Shopping for clothes is my least favorite chore. I know there are some people who consider shopping one of the great American pastimes. And there was a time in my life when I enjoyed browsing for hours and searching for a bargain. All of that stopped when I became a mom. Shopping is a hassle, sometimes it costs money we don’t necessarily have, and kids make shopping a challenge with requests for toys and bathroom breaks. All those things aside, the aspect of shopping that tires me out the most is trying to find clothing for our 12-year-old daughter. I have known since I was a teenager that modesty isn’t valued in the clothing industry, but this point was brought home to me even more during Spring Break when I took our pre-teen out for some new clothing.

It seems as though clothes have gotten tighter. I don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up, just what I have seen. But if you try to find a shirt with a little give, you’ll look for hours. Skin-tight clothes may be comfortable for some, but they leave nothing to the imagination. For kids who are starting to… well, whose bodies are starting to change, tight clothing is uncomfortable and embarrassing. My daughter was appalled at how tight some of the shirts were. She was unable to find anything in the junior section that didn’t cling to her body. Clothes for pre-teens and teenagers shouldn’t be skin tight – it’s just not necessary.

As a teacher and as a mom, I may be more aware of how short a girl’s shorts or skirts are. So maybe the length of what was available to us wouldn’t bother other people, but I was disturbed. Finding shorts of a suitable length was almost impossible. Now for workout shorts, I get it. You don’t want something that’s dragging your knee. But we were looking for clothes for The Oldest to wear to school, not to practice. It made me sad that girls are not given the option to cover themselves a bit more and still enjoy the comfort that shorts have to offer.

My husband and I have been accused of sheltering our children – we are very mindful of what they watch and what they hear. We don’t feel like they need to grow up too quickly. Maybe we are trying to hold them back. Maybe it is the normal thing to do to allow your 12-year-old to show off the back of her thighs. It doesn’t seem normal to me. Our little girls are not among those that you’ll see at the pool in a bikini, no matter what age. We live in a society where sex sells, and women are made to feel as though they have to be sexually aggressive in order to make it in a “man’s world”.  For the short period of time that we have any influence over them, we want our girls to understand that covering your body, and having some pride in yourself, is something that should be valued. Tight shirts and short shorts will get girls attention, but not the type of attention I want for my daughter.

We have all read the stories, and the columns, and the blogs about how girls have self-esteem issues. Women have them, too. I don’t know how many of you saw the video where women were sketched how they described themselves, and then sketched how someone else saw them. The difference was interesting. A lot of women have low self-worth. I know that I look in the mirror every morning and see the things I wish I could change instead of the things that make me beautiful and unique. I get sad at the thought that my daughters will ever see themselves as anything other than the beautiful children of God that they are. It makes my heart break when I hear my female students nit-pick something about themselves, or others. Degradation in any form is wrong, but self-degradation is much worse.  I bet if you ask any mom, or grandma, or aunt if they want the little girls in their lives to feel like they aren’t beautiful, the answer would be a strong “no”. And yet what are we doing to stop it?

The bad self image starts for some early. My husband and I have tried as hard as we can to keep our daughters from feeling like they have to fit in any conventional mold of beauty. And standing in the clothing section more than a month ago, I took my stand. I pointed out the outfits and talked to my daughter about them – about why wearing something like that would send out the wrong message, etc. We ended up going to the women’s section and finding some shirts that were a bit looser and covered better. She got Capri pants instead of shorts. I hope, though, that she got more than clothing, but a lesson on self-worth and problem solving. And I guess I need to dust off the sewing machine and get some lessons on making clothes. I will continue to fight the good fight, even if I have to make our daughters’ clothes. Two girls may not make a difference, but if all women decide to actually fight against low self esteem for our girls and demand more modest offerings on clothing racks, maybe we could make a difference for everybody. And girls are not the only ones who suffer from the lack of modest clothing. Moms of boys should be concerned about what their sons will see when they are out and about… but that’s another issue for another day.

It would take a lot more than a better selection to make me like shopping for clothes again, but giving a modest option in clothing would make the trip a bit more bearable.