As a mom, one of the sadder milestones you will face is the day you buy your child an outfit they hate. It’s an important milestone in childhood development, of course, and a positive sign that they’re developing their personality and sense of self. It’s hard not to feel a bit of nostalgia for the baby they once were, though.

This won’t be the only clothing battle you’ll face as a mom; from deciding when you’ll allow a younger girl to wear heels, to the teenage cries of ‘But mom’, it’s a long road. However, dressing appropriately can be the make-or-break factor in job interviews, peer interaction, and other situations. How do you make sure your teens understand what’s appropriate without squashing their own sense of personality?

A developing sense of style

It’s important that a growing teen feel secure in how they dress. Feeling comfortable in the clothes you wear is a key part of becoming a confident adult. It can also be a critical part of a teenager’s self-esteem. Clothing and confidence are intertwined. You can visibly see the difference in how people carry themselves when they feel confident in their style. Often clothing and identity intertwine as well, and kids all have their own ideas of clothing that matches who they are inside. 

It’s important for teens to realize that what they do now can have an impact later. Teachers, parents, potential employers are the ones who will shape the course of their future. One of the key areas interviewers mention, for example, is how few entry-level young people know how to dress for a serious job interview. They cite issues from sheer blouses and peek-a-boo underwear to sloppy, untucked shirts. In an economy where recruitment is tougher than ever, it matters what they think of you.

Introduce the concepts of appropriate dress

Any parent knows that going in strong with a lecture on dressing appropriately will be met with an eye roll. It’s wiser to create a space in which your developing teen feels empowered to make their own choices without being pressured by their parents. Start by giving them a list of key issues to consider. Engage them in conversation about how perception often matters, even though it shouldn’t, and how you choose what’s appropriate to wear to which event. Instead of dictating, encourage them to explore these key concepts themselves.

  • Is the outfit right for the weather?
  • Will they be comfortable fully participating while wearing this?
  • What is the ‘mood’ of the event and does the outfit match?
  • Is this informal or formal?

Now’s also a good time to broach the idea that fashion serves them, not the other way around. There are different clothing options and styles of skirts for everyone. Pantsuits can be appropriate as cocktail wear. Modern men can experiment with colors. Being mindful of how they dress doesn’t mean forever losing their personal style. It simply means growing up enough to understand how they present themselves in the world- and how to use that to their advantage as they grow up.

Have you had to have the fashion talk with your own kids yet? Do you have any tips to share? Be sure to mention them in the comments.