You're not wearing that

Tight, low slung jeans.
Off-the-shoulder shirts. Baggy boys’ jeans. Miniskirts. Even micro-miniskirts. They’re the style, teens cry. But parents are adjusting shirts and tugging down skirts to make kids dress like kids.
Thursday, April 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:45 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The state of teenage fashion today can be described as a “clothes war.” It’s a battle that takes place daily. Starting in the morning and sometimes lasting well into the evening, the battle rages between parents and children about what’s appropriate to wear.

With fashion trends changing every day, it’s hard for parents and children to reach common ground about what is appropriate.

Victoria Hower, a mother of two, is one of the parents fighting the clothes war.

“I’m a pretty lenient mother, but I think that the way that kids dress today is outrageous,” Hower said. “It’s a shame that we see little kids walking around like they’re miniature adults. I’m much happier with my children wearing jeans and a sweatshirt than midriff shirts and short skirts.”

Jana Castille and her mother, Candace, agree that clothing is one issue over which they have to pick and choose their battles. Jana, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Margaret Buerkle Middle School in St. Louis, said she thinks her mother’s sense of fashion is outdated. “She would be happy if I wore poodle skirts and saddle shoes like she did,” Jana said.

Castille shrugs her shoulders and laughs.

“I just think that some of the clothes that she wears are too adult for her, and I don’t agree with it,” she said. “I love that she has her own style, but I wish that it was more her age.”

Compromise essential for cooperative shopping

When it comes to shopping, the pair try to cooperate. As Jana gets older, they compromise more on what she’s allowed to wear.

“I’m allowed to spend my own money on clothes, and if I use my own money, I can buy what I want,” Jana said. “But if Mom and Dad are spending their money, it has to be something that they think is appropriate.”

Castille said this is a good way for her and her husband to have some say in what Jana wears, while still allowing Jana to have her own style.

“I know that she wants to dress the way that her friends are dressing, but I want her to know that the way she dresses is important to the way people see her,” Castille said.

Teens have been emulating the fashion styles of pop idols since the ’50s, but the mature style of clothing today’s idols are wearing has sparked increasing debate.

Lynn Boorady, fashion department chair at Stephens College, said sexiness is the reason.

“It’s a direct link to the culture that we live in,” Boorady said. “Pop stars are dressing more sexy and teens want to emulate that.”

The "Oh my God factor"

Boorady also stresses that each generation is shocked by what the next decides to wear.

“Each generation has the ‘Oh my God factor,’ ” she said. “A long time ago, parents thought that women wearing jeans was it, and for today’s generation sexiness is the new factor.

“You have to remember that every trend both passes and backlashes, and by the time they have kids, it’ll be something different.”

Boorady also says the popular fashion trend for girls this summer is gingham, bows and most ladylike attire.

“These are all things that we haven’t seen since the ’50s, but it goes to show that fashion is always changing,” she said.

Girls aren’t the only ones who argue about clothing. Parents also battle with boys.

Sam Roland, a seventh-grader at Columbia Independent School, said he doesn’t have many arguments with his parents about fashion. If they do argue, he said, it’s most likely about cost.

“My parents and I agree about clothing most of the time; as long as it’s not too expensive, it’s OK, “ Sam said. “I think that my parents like my style and don’t mind the clothes that I wear.”

Ryan Concannon, a sixth-grader at Columbia Independent School, said he sometimes argues with his parents about clothes.

“We mainly argue because they don’t like the fact that I wear clothes that are big and baggy,” Ryan said. “But we usually end up compromising, because they know that I won’t wear the clothes if I don’t like them.”

Television creates fashion images

The Concannon family has five school-age children and the issue of fashion rarely comes up, says mom Kathy Concannon. She credits most of this with the fact that the household doesn’t watch much television and doesn’t have cable.

“TV is a powerful medium,” Concannon said. “It sends powerful advertising messages. I’m not against TV, but we just don’t want to make it a focal point in our household.”

Concannon also said being in private schools with uniforms and dress codes helps her children feel they don’t need to dress inappropriately.

As Candace and Jana Castille leave the mall — one of the many clothes battlefields —Castille said she remembers being on the other side of the fight.

“I understand how she’s feeling more than she even knows because when I used to wear my bell bottoms, my parents just hated it,” she said. “They thought I would grow out of it, and I did.”

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