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Age appropriate clothing

Mother and teenage daughter
Tanith Carey on helping daughters dress age appropriately.

In today’s highly sexualised society, even primary school girls can feel pressured to conform to a ‘thin and sexy’ ideal, which can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. Here are a few ideas from Tanith Carey (author of Where Has My Little Girl Gone?) on helping daughters dress age appropriately.

For younger girls

Don’t turn children into mini-me’s: little girls have the rest of their lives to wear high heels and camisoles if they choose. Give them space to be children and dress them in clothes they can play freely in.

Complain: if you see inapprop-riate or exploitative clothes on store racks, say so. Write to the shop’s head office and ask if they have considered the implications of their product.

Make your own t-shirts: Buy plain t-shirts and fabric paints and create unique clothes. If your daughter wants to define herself by what she wears, let her make her own statement.

For older girls

Agree to compromise: banning particular clothes makes them more alluring. Find a middle way, such as letting her go through a catalogue you both like and agreeing on a budget.

Ask her to think about how other people will view her: if she wants to go out in something provocative, don’t scream and shout. Instead, ask how she thinks she’ll be perceived. Tell her you understand she wants to look more mature, but that some people, whose attentions she will not welcome, may think she wants sex. It may not change her mind, but at least you’ve made her aware of the impression she might create.

Tone it down: if she insists on wearing buttock-skimming shorts and micro-minis, suggest she customise with leggings or camisoles underneath to tone things down. Keep explaining that it’s not because you don’t like her style, but because you want to keep her safe.

Lead by example: check that you’re setting a good example when you go out. Do you give the impression that how you’re dressed is your main selling point?