Just last week, I was commiserating with other moms of middle-school teenage girls about the lack of appealing clothing available to teenage girls and the appalling state of girl teenage fashion today.
You can find a few decent outfits, (cute but not risque), but they are few and far between. Once a girl outgrows Laura Ashley's offerings, she can find little more from mass merchandisers than clothes that appear to have been designed for young, tacky sex kittens — clothes that my mother would not have let me wear to college, much less to middle school.
According to Suzy Menkes, who wrote "A Modest Proposal" in the March 19 New York Times Magazine, we might soon have a fashion trend toward modesty.
My prayers (about girls' attire) are being answered.
"A look that suddenly puts 'la moda da puttana' ('hooker chic') right out of vogue," according to Menkes, is now gracing the runway in fashion circles.
Thank goodness! Anyone who watched the Super Bowl halftime show, featuring Beyonce and Destiny's Child, would have seen la moda da puttana on full display. Black, cut-leather leotards, fishnets, and black boots were on full display.
"The new protagonist is Valentino and its design duo, whose modest capes, long-sleeved, calf-length dresses and general gentility has wiped out a decade of slut style on the runways," she wrote.
"The word that best describes their clothes is so ancient and out of fashion that it requires a good dust off: modesty. Yet this is not a sackcloth-and-ashes denial of sexuality but rather a fresh take on the female factor. The modern woman is not prudish about her body. She just may not want to put her erogenous zones on display."
If you've recently seen thongs peeking up over jeans, bare midriffs and pants so low you wonder how they stay up, a bit of modesty might be as welcome to you as to me.
Or, you might be asking yourself, why should it make a difference what girls wear, isn't it simply a way to express themselves? According to the "Report of the Task Force of the American Psychology Association on the Sexualization of Girls," which was published in 2010, "If girls purchase (or ask their parents to purchase) products and clothes designed to make them look physically appealing and sexy, and if they style their identities after the sexy celebrities who populate their cultural landscape, they are, in effect, sexualizing themselves."
Does this matter?
The short answer is yes. "Research links sexualization," the report states, "with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood."
It's not only the focus of clothing, but of much of the media. Think of how women are portrayed on television. Many women commentators on news programs wear pseudo cocktail dresses. Men wear suits. Both are supposed to be experts in their fields, but they are portrayed differently through their dress.
What we wear does not define who we are, but it is important. Clothing is how we initially express to the rest of the world who we are, or who we think we are, or who we would like to be or possibly a mixture of all three.
First impressions tend to endure, and in middle school the name of the game is fitting in, belonging to one group or another. This desire to belong, to be a part of something, helps explain why fashion trends can fly through schools during these formative years.
It's also the time when crushes begin and social skills are learned, practiced, and understood. What is most important to others? Is it looks and attire? Is it sexualization? Or is it what is on the inside of a person, rather than the outside?
Almost 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about having a dream where the importance of the "content of their character" was a person's most important attribute, not the color of his or her skin. Nor should it be beauty that is only skin deep.
It will be interesting to watch the modesty trend unfold and to see if it catches on.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman is the co-author, along with her father, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of the book "5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours." Read more reports from Jackie Gingrich Cushman — Click Here Now.
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