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Teaching Teens to Dress Appropriately

August 18, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

Teaching Teens to Dress Appropriately | A teenage girl looks at her clothes in the mirror, debating whether to bare her shoulders.

I recently went on a shopping excursion with five 16-year-old girls in an attempt to guide them on the appropriate dress for their summer externships. I was prepared to offer minor suggestions on putting simple office wear together but found myself in the midst of a daylong discussion on overall appropriate dress for the average teenager.

Here is a sampling of the questions we considered:

  • How relaxed should a look be? Is it okay to wear pajama, yoga, or sweat pants? 
  • How much of one’s body part should be revealed, especially for girls? 
  • Why should teenagers present themselves well? How will dressing appropriately help them in the future? 

As one may imagine, there were a variety of opinions between the five teenage girls and one middle-aged woman, which made for a very lively discussion. Teenage fashion, I discovered, is all about the message the teen wants to send. It is a form of teenagers expressing themselves to others. Here are some answers to the questions posed during our daylong conversation. Hopefully they can help you when discussing the topic with your teen.

How relaxed should a look be? As active as teens are, they look to wearing comfortable clothes that easily take them from place to place and activity to activity with minimal effort.

How much of one’s body is appropriate to expose? How much would depend on where the young person is going. When selecting tops, shorts, skirts, and pants, a teen should try to cover and not expose or accentuate certain body parts, like chests, thighs, butts, etc. Clothes should be practical, comfortable, and suitable for the occasion.

Have your teen try this simple test: sit, stand, walk, and reach up and down wearing the selected outfit. If “adjustments” are needed throughout the test because too much of the body is revealed or the fit is not right, then it is not an appropriate outfit.

Why is it important to “dress appropriately?” Wearing ill-fitting or revealing clothing can send the wrong message to others about who the teen is, both professionally and personally. Will your teen be able to navigate through the situations that may arise, should someone misinterpret how he or she has chosen to express him or herself?

Teaching teens to dress appropriately takes compromise. It’s important to understand where they are coming from while also helping them understand what and why certain looks are more appropriate than others for school, work, and fun.


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