sleeveless items were ever purchased and it never was an issue. We loved going prom dress shopping together but they always knew that the dresses were to be altered to include sleeves or a small jacket. I guess we were just lucky on that issue.
When we lived in Europe we told our daughters that we didn't have them wear shorts and halter tops because we are Latter Day Saints and we are seeking to be modest and respect our bodies. When we moved to Utah and our neighbors children who were also LDS were wearing skimpy clothes we had to say we wear modest clothing because as a family we choose to respect our bodies and honor our Maker by wearing modest clothing. I sewed many of our daughter's Prom dresses and most if not all of them had sleeves. They usually designed them and I did my best to make them according to their desires. We didn't have issues about sleeves that I remember.... I know that we talked about after we go through the temple we will always have our shoulders covered so we might as well get used to it. I can remember adding to necklines so they were not too low for the girl's comfort. We did not make a big deal about it but our daughters seemed to accept being modest much easier than some of our grand daughters do. Our girls did have dance performance costumes which were less modest but we made a distinction between costumes and what we wear when we are in public otherwise, for example wearing a coverup on the way to the beach or the pool if we put on swim suits before leaving home. It was just less of an issue that I think it is now. There were not so many Music and TV personalities than kids wanted to emulate who wore such sleezy styles.
We were asked about our rules concerning sleeveless dresses for our girls. This seems to be a small portion of the larger question of modesty. I remember teaching a lesson once that was entitled “Modesty is more then Dress”. That impressed me. We see immodesty in so many ways these days, obviously in dress, but also in speech, behavior and a general irreverence for things that should be held more sacred.
President Packer encouraged us to teach principles, which would alter behavior more effectively than teaching behavior. As we taught our children who they are, their relationship to their Heavenly Father and a love and reverence for Him, the values of modesty were more easily implanted in their hearts. They then were pretty good at governing themselves. This seems to me to be an issue of principle rather than practice.
We set the example by how we reverenced our garments, removing them only for short periods of time when absolutely necessary and becoming appropriately dressed as soon as possible. We believe our own example was one of the greatest influences. We feel that their individual self-respect is a major issue also. As they valued themselves, they were more inclined to resist inappropriate draws from the world. We have been blessed to live in an area where friends shared our standards of modesty, making it much easier for our children.
We did teach modesty but were not that concerned about modestly sleeveless blouses for our girls until they approached their later teens. We then encouraged them to discontinue buying anything that would not be worn with garments, for practical reasons as well as modesty. At first, my husband didn’t want them to wear shorts to school, but considering we live in a very warm climate, that didn’t prove to be practical and created some rebellion. We realized we needed to be realistic and that wasn’t realistic. Their shorts were modest which sometimes took some shopping. Prom dresses required a lot of shopping, altering, etc. but we were able to keep a standard, which was comfortable for all. We experienced no real resistance.
One of our daughters was a diver and spent a lot of time in her swimming suit, which concerned us some. We were afraid that she would be used to being in that attire and it would influence her sense of modesty. However, her modesty was internalized and has never been a problem.
We are most grateful that our daughters have all grown to be very modest women and do their best to teach their own children to be modest. Much time in our climate is spent in swimming pools in the summer, but I notice they encourage their children to get dressed or put on a shirt or cover up when out of the pool. I appreciate knowing the principle of modesty is being valued.
We kind of just expected them to do whatever our leaders have told us is good. We didn't have as much problem as parents do now. In fact we don't think there was as much emphasis on sleeveless dresses as now, but no strapless. We were mostly worried about "too short skirts" and boys with "too long hair". This is like the 60's and up from there. Luckily we missed the worst part as two of our children were older and our next child just missed that part too as he was younger than them by 8 years. There were no bikinis either. We can see today how hard it is to stay modest in these times. They were good to listen. We didn't have much rebellion in our children as they knew what would be said to them. There is an article in the last Woman's Day Magazine on "Just Say No". It's a great one and we think if all parents would read it it would save them a lot of heartache.
I wasn't very strict on sleeveless tops in the summer. When it came time to choose prom dresses I encouraged my girls to find dresses with at least a cap sleeve. They were quite willing to adhere to temple-ready modesty standards for prom dresses, but a little less willing (some of my girls) to choose tops with sleeves during the summer. But I continued to talk about modesty with them. I used the approach that it was good to get used to wearing clothes that could be worn with garments.
As far as modest dress is concerned, I think I got really lucky. All of my daughters have always been conscientious of wearing modest clothing. They all participated in sports, soccer, track and basketball and obviously had to wear their uniforms. They never rolled up their shorts or trained in short shorts and only a sports bra. When they were done with a race, they put a t shirt on over their uniform. They were not comfortable in short dresses and would never have thought of wearing a strapless dress to a dance. I don’t know really why. I do know that I always made sure to wear modest clothing and we did talk about it, but we were always in agreement. There were never any disagreements or battles. One of my daughters has a mole around her collar bone and referred to it as her modesty mole. She wouldn’t wear anything that might reveal that mole.
Start when they are young and explain very carefully why this is what we do. Never break the rule yourself. Always show that you know this is a POSITIVE thing we are doing and never be ambiguous in your own feelings or the child will detect that and play on that. i.e. " It is such a pretty dress, but we will have to remodel it anyway, etc. etc." that's the key for the rebellion.Work to find a solution to the sleeveless perfect dress.You can always solve it. Young Women's program can do a lot towards making it a fun challenge with style shows, etc. A good seamstress in the ward is a big help. I worked in the Denver temple for many years and helped a lot of brides get dressed for the ceremony. Believe me when I say that the MOTHERS were always the problem when we told them that the wedding dress must have non see through long sleeves and an insert if the neckline was not appropriate.
None of our three daughters ever wore sleeveless gowns or dresses or shirts. This was taught by their mother who was always a perfect example which they followed. They were also taught in Young Women's by their youth leaders and was clearly stated in For The Strength of youth and all of their friends dressed accordingly so it was never a problem. Hair was sometimes too much but they grew out of that.Next week's question:
How did you enforce bedtime if young kids didn't want to stay in their rooms?
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