As a father of two young girls, I am concerned with modesty in dress which today is a difficult issue for young women given the current state of fashion and lack of appropriate role models. Unfortunately, there are very few positive influences available.
While I believe it’s important for mothers to instruct girls on how to dress modestly (and the reasons why modesty is so critical) it’s not an issue that fathers can afford to ignore. Our daughters need to understand from us that there is more to the issue that simply what they should and should not wear.
The dilemma for parents is how to provide practical instruction on this issue without coming across as controlling or legalistic. The problem with taking the legalistic approach is that we end up sowing seeds of rebellion rather than seeds of obedience. If we don’t give them the ability to make wise judgements while they are still under our roof then it’s a sure bet they won’t make wise judgements when they are on their own. It’s important that we provide our children with the tools to make the right judgements about what they wear. It’s also important that they understand it’s not just about what they wear but why they are wearing what they wear.
Before focusing on specific do’s and don’ts in dress, we need to make sure our daughters understand that what they wear says a lot about them. A woman who is dressed immodestly may be trying to call attention to herself or may be saying things like "I’m easy" or "I’m desperate". These are messages we don’t want our daughters to be sending. Instead, we want their dress to reflect their both their beauty as women and their hearts towards God.
It’s also important that they understand the effect that their dress can have on men. This is where fathers can play an especially important role. Within the larger context of male/female relationships, we can address issues regarding the effects of visual stimuli on men. Ultimately the man must decide how to respond to visual stimuli and deal with it in a healthy manner but women do bear a responsibility to not be a stumbling block for men.
We also need to make sure our daughters have practical tools that help them make wise decisions in what they wear. This brochure from Sovereign Grace Ministries is an example of a great teaching tool. (Hat tip: Proverbial Wife)
One of the tools I’ve given my daughters is what I call the "touchdown test". It’s a simple way to show whether a shirt is long enough for them to wear. You raise your arms over your head. If any part of your belly shows then the shirt is too short. Just the other day my youngest daughter (who is 7) came to my wife and said "I did the touchdown test and the shirt I have on is too short so I’m going to have to go change".
My daughter is already taking the initiative to determine whether what she wears is appropriate rather than having to have me approve her apparel. That needs to be our goal in the instruction to our children.