Can You De-Code the Dress Code?

Several weeks ago at church, I noticed a group of high-schoolers who were getting ready for their Confirmation and were therefore waiting in line for Confession. What had me troubled was that many of the girls had on the “Soffe” shorts–the jersey knit gym shorts with the one-inch inseam. A couple of the girls actually wore these shorts with the waistband rolled down to make them even skimpier. As short as they were, they could now easily be compared to bathing suit bottoms. I wondered if their parents or their teachers had taken the time to let them know what appropriate clothing was for the sacrament of Confession.

I do not believe I am alone in my musings. Many parents today comment on the lack of modesty in the dress of our youth – especially to church. Of course the grandparents are just aghast at the total lack of respect in dress and decorum shown by most of our youth today. In pondering why we are in this plight, I realized it is a general lack of instruction on what is acceptable and what isn’t, combined with a reluctance to upset the apple cart – in other words, to just say no.

1. What positive steps do we take to control this behavior?

Recently a father told me that he liked some modest dress options he had seen, but was wondering if his 14-year-old daughter would like them as well and be willing to wear them to church. Seriously!?

Call me old-fashioned, but as a mother of an almost 14-year-old, I believe it is my right and duty to have the power to make decisions about what my daughter wears – to church or anywhere else, for that matter. Mind you, I do not always hear, “Oh, Mum, you’re right, why didn’t I think of that?” More often, I get “But everyone else wears this” or “Other parents don’t have a problem with their kids wearing this.” Not that that helps change my perspective; I just have to remind her that I am not “everyone’s” mother. So all you parents who indulge your kids and give in to their inappropriate choices, please realize that you are inadvertently setting a standard. Once I am not contributing financially to my daughter’s living expenses, I will not be able to have a say in what she wears; but hopefully by then it will not be necessary. If my teachings haven’t worked, at least I can rest assured that I have done all I could. Until that time, I plan on executing my God-given rights as a parent. Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

2. Do we educate our kids and model how to dress appropriately for different events?

How much value do we place on our children’s physical appearance? Is that the first attribute we discuss when describing them to others? Do we teach them that they present who they are – not what they look like  – for approval? Do we teach our kids to categorize their clothes and help them understand that what may be appropriate for the beach is not necessarily so for church? Do we have set standards and expectations of what is considered modest and appropriate? Do we use well-worn excuses – pardon the pun – to justify our own lack of appropriate dress? Some of us dress very well for business and other occasions. We actually decide what we will be wearing to an event in advance! But when it comes to church, we give our dress no thought because it’s one day we don’t have to dress up. Shouldn’t it be the one day we do dress up, because we are preparing for a special meeting with our Creator – on the most important day of the week? And shouldn’t we be modeling this for our kids?

3. Do we provide them with options of clothing that are appropriate for church? Do they lack church clothes?

A friend recounted that his daughter was so stressed about visiting a potential high school because she wanted to make “the right impression.” Even though she would be visiting in her school uniform, they bought a lightweight “North Face” athletic jacket (which cost $200) for the visit!

Let’s take an inventory of how much we spend or allow our kids to spend on their branded wear. Nike or Converse trainers, $100 – $200; Abercrombie tees and tanks, $20 and up; Vera Bradley purses, $21 – $75; UGG boots, $135 – $250.

Are we reluctant to spend the money to dress our kids well… or are we just reluctant to spend the money to dress our kids well for church?

I challenge parents to quit griping about “society” and doing nothing to change the status quo. We are society, and we can institute change. It all starts in our own homes with our own families.

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Marisa Pereira is a mother, fashion designer, currently runs a Design and Image Consulting business in Atlanta, GA, is a freelance writer and volunteers at her church and in the community. She holds a BA in Fashion Design and a BA in French with a minor in Psychology and has worked in the Fashion Industry for over twenty years. Frustrated at her inability to find appropriate church clothes for her 14 year old daughter, she heeded God’s call, and created the stylish but modest, Michaela-Noel clothing collection, now available on-line. Having lived in multiple countries, she is acutely aware of the emphasis cultures place on visual appeal. She analyzes the importance of presenting the best image of ourselves and passionately insists that it starts within. She regularly addresses adult and youth audiences – encouraging and teaching them to make a memorable first impact but more importantly - to create a lasting impression. Her websites are: and

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