Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Forum: Modesty

So...Modesty. I think it can be a tricky issue, subjective to differing opinions and personal feelings. I consider myself a modest person. I would also like to raise modest children. This issue is especially relevant to me now that I have a daughter. She is thirteen months old. Some days I dress her in sleeveless sundresses. In my opinion, there is nothing sexual, or provocative, or inappropriate about a little girl in a sundress; quite contrarily, I think it (she) is sweet and soft and darling.

If she remains active in our faith, she will have a certain standard of modesty imposed on her in adulthood. Even before that though, she will probably have a standard of modesty imposed by her father and me. As I think about our family standards and the logistics and timing of enforcement, the questions arise and I'd really love to hear your thoughts on the following:

If you already do/plan to enforce standards of modesty in your child's dress, at what age did/will that begin?

What were the expectations surrounding modesty in your household growing up? How did you feel about them?

What are your standards of modesty for your daughters? Tank-tops? Length of shorts/skirts? Swim-suits (one piece or two?)

Why do you feel strongly about your stance on modesty? If it's not something you feel strongly about, why not?


Traci said...

I have thought a lot about this one too because my first is a girl. I think it is really important to start early talking to her about modesty like not lifting up her dress or shirt and such things. With that said I don't think that there is anything wrong with her wearing a sleeveless shirt or cute little shorts right now. I think that as soon as she begins school we will re-evaluate. With her she is an especially "aware" child. So for that reason I have to stay on my toes, make sure she is understanding everything she is taking in - i.e. others who may not share our same beliefs in modesty (or other things). So I think it could depend on the child as well.

Megh said...

I was just talking to my friend about this the other day. I don't have kids yet, which means I have all sorts of ideas that I think are fabulous, but which have never been stress-tested (if you know what I mean). Who knows what my reality will be.

But for now, my opinion is this: I love a sundress on a sweet little girl. I'm not opposed. But I would like to start dressing my girls in "modest clothes" before they start choosing their own clothes. Say, around 3. I think those sundresses might look just as sweet with a little cardigan over them, or a white blouse underneath. I hope that by dressing my children modestly and frequently mentioning the importance of it, they will be more apt to choose appropriate attire when they're buying it with their babysitting money.

My mother was a great example of modesty, and always dressed me in modest clothes. It made modesty easier growing up. Did I buy some tank tops and short shorts in high school? Yes. Did it stick? No.

I think there are many right answers in this situation. And selfishly, I hope mine is one of them.

Gina said...

I have one girl and two boys. My daughter is a "stick to the rules and never stray kind of girl". We've dressed her modestly from the beginning and now that she is 6, it has never been an issue. Even when she sees that the selection of summer sleeved dresses is far slimmer than the ones without sleeves, she always just chooses from the modest ones.

Stefani M. said...

My first is a girl, too (now 4), and my husband and I thought about this a lot before and after she was born, as we were buying and receiving clothes. Frankly, we could never figure out what would be a good age to have her STOP wearing the sleeveless stuff (not that there is anything wrong with a little girl in sleeveless stuff), but seriously, kids pay attention--really young. So 8, when she gets baptized? Seemed too late for such a dramatic change. When she starts school? Well, now that she's 4, I know that she has been paying attention to clothes (Belle's signature dress is off-the-shoulder, other princesses' aren't) so that also would have been a little too late (plus, now that we're homeschooling, that's a moot point). So we just started from the beginning. Then there was no time-frame to try to impose later.

On the shorts, babies legs are so short, that the difference in lengths is sometimes minuscule... and as they move around... it all shifts and what was a decent length, isn't. So, I decided not to care so much until she was ready for panties. A stranger getting a eye-full of my daughter's diaper... okay... getting an eye-full of her panties... not okay.)

Rachael said...

Like others, we've found it's best to apply the standards early on. With our first daughter, we dressed her in sundresses without shirts underneath until she was about nursery age, then we began putting shirts on underneath, mostly because we decided we wished we'd been doing it all along rather than feeling like she was "too old." What surprised me was how early (two and a half) she began talking about modesty and commenting on what people around her were wearing (and comparing the various princesses, as someone else mentioned). With her younger sister, we've done shirts under and over the sundresses from the very beginning.

I usually dress my 2-year-old in skorts rather than skirts and we practice "sitting like a lady" at home so that my four-year-old (who insists on wearing a skirt every day) keeps her underwear under wraps. I don't worry too much about shorts lengths at this age, but we always make sure that skirts are at least knee-length.

As far as swimsuits go, I don't mind tankinis for little girls (and older girls too, for that matter), since it is way easier to take them to the bathroom or change a swim diaper, but we do have a strict bikini ban. We also look for tankinis that "touch" rather than exposing a couple inches of stomach.

My mom did allow me to wear sleeveless dresses to formal dances, mostly because the sleeved options were even more immodest (plunging necklines or extremely short). She did make sure that necks and backs were high and modified several dresses to ensure this. With my younger sisters, she really pushed for sleeved dresses, since there were way more options available at that point. My parents were always sticklers about knee-length shorts and skirts, and didn't let us wear tank tops (without another shirt on top) or bikinis. My sisters and I all wore tank tops under other shirts to bring necklines up, cover up backs, etc. We plan to follow these same rules with our children.

Bottom line: I think it's easiest to begin as you plan to continue, because then you don't have to worry about saying, "Well, that was okay when you were little," because that's hard for kids to understand. And then you don't have to worry about what's age-appropriate, etc.

Amy said...

In my world, I was the odd girl out when it came to modesty with my young daughter. I am glad to see so many women who share my point of view.

I too wondered about this issue before my daughter was even born. Thee bottom line? I could never come up with "the age" when the little sundresses and darling sleeveless tops stopped and sleeves began. We received many of these types clothes as gifts since we live in a very hot climate. It was a difficult decision, but, in the end, we just never did the sleeveless thing.

My daughter is 3 now and she is very aware of what she wears. If I decided to change her clothing now, we would be in a heap of trouble! She is so strong-willed!

I look forward to following other comments on this topic.

Jonesy said...

Warning: I have very strong opinions about this one! I have 4 daughters--8, 6, 5 & 3. If I want my children to develop a testimony of modesty (which I do) then it can't come with exceptions. It's either modest or it's not, no matter the age. It's the same with every principle of the gospel. You don't withhold the scriptures from them because they can't read yet. You don't withhold the sacrament because they aren't baptized yet. You don't exclude them from family prayers because they can't talk yet.
Instead of asking ourselves how long we can "get away" with letting our daughters wear sundresses or bikinis, maybe we should ask ourselves why we want to "get away" with it in the first place?
I love tank tops and sundresses just as much as anyone else, but to me, they're just as cute with a little white onesie or t-shirt underneath them. Even my new son will held to the same standards of modesty by only wearing tank tops if a t-shirt is under it.
We only have a few precious years to teach our children all we can. And as we all know, children learn the most in the first 3 years of life. I say take advantage of it and you won't be fighting the modesty fight later on.

Mrs. Cropper said...

OK so what about with boys? Is it a double standard to make sure our girls are totally covered up and then let our boys run around without shirts on? I am sincerely asking what people think, because my boy, Blaine, was a total nudist from age 2-3 (pottytraining era), and I pretty much just didn't care. He was so little. These days he's better at getting his clothes on after he uses the bathroom, and I remind him a little more often, too. It hasn't been a big deal. But, back to my question. Why do we naturally (myself included) tend to worry more about girls' modesty than boys? And do we impose a double standard?

Linds said...

Thanks for bringing up this topic. I've been wavering on this because I adore my 9 month-old's chubby, michelin-man arms and shoulders. And I'm a sucker for a cute halter-top or spaghetti strap sundress. I really appreciate all of the comments so far and am beginning to rethink my ways.

kamille said...

i am pregnant with my 2nd child right now (a girl) and have also been thinking about modesty. i have a son and i try to keep him modest. i don't buy him shirts without sleeves - he had a little onesie without sleeves when he was about 4 months old and i just put a white onesie underneath it. honestly - i think it looks cuter that way! i will do the same with our girl. i love the little spaghetti strapped dresses but i think they look just as cute with a white shirt underneath. i think it's important to teach modest from a young age because then it's just something you do and that's the way it is. i like the comment about teaching girls to sit lady like and not show their panties...i will have to remember that!

and as for how we treat modesty with boys vs. girls - i do think we tend to emphasize modesty more with girls. i think that is probably just because it's easier for women to be immodest but i think we should definitely stress modesty to boys as well it is just as important.

Katie said...

I am indifferent about this topic. My girls wear the spaghetti strapped dresses and short shorts. It is summer and hot and it is simply more comfortable. I always make them wear shorts under dresses and skirts to school and the playground for modesty's sake. I think there is a natural point (school age kids) when you stop buying spaghetti straps and tiny clothes. For me it happened with Jolie when she grew into the big kid sizes. (Not toddler size anymore.) Now Jolie dresses more modestly. She wears leggings under everything pretty much. I personally don't like the t-shirt under spaghetti strap look on ANYONE. Not cute. Just my opinion.

Honey said...

Amen, Jonesy! I have four daughters as well, 8,5,3,1 (with an almost 7 year old son in between), and we started from the get go - we're talking fresh from the womb! :) We've done the little cardigans or nice tees under cute sun dresses, one piece bathing suits, longer shorts, etc. It's worked for us. Really well. I don't think it's ever too early to instill such important values - girls and boys.

jeanine said...

I don't have any little girls... yet. Maybe one day. However, when that day comes I've already given the modesty issue a lot of thought. I agree with the ladies who have already mentioned the sweaters over or shirts under the sundresses. While I think a little girl in a sundress is ultra cute it's such a hard issue of when to switch that it's easier to just start from the beginning. I DO however have issue with little girls in bikinis... NOT cute in my opinion. Tankinis aren't so bad as long as that little tummy is covered! (Plus is makes those diaper changes and potty breaks a TON easier!)
Growing up my parents were strict about modesty. Even if it was our own babysitting money it was off limits to buy tank tops (unless they were used under a shirt or on top of a t-shirt) or short shorts, etc. It was hard sometimes because I had friends wearing immodest clothing (even those who were members of our faith) and they were cute. But my parents stuck to their guns. I am so glad that they did.... it was a lot easier when I was older!
Anne brought up an interesting topic as well. Do we have a double standard with boys and girls? I won't let my boys wear tank tops--I just think they are not attractive. And boys don't tend to have the same problems with modesty. I have no problem with little boys running around the house with shirts off... but not in public. I think we can still teach them principles of modesty. My 4 1/2 year old son always wants to know why big ads at the store have "naked girls" aka girls in bikinis. He doesn't like it.
Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic!

Rosalee said...

I have a one year old boy. I see him as a future missionary, a future priesthood holder. I was taught in my family growing up that men should always wear white shirts and ties to church. Wearing a colored shirt to church doesn't feel special. It seems like the brother just came from the office or is heading there. Men wear white shirts in the temple, and I feel it should be no different for church. So, my son has worn a white shirt and tie to church since he was 3 months old. I feel it is very important to teach our children when they are young and most impressionable about modesty. I want to teach my children that wearing the temple garment is not a burden or a hassle, but a great privilege and also a responsibility. Thus I will prepare my children and their wardrobe from an early age to be garment worthy even though they won't wear the garment for several years.
However, my son does have some sleeveless shirts. He was given some for this past summer and I've bought 3 for next summer. But I don't plan on buying any more for him. I guess I feel that once a child reaches 2 that sleeveless clothing should be done away with.
I feel rather conflicted! There does seem to be a double standard. So I guess since I've put sleeveless shirts on my son then it may be ok to put sleeveless shirts on my future daughters (no spaghetti straps though) until they turn 2.
What do you think? I definitely have a lot of thinking to do about this. Thanks for the great forum!

Rachael said...

hmm, I wasn't even really thinking about the boys! but great point.

as far as boys go, I honestly think tightness is more of an issue, maybe just because I don't really know any guys that wear tank tops. But just as I don't think girls should wear skin-tight clothes, I don't think guys should either. Shirtlesness: well, my husband always wears a T-shirt unless he's actually in water, so I imagine he'll want our sons to do the same.

Although I must say right now my son is totally wearing skin-tight clothes, since he's a chubby little two-month-old. :-)

Rachael said...

oops. left out an "s" on shirtlessness. not that it's really a word anyway...

danielle said...

The most important thing I want to teach my daughter about her body is to feel confident and proud of it. I want her to learn about how wonderful her body is. Obviously that includes respecting it dressing appropriately for the circumstances. I really don't think that showing arms and legs is immodest at all (that seems to be the focus of this discussion). I want my children to be able to thrive in the innocence of childhood as long as they can. I say if its hot and they are outside playing let em run around in shorts and tank tops (or nothing!). Let them swim in their skivies. Who cares? I guess I just think that there are so many other more critical issues to spend time worrying about, that whether or not my 2 year-old has sleeves just isn't one of them. I think that with really small children I place no distinction between boys and girls in terms of what is appropriate to cover.
I tend to think of clothing for children more in terms of function. It should be comfortable, and protective and appropriate for the weather. It does drive me crazy to see little girls in miniature versions of "grown up" looking sexy clothes. Does that make sense? That may be more of an issue later on, but even for babies you see things like that.

Anyway, I tend to think that teaching acceptance about our bodies, especially for girls, is more important than sleeve length. I think that there is a danger with girls feeling ashamed of their bodies as they get older and more developed if such an emphasis is placed on covering them while they are little and have no understanding of sexuality etc. I'm not saying its bad to cover them...I am just saying I think care should be taken when dealing with those issues.

Sugar... said...

Our elementary school bans wearing tank tops; thank you Utah for helping me impose modesty on my unsuspecting children without me having to lift a finger. In reality, I agree that school age is about the time to teach your kiddos modesty. My daughter knows that Belle is a tramp (just kidding!). We've taught her that we don't wear those kinds of dresses. She understands modesty (5), but we try not to TALK too much on the subject lest she begins to think that clothing is really the most important thing in this world. There are other things to teach our children to help them become self-confident enough to make their own decision to be modest in the future. I believe whole-heartedly that no matter what you tell your children to do, if they don't feel confident in themselves, they will fall in with the crowd.

A parent's EXAMPLE is the most powerful tool. This is a huge pet peeve of mine lately. For example there are those "modest" t-shirt companies where the shirt comes all the way down to your rear, but you sacrifice your entire bra-line and belly button indentation in the process. I saw a mom at Halle's school the other day wearing one of those tissue thin white shirts and you could see EVERYTHING (bra, mormon garments with lace and all) underneath. It was sooooo tight. What does that say to our kids? I wore skimpy bikinis all through high school and college, but that's college. I'm a mom now, and that's just innappropriate in my opinion. If you have a rockin' body, that's great, keep it to yourself and your husband. Our kids learn by example. Less talk, more example.

With boys, I agree that wearing a white shirt to church is appropriate. Nice church shoes, etc. My husband once gave our son a full-on mohawk. A day later he shaved it off and said it just felt irreverent. Modesty can be all encompassing when we talk about not only what we wear, but how we wear it.

Rae's Corner said...

Hello Emily and Anne,

I completely love your Bloom site, and feel like a total jerk only commenting suddenly on this issue.
I really don't know either of you either, but have exchanged comments a few times back in the day with Emily and I just think her family is darling (and your too, Anne!).

Anyways -
I am somewhat baffled by this conversation and the lengths at which us LDS women can seem over-analyze situations. I think this is a great example of the very unfortunate by-product of mixing a very human LDS culture with the its beautiful religion, one with very high standards and teachings of wonderful individual divinity. We all end up constantly mulling over the "spirit of the law vs the letter of the law?", the "where do you draw YOUR line in the sand?" sort of questions. Everyone's lines are different. And since when have arms become the new breasts? For pity's sake, children are children. Let them remain that way. Let them dress weather appropriate without having to deal with the adult issues that unfortunately are the culprit of the reason modesty even has to be discussed to begin with. Modesty exists to combat adult issues dealing with sexuality.
The reality is, in a non-textbook non church manual way of phrasing it: men have difficulty controlling their thoughts and impulses when it comes to the visualization of women in any sexualized manner. Therefore, together, we strive to limit the temptation and evil seedlings of unbecoming thought by covering ourselves in appropriate unfair as that may seem in 104 degree weather. Modesty for men isn't an issue, per se, because women rarely get turned on watching some dude in a tight tee shirt. Unfortunately - men DO in the reverse situations.
This isn't anything children should be forced to be concerned about. It isn't relevant until they reach the age where all of these adult issues come into play: when boys and girls stop seeing each other as cootie infested tattle-tails. Are we seriously worried about the modesty of a three year-old?
I don't buy this "if they aren't modest by the time they are six months old they never will be" thought process. You can teach them modesty at the age it becomes appropriate to discuss WHY the concept exists to begin with.
It's like making a mountain out of a molehill at this point to stress ourselves out about what the other parents at the nursery are going to think when we send our spaghetti strapped hoochie daughter in for class.
I'm not going to teach my three year old that her arms are inappropriate things to expose. Now is the blessedly remarkable time for her to be free of all of that.

Thanks for the thought provoking question,


Rae's Corner said...

Mine was way too long, sorry.

And DANIELLE - loved your comments. Couldn't agree more.

It got me thinking about how studies have shown that up to 60% of women suffer sexual dysfunction. I'm going to guess that every single one of us has a problem with "getting into the mood" enough for our husbands...stressing a little less about our arm exposure could help.

sarah hyde said...

Yo, hold up. Since when did babies in sundresses become immodest? Maybe it’s cause I’ve only had boys thus far? So I haven’t really thought about that yet? Is this kind of a weird discussion, or is it just me. But I will say that I LOVE modesty in all it's forms!

Bloom said...

wow. quite a discussion. i love it.

i purposely tried to keep my initial post neutral; I didn't want to start the discussion leaning heavily one way or another.

The thing I keep coming back to is that modesty is an attitude as much as it is a dress code. Like so many other things, it truly comes down to our intentions and motives. With that in mind, I think two people who dress very differently could both be considered modest. And vice versa.

thank you all for sharing. i hope that regardless of our differing opinions, this can be a safe place to share thoughts and ideas. and i hope you'll continue to share...
you've given me much to consider.
- em

Jenn Shideler said...

I have two girls so I have thought about this plenty. They wear sleeveless dresses, they wear short and they wear tank tops. They even wear two peice swim suits. They are so young and innocent I really don't think it matters yet. I think before they start school is when we will make a change.

Bethany said...

I thought I would share my non-LDS opinion on this matter. I was raised LDS, but no longer attend church, so I am quite familiar with LDS standards of modesty and for the most part I agree with them. I have an almost 1 year old boy, so I don't have experience dressing little girls {yet}. I consider myself a modest person and think that modesty is important, especially when sexuality is everywhere in modern media.

That being said, I agree with Danielle that baby and/or toddler arms and legs being exposed should not be huge concern. I think that modesty is more of an adult issue and young children don't really have a concept of why modesty is important, nor should they. Children already seem to grow up so fast, I think we should preserve their innocence as long as possible.

I want my children (boys and girls) to be comfortable in their skin and value their bodies. I think in teaching to do them that, they will understand the importance and value of modesty.

I do think that there is a double standard for modesty between girls and boys. However, many of the clothing options for little girls are a bit too "grown up" for my liking. Little girls should dress like little girls, not little versions of women.

p.s. I found Bloom through a friend's blog and really enjoy reading it!

Mrs. Cropper said...

Like Em, I am so happy that you are all participating in this discussion, and am grateful that, though we may differ in opinions, we are all respectful to each other. That's something that is so important to me--that no matter what I choose to do with my family--in this case, no matter how I choose to help my children live modestly--I don't need to impose that on anyone of you, nor do I need to judge anyone who does it differently than me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really believe there is more than one right answer here, and I think we can all make these decisions for ourselves and respect one another accordingly. And it's so helpful to read all of these comments, as they help me think of things in a new way, or give me something entirely new to think about. I hope you all find these forums equally helpful.

Something my husband, Taylor, reminded me of, is that modesty isn't just about hemlines and sleeves. Being modest means not trying to draw attention to oneself. So, if you're wearing a knee length skirt and a sleeved blouse, but are totally 'putting out the vibe' as Taylor would say, that's immodest. If you're decking your children out in mega designer threads just so everyone can say, "ooh, you have the cutest kids!", that's not particularly modest. This is a tough one, of course, because I will not deny that I am vain and definitely care what people think of me and my it's not all black and white...I'm just throwing some thoughts out there.

Also, I think we need to be cautious about over-sexualizing our thoughts and ideas about bodies. Bodies are beautiful and useful and miraculous. Like Danielle said, it is so important that we teach our children to be grateful for their bodies and treat them appropriately (this gets into proper diet, exercise, modesty, morality, everything...). But I think we need to be careful not to make our little children ashamed of their bodies, always worried about covering up. I think if we make a really big deal about it, then it becomes more of a deal about sexuality, instead of just a beautiful little body. Does that make sense? My little babe, Roger, spends a good amount of time in the summer in just a diaper, and I think that's as beautiful and pure as it gets. (And I would think the same if he were a girl.)

As a note to LDS readers. I think no matter what age we choose to start imposing 'garment appropriate' clothing, when our children make those covenants, as long as they really understand the Gospel and have a personal testimony, it will not be a big deal. I have a lot of friends and family members who dressed a certain way before going to the temple, and once they made covenants, they ditched their clothing that would no longer work, and never looked back. Because they understood the WHY, which is the most important thing we need to be stressing to our children.

sarahandmatt said...

I was raised in a WAY conservative family. I wasn't even allowed to wear shorts in the summer at all! We kept on our LONG sunday dresses all day and usually wore t-shirts over our bathing suits. That being said, now that I'm an adult, I sometimes put my daughters in sundresses ( i have two) and personally wear a tankini that covers everything. I love knee-length skirts and shorts. My 7-year-old daughter is actually getting into the age where she is bothered by things that are too revealing for her. She feels uncomfortable in shorter dresses and skirts and doesn't like things that "show her shoulders". I think if she hadn't initiated it, I probably would've started about now anyway with imposing some more modest standards. I don't think it really matters before you're a youth, but I do think it is REALLY important to follow the strength of the Youth pamphlet in every aspect if you expect your kids to follow any of it at all. Also, I think nipping it in the bud around age 12 can help eliminate the pitfall some grown members fall into of skipping the garments when they want to wear a special dress that doesn't quite cover them or going for the bikini on that Hawaiian vacation. Those people probably developed their love of those kinds of clothes as youth and found it harder to give it up as adults than those who never wore it at all.

Carrie said...

Everyone keeps saying things like "why is a sundress on a baby immodest?" and I'm wondering why its not? Is modesty only a law for endowed members of our church? For all you with sundress wearing daughters, you seem to think its not an issue of modesty. If that is the case, then why not just keep em modest, if its such 'not a big deal'? A onesie or tee under a sundress, to me, is a simple way to just keep things a little simpler in my life both now and later.

And I REALLY don't get how being modest sends a message that we don't love our bodies. I don't think my 5 year old will be sexually dysfuntional because I put a t shirt under her sundresses. And I don't think wearing sundresses and tank tops means she'll like her body more. If anything, this will reinforce the idea that wearing less means looking more attractive and that is NOT an idea that I want perpetuated in my home.
Acceptance of our bodies and modesty are certainly not mutally exclusive ideologies, so why are we making them that way??? Just do both! That's my plan!!!!

Rae's Corner said...'s me, just one more I promise.
I was thinking about this today, mulling over these really insightful comments and different perspectives: we all obviously have differing opinions and may disagree on certain specifics, but what is amazing about the gospel is that we are all entitled to those opinions. To our own personal revelations regarding the governance of our own homes and children. Our church authorities felt it important enough to specifically address the standard for dress by the age of 12 (in the Strength for Youth pamphlet), but before that I think it really has been left up to us decide what we think is best.
"I teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves" Joseph Smith.

The one thing I am so glad for are the women of the church, even when we may disagree from time to time. Ultimately, the fact that we care enough to discuss these things is what matters - to really examine ourselves and our lives on a regular basis is what makes us unique.

I hope my earlier comments weren't overly hostile. My passion sometimes overrides my grace for sure.

Thanks for giving me stuff to think about!

Oh yeah, and I can't wait to make your granola recipe tomorrow...yum yum.


Rachael said...

just to respectfully add in, that like Carrie, I don't feel that dressing young children in more modest clothing tells them that they should be ashamed of their bodies. If anything, I think we're teaching them to respect their bodies as something worthy of keeping clean and pure, even from a young age.

I also feel that adding a shirt under a sundress isn't cruelty insofar as "weather-appropriate" clothing goes--are they really that much hotter? and isn't it actually safer for that darling little baby skin to have more sun protection (esp. since babies are so sensitive to sunscreen and shouldn't be wearing it at all?) when it comes down to it, I think it's just easier to buy sleeved clothing that doesn't need the extra bits to make it modest.

I really do appreciate how respectful everyone has been in this discussion. I think these are good things for us to think about as we're evolving as parents.

Rachael said...

I also feel that I should add that while I try to dress my children modestly, I don't feel like we have to cover every inch of skin all the time. Case in point: my daughter appeared in the living room sans underwear while the home teachers were here tonight. Was I excited to see this? No. But at the same time, we're potty-training, and hey, kids will be kids. There are plenty of times where my kids run out in the sprinklers and strip down to their skivvies. And I let them run around and have fun and enjoy themselves--but when we're purchasing clothing and getting dressed every day, that's when we're focusing on teaching modesty.

vanessa said...

i think that this subject - like many subjects in the lds church - is personal. i liked that anne quoted joseph smith and i would also like to echo that sentiment. govern yourself. answer to your Heavenly Father, not the other mothers in the ward. do what YOU feel is right and let others do what is right for them. the two are not mutually exclusive.

and while we're on the subject, which is less Christlike: immodesty or self-righteous judgment? in my opinion they are the same. let's all direct our energy to loving one another.

LCM said...

I started right away. I didn't want to have to explain to my girls that one year it's okay and the next year it's not. So, no bikinis, no tank tops, so sundresses without a shirt underneath. I think I feel pretty strongly about this because I am so sick of little girls being dressed like sexy adults. Oh, that reminds me, so lettering on their behinds either!
Oh and my first was a nudist too, so I would have to find things that she would keep on. First I found stuff she couldn't get off and then I found out that she loved the playdresses from Target that were only $5. She would wear them and not take everything off.

celestejohnson said...

I am LDS also. I have two daughters, ages 10 and 8. I taught modesty at a young age. It was around age 3 or 4 when I stopped buying sun dresses. And if I couldn't resist on a particularly cute sundress, I would just put a white shirt underneath that. And so, by now, my girls know that sleeveless or spaghetti strap dresses are inappropriate. It is hard (believe it or not, here in Cedar City, UT) to find modest Easter and other fancy occasion dresses. My girls either end up having to find a nice blouse to wear under their dresses or a cute dressy half jacket. But we always try to find sleeved dresses first.

Then comes the issue of length. This is something that my mom had done to her and I do to my daughters: If they kneel on the ground and the hem of the skirt doesn't touch the ground, they can't wear it anymore. My girls crack me up. When we are trying on clothes at the store, they do the kneel test there too.

When my 10 year old was about age 5, we were living in CA and were shopping in a mall. We walked by a group of teenage girls and one of them was wearing a shirt where a lot of her stomach showed and Rebekah looked at the girl, pointed and said, rather loudly to me, "Her mom didn't teach her well, did she?" I about died. It was so funny, but embarrassing at the same time.

That is why I thinking starting young is a good thing. It helps set the boundaries in place so it lessens battles in the future. I always tell people that even though my girls dress themselves and rarely match, that as long as they are modest, I don't care. It will save me some battles as they get older and want to choose more of what they wear, they can choose what outfit, as long as it is modest.

Growing up, I was taught that if I couldn't wear garments with it, then I couldn't wear it. So I didn't have to change my wardrobe, which was very nice. I didn't mind the rules either. I think mainly because my mom took the time to sit me down and discuss with me the sacred importance of modesty.

As for swim suits, I have weirdly shaped daughters. So sometimes one pieces don't fit them right. However, I do not buy bikinis for them. I used to be really against tankinis because in my head, they were still two pieces. But I have found some awesome tankinis that are more modest than even one pieces, plus they are easier to put on and take off, so when they have to pee, it isn't a chore to get them off in time.

I talked about how I feel about skirt lengths, as for short lengths, I don't let them wear shorts that are more than like an inch above the knee. I LOVE capris! They work so well. And sometimes I have to look in the boys' clothing section to find modest shorts for my girls, and they really don't mind wearing boy shorts - at least for now. LOL But like I said, I love capris and hope they never go out of style. :-)

A couple years ago, there was this one time we were shopping and we were in the womens department. I found a very short pair of shorts. I held them up to myself and asked the girls, "So, what do you think?" My girls looked at me, then at the shorts, then back at me with a puzzled look on their face. So I asked them again what they thought. They asked, "Is that part of a bathing suit?" I told them, "No, they are shorts. What do you think? Should I get them?" They looked at me as if I had just taken a bite off my own arm and said, "Uh, no. Mommy, they don't go to your knees. Duh." LOL I love my girls.

I feel very strongly about modesty in case you couldn't tell. :-)

Anonymous said...

As an older mom who has raised both girls and boys I am surprised that so much of this conversation seems to be about what girls should wear so as not to provoke a boy's sex drive. Has no one but me noticed how sexually aggressive girls can be these days? It is very clear to me that modestly is equally important for boys and girls and both boys and girls have challenges with controlling natural urges.

It is my long held opinion, that modestly is about respect. Respect for ourselves, and respect for the people around us. Having a modest frame of mind, modest behavior and modest dress is just as important for boys as it is for girls.

I think sometimes we in the church worry way too much about sleeves, and hem lines and just how many inches of skin is OK. I have seen plenty of kids in sleeveless shirts who were completely modest, and plenty of kids in long sleeves who were practically obscene.

And if you are rational, and realistic, can you really see a problem with a baby girl or boy in a romper that shows their knees or shoulders? Honestly, don't you think worrying about that is carrying things a bit too far?

To me modestly is easy. It is about keeping your private parts to yourself. It is about showing respect for yourself and others. It is a frame of mind that includes thought, behavior, and not just how you dress. It is equally important for boys and girls, men and women. And I have to say isn't measured in sleeves and inches.

Older Mom

Deanna said...

I really appreciate Rae's comments. I don't fully understand why we as LDS women feel it a need to discuss things like this (myself included) because I sometimes feel a need to, but the truth is it just doesn't matter. We talk and talk in our Relief Society comments about how we shouldn't judge each other and compare ourselves to other women, and then we insist on having THIS conversation. Why? I'm positive the authors of this blog had good intentions in writing this post but, the only thing this conversation does is to force us to compare ourselves to others. Unfortunately, this is one of the cons of living amongst so many members of the church. Modesty is important to me and I frequently talk about it as the YW president of my ward. The Prophet has given us specific guidelines of what to wear once we turn 12. Until then, it's up to each of us individually to decide. What revelation I receive for my family is different from yours. And if I feel that I should dress my girls in sleeves from birth that doesn't mean I am more righteous than someone who won't enforce that until they turn 12. I fear that some first time mother with a 3 week old suffering from PPD who is dressing her daughter in sleeveless shirts will read this and throw herself into a depression. I know that is not the intent at all of this and most of the time it's good to hear and learn from others. I guess, let's just be careful how we do that.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that both my girls and boys will spend approximately 89% of their lives stark naked.


Sweetest Of All said...

That is a tough one. But we basically felt with our daughter that we'd begin with the standard rather than work up to it or change our focus with age. consistency is the key. It stinks when all the princess dress ups are immodest and she owns some undershirts but we try not to make it a big deal and find plenty of wonderful things she can wear. I also sew where necessary.
I remember when my parents weren't meeting certain standards of our faith and it bothered me that it was okay for other people so to speak but not them. But in my husbands family they set the standards right from the start and then held tightly to the rod. Their daughters never knew another way and that speaks peace to my mind.

Ricki said...

I love this discussion! And I have to say, I DON'T KNOW WHAT I THINK?! For me, modesty is more about attitude than clothing. If you have a modest (not meaning 'dull' here) attitude, that's more important than wearing shorts to the knee. When my brothers ran around without shirts on as teenagers they were showing off, flexing their muscles, and trying to be cool- not exactly a modest attitude (I still love them!). As girls, are you flaunting whatcha got? Or are you dressing feminine and pretty in a way that makes you feel and act like a lady? So, I dunno. For me, modesty is more about attitude.

sarah hyde said...
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sarah hyde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sarah hyde said...

sorry, I just deleted it cause I'm a bad speller and wanted to fix that before I embarrassed myself :)

Deanna, Rae and Older Mom. I just really agree with your comments. I felt uneasy with this discussion from the minute it began. (as shown by my previous comment) I haven't been able to articulate why, but you have. Thank you for doing it for me. The visiting teaching message this month said the following. "We should understand and live by the simple, basic truths and not complicate them."

In my opinion, unless it's a gospel principle stated by the brethren (which sundresses on babies is not) it is a matter of personal opinion and not appropriate for a public forum. all it does is cause contention and drive wedges between woman who are all striving to choose the right.

With that I'd like to add tho, that I know the author of this blog and she's pretty much one of the sweetest most amazing persons i've ever met.. and I can say without a single doubt she has the purest heart. And was just wondering what other great women think about a subject that is on her mind. (love you so much emily, you’re simply amazing!! And I also really liked your comment)

Jonesy said...

I think it would be a tragedy to not be able to have conversations like this! When I form an opinion about something, it's because I have come to that conclusion after much thought and searching, therefore it becomes MY best answer. No matter what, I won't have all the information I need to come up with a PERFECT conclusion, so forums like this allow us to see how other conscious, caring, intelligent women come to their conclusions and why. If we converse with the intent to not offend, and take the counsel to "be ye not offended" we can have open and enlightening conversations such as this! Thank you, Anne & Emily for giving us the opportunity to do so.

celestejohnson said...

Jonesy, I agree with you. I don't think that this discussion was to make other women compare themselves to others or to take offense, but rather allow an outlet for people to voice their opinions and concerns. All the blog author wanted was to hear our thoughts.

As adults, we all know that we will have differences of opinions, but just because Sister So-and-So dresses her daughters with no sleeves and Sister This-and-That only dresses with sleeves, it does not make one more right than the other. If someone is easily offended, then that is their issue. If someone is judgmental, that is their issue as well.

There are going to be differences of opinions in every gospel type discussion - from tithing (whether to pay on the gross or net) to proper Sabbath activities (whether to take the kids to the park or not). I didn't see any one flaming any other person on here for their different opinion. I feel it was handled well.

I also feel it good to read others' opinions because it helps me understand people better. I like to understand people and also see if I am the only one struggling with certain issues or whatnot.

I hope that makes sense. I just hope we can all express our feelings and keep our responses nice.

celestejohnson said...

Oh, and to all those parents out there whose kids spent most of their toddlerhood half naked or in the buff, you are not alone.

My youngest spent most of her toddlerhood with no pants on. She always had explosive diapers and even out in public, I could never bring enough bottoms. That was just the way it went.

Katie said...

I only have boys so I haven't had to deal with this one too much, but I have thought about it. Would I let my baby girls wear sleeveless sundresses? Yes. For those of you who don't, I sincerely want to know - have your children never worn just a onesie as a baby? If they have, how is that any different?

Yes, it is important to teach modesty from a young age, but there is nothing "immodest" about baby legs and arms.

I think is perfectly acceptable to teach your girls that as their bodies develop more, they need to be more aware of how tight or short their clothing is. In other words, what might be okay on a little girl is not okay on a teenager. That isn't changing your standards, it is just plain facts. Maybe that way they will actually think about what being "modest" means and why it is important.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

Thank you, Rae, for your comment. It's sometimes hard to remember the line between doctrine and culture gets blurred.

And thanks, Anne, for mentioning little boys. Modesty (in dress, behavior, language) should be taught to both our sons and daughters!

Kierra said...

As a kid, I don't think that standards of modesty were ever "enforced" in my home. I knew what was expected of me, and sometimes intentionally chose not to meet those expectations. But the worst that ever got me was a dirty look or a snide comment for it.

Now, for my own daughter, I try not to think in terms of what is modest and what isn't because she's 2, and I actually see nothing wrong really with toddlers running around stark naked. Modesty has to do with sexuality and I don't think it should be applied to children. What I do try to think in terms of is the temple. One sweet woman in my relief society once mentioned that she always wanted her kids dressed in something that would be appropriate in the temple. That struck me, because really, that's my ultimate goal for my kids is to be able to go to the temple. And like others have mentioned, if I start now, I don't really have to choose a "time" to change my expectations for her.

Finally, I just want to add this. I manage a dormitory on campus at BYU-Idaho. I do try to be an example of modesty for all the girls who live in the dorms, and I feel a little extra burden when it comes to my daughter's dress as well. All the employees and all the students who attend BYU are expected to abide by the dress code. Obviously, my daughter isn't an employee or a student, but we do live on campus in a building that was dedicated by an apostle, so I am a bit more conscious of what she wears than I might otherwise be. Does it mean that her shorts always go to her knees or that her shirts are always "garment friendly"? No--but I do try to shop for and dress my child in a way that is mindful of the Savior and the goal of the temple.

Ana said...

Hmm, you know, it's too bad this seems to be just an LDS discussion (or almost), because modesty is a huge issue for some of us who are not religious, too.
I'm not trying to be mean or disrespectful, please don't take that first sentence that way. I'm just saying I want to add to the discussion from a somewhat different point of view and hope others do so too, because many of the comments have been useful in making me think about the issue and how it would apply to my own children now that I have them.
I am a preschool teacher and I have often been appalled by how some of those little girls are dressed in low-cut belly-showing tank tops with black lace trim that look like they belong in a brothel, or sweat pants with "sassy" written across their rear ends.
It seems to me that it is a way of making them sexual way before their time, and worse than that, doing so in a coarse, vulgar manner. It puts emphasis in women as sexual objects and it is plain inelegant.
So, the point is that modesty is also about grace (in a non-religious sense), about respect for oneself and one's body and about appropriateness.
A little girl wearing bloomers under her dress is lovely and graceful (and in my world a refreshing rarity), a little boy in a polo shirt seems to me much more boyish and innocent than one in a sleeveless t-shirt with a skull on it. And both of them could go almost anywhere without looking out of place or offensive.
And as a teacher I feel that parents who bring a child to me in the morning clean, with brushed hair and appropriate clothes are showing me and the school a lot of respect and I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize this was an LDS conversation until halfway through the comments and couldn't figure out for the life of me how so many people find tank tops or sleeveless dresses (on children, no less) immodest. I totally respect a religious decision to dress a certain way and parents' decision to dress their children any way they prefer... I just wasn't getting how so many people were on the same page. I'm a Christian and even aside from that, I prefer that my daughters don't dress in a provocative way but I've never considered that sleeveless clothing on a person who doesn't have breasts was any less modest than a t-shirt. Interesting conversation..