Teen styles are constantly changing, but one thing is true every year: Kids dress for social impact. They may not care what adults think about their clothing choices, but they care hugely what their peers think. Because many teens and preteens have so much energy about clothes, it’s a great opener for parents into their social world and their thought process.
In particular, what does clothing says about social power, sexiness, and attractiveness? These are all great topics to explore with your teen. For instance:
Do the “cool kids” wear the same clothes as everyone else, or are some things just “cooler”? Are there certain items (type of shoes, jewelry, brand of jeans) that people “have to have” this year? What impact does that have on kids who can’t afford those things or who are fashion-clueless? What social power comes with dressing a certain way?
What do clothes say about rebellion and conformity? Are there kids who dress in a way that says “I don’t give a damn”? Are some rebelling against what adults think (which may look cool to their peers)? Do others dress to distance themselves from their classmates? How do people treat those who dress outside the mainstream? How much individuality is accepted? Do people think less of classmates who dress like slobs, or preps, or goths, or whatever?
What does your teen think about really sexy clothing? At most high schools, you’ll find at least some girls wearing super-tight jeans, low-cut blouses, and amazingly short skirts. Your teen may have a range of mixed feelings about that. For instance, guys can easily be distracted by girls dressed in overtly sexual ways. They probably like looking at those girls, but might not be comfortable around them. Girls may be proud that they look hot; may be envious of girls who have hot bodies and attract attention–or may think they’re fools; or may feel really uncomfortable about the overt sexuality.
Amid all these feelings, parents can encourage critical thinking about the implications of sexy clothes. What kind of attention does a girl get when she dresses in an overtly sexy way? Does it make her more popular? Does her sexiness make her popular with both guys and girls? Do people think well of her? or criticize her behind her back? Are girls who dress in certain ways labeled “slutty”? Do guys treat those girls differently?
Is there a difference between looking attractive and looking sexy? What image does your teen want to present to the world? How can teens look good and feel good about their bodies without making their sexiness the only thing people see?
Like it or not, the people around us judge us partly based on what we choose to wear. Help your kid think about all the ways that can play out. If nothing else, it may make for some interesting discussions. 🙂