“Miley pantsless at Billboard” – is a headline like this really a shocker? Or is it a portent of things to come this summer?
As temperatures rise and layers of clothes come off, it’s time for the annual tween and teen hooker-wear parade to hit the streets. At one of the local school fairs, a friend of mine was shocked to see a middle school girl’s actual ass cheeks fully hanging out of her Daisy Duke’s. Another was telling me about watching girls wobble out of their houses on inches-high stilettos (aka “Come Fuck Me’s”) and skintight micro-dresses on their way to spring dances.
While others are shocked by today’s fashion, I often find myself wondering about the logistics. Don’t the girls’ naked cheeks stick to the carnival rides’ pleather or steel seats? Is the inadvertent butt-waxing they get every time they disembark the Tilt-a-Whirl part of the fun? How do they avoid breaking an ankle or flashing their classmates when they boogie down at the school dance? (I’d really like to know that in particular so I can rock a pair of CFM’s at my next high school reunion — just sayin’.)
I know that I should be thinking about the statement girls are making with their “fashion choices,” but then again, looking hot is something I remember first trying on for size when I was around 13 … and no, the Dorothy Hamill short bob haircut, steely braces, and faint Billy Dee Williams mustache did NOT enhance my early attempts. Nor did lying on my bed and tugging up my Sasson jeans’ zipper up with a wire coat hanger. I might have squeezed in, but it just wasn’t purty.
Mid-article Spoiler Alert: This blog post is not about how wrong and scandalous it is for our girls to dress like sluts. It’s about how wrong and scandalous it is that we don’t see the longing in our girls to look pretty or sexy for what it is: our own desires in disguise. If you are looking for an excellent article about how to talk to your girls about making empowering style choices, check out columnist Shari Levine’s most recent Burlington Free Press ‘Mom to Mom’ article, Mom makes an emergency call to the fashion police.)
And are the girls making the statement anyways? I’d say that stylists who put a teen star like Miley Cyrus in a pants-free look steer the boat. (OK, she’s 19, but everyone still thinks of her as eternally, gratingly, twangy-tweeny Hananah Montana.) Clothing stores then ride that ship right into port, with the longest pair of shorts clocking in at a couple of scant inches down the thigh and torn t-shirts completing the barely there look. I know this because I took my daughter clothes shopping for summer duds, and we had to go through three stores before finding anything that would pass her school’s dress code. And she goes to school in LA’s San Fernando Valley, where fashion is inspired in part by pornography and fully by the worst of the ’80s.
In my house, we have more of a reverse fashion police situation going on anyways. The letting-her-down gently moment begins with the statement, “I’m your friend, and so I have to tell you…”
These are words not uttered by me to my daughter, but the other way around. It’s gotten to a point where the pile of “What Not To Wear” exceeds what I do have to wear. I’m not so deluded as to skip through stores like Wet Seal grabbing outfits that my daughter and I can share, but my sense of propriety is still apparently way off-kilter judging from the number of times my daughter shakes her head and makes me go back and get changed.
Has that ever happened to you?
As always, my daughter and I are probably overly inspired by reality television, notably Style Channel’s How Do I Look?, where “Before Meets After” in a typical crash ’n burn fashion. On the show, grown women, most of whom are moms that embarrass the crap out of their kids with their slutty/frumpy/goth/plain-old-ugly wardrobes, get style-schooled by chirpy host Jeannie Mai. It’s always such a relief to watch fashion don’ts clean up their act and make their kids/husband/mom/sister proud.
So in the past few months, my old miniskirts, spidery fishnet hose, bondage-flavored Doc Martens boots, and several inappropriately ripped or too tight t-shirts have made their way into the burn-before-wearing-again pile.
And just like when I was a kid, I find myself secreting a shirt here, the boots there, out of the house for one more go-round… without my daughter knowing.
Clothes define us. When we’re young, we feel older by looking vampy, and when we’re older, we feel younger by looking trampy. And the truth is, there’s a window of time that’s about the same length as today’s zippers when we can pretty much wear what we want, and the ridiculous trumps the sublime. Blink and you’ll miss it — and if you want a refresher, check out the brilliant (but I could never wear it) fashions on HBO’s Girls. Or on the red carpet — Hannah Montana aside, it is actually age-appropriate for Miley to flash the world. (Whether or not any of us wants to see her country bumpkin is another story.)
I don’t know about you, but I find the breathable cotton, flax-toned muumuus that stores and designers like Chico’s and Eileen Fisher shill to us “mature” women to be downright insulting. Just like it was never easy to feel saucy in cords and a polo shirt (even if I did stick the collar up), what the grown-up stores have to offer is equally as soul crushing.
The desire to feel attractive is something we never outgrow. The good news is our daughters are a reflection of ourselves, and if we’re lucky, the ones closest to home will play fashion police and keep us all from confusing pretty with pathetic, divine with desperate, and sexy with plain old sad.
And if you see me stomping around town in a miniskirt and bondage boots, shhhhhh don’t tell my daughter. It will be our style secret.