5 Tips for Talking to Your Daughter About Dress Codes

5 Tips for Talking to Your Daughter About Dress Codes

The dress code controversy seems to cover every last corner of the internet these days. I’ll offer a disclaimer: I’m not a parent. I am, however, the daughter of a single father, and although I’m 23, I’m not far removed from the nightmare on a young girl’s self-esteem that is school.

Whether you agree with it or not, school dress codes are here to stay in some form or another. And, if you have a daughter, she will be faced with more scrutiny than her male classmates.


1. Highlight How It Can Be Preparation

Try to remember that knowing how to dress for your professional career is different from dressing for high school. Nearly any online conversation surrounding dress codes includes comments like, “It’s school not a fashion show,” or “It’s preparation for real life.” High school is a time for discovering who you’re meant to be, and clothing is a big part of identity.


2. Use the Conversation to Open a Dialogue

Use it as a way to help her form her own opinions. If she comes home one day and mentions that a dress code is unfair, use it as a conversation starter. Talk to her about double standards; ask her how it makes her feel to be judged as a distraction. Don’t just shut the conversation down and chalk it up to growing pains. It might seem small to you, but to your daughter, being told you’re dressed inappropriately can bring feelings of shame and self-doubt.


3. Keep Other Judgments to Yourself

Don’t openly judge another girl in front of your daughter. Say you’re picking up your teen from school and see a young girl walk by in shorts you think are too short. It’s not cool to make statements like, “Ugh, she looks like she’s asking for it!” or “Don’t ever bring someone home looking like that.” You wouldn’t like it if your daughter was exhibiting mean girl behavior, so set the tone for her!


4. Be Kind

Remember that she’s insecure. Even if your daughter is confident, she’s still dealing with a changing body, and that’s uncomfortable for anyone. Nothing shames a young girl quite like being called out for violating a dress code. Teach your daughter to love herself, even the things she deems as flaws. This often starts with leading by example. It’s always okay to show some self-love.


5. Be Encouraging

Encourage her to ask herself who she is. When you’re shopping, let her pick out clothes without poking and prodding and worrying about dress codes. Think back to who you were in high school. How much time did you spend trying to define yourself through music or clothes? How did you feel when an adult told you to turn down that music or put on some more clothes?


Everything considered, just try to put yourself in her shoes. It’s far better for your daughter’s mental health and self-image to be accepting and body-positive instead of cruel and sexist. Dress codes are a matter of opinion, but they can still have long-term effects. Share your best dress code conversation starters in the comments!

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.