How to help young people want to dress modestly and with dignity

An issue that seems to plague our generation, including within the Church, is that of modest dress.

There are three keys to this issue:- The first key that youth must understand is that "modest" does not mean "old fashioned."

For many youth today, the phrase "modest and dignified dress" evokes images of black suits and ankle-length dresses. This is not the case. There is much in the realm of popular fashion that is both modest and dignified, if one is willing to look.

  • The second key is example. Youth learn by example. They will do what they see others do and perceive as "cool' and "acceptable."
  • The final key is the Spirit. When youth are touched by the Spirit, they will follow those examples they know are right.

No amount of yelling or punishment will change the dress of our generation, but the Spirit can. – Elder Magius Ball, Canada Halifax Mission


What we did:

When they are young

We believe that teaching modesty needs to start while children are young. With all that we are exposed to in society and in the media, we have ample exposure to the lack of modesty.

We have four children ages 7 and under. When we see a picture of a scantily clad person in a catalog, magazine, advertisement or on television, we tell the children that this person is not dressed modestly, explain why, then tell them that we do not want to look at this picture. Even our 3-year-old can discern when a person is not dressed modestly.

For children to learn to dress modestly, they need to know what modesty is, and what is acceptable. – Blaine and Shelley Killpack, Firth, Idaho

Cool enough

I go to the Ontario Middle School and am 11 years old. At first, I wanted to dress immodestly because it was kind of a cool thing to wear a tank top. I asked my mom if I could do that, but of course she said "no."

Then I realized that the only ones wearing tank tops were the ones who were in gangs, took drugs or other bad stuff like that. I guess that meant it was a bad thing to do. I now know that wearing immodest clothes is very wrong. It is showing way too much of yourself. You should wear modest clothes and be nice to everyone, and you'll be cool enough for most people. – Melanie Butler, Ontario, Ore.

Doll's wardrobe

It is important to stress the concept of modesty with children at a young age.

They may notice that they are dressing differently than their friends. My 6-year-old daughter wanted to know why she could not wear a bikini bathing suit like her friend. I reviewed with her the reasons for being modest.

Later I noticed her playing with her favorite toy – a Barbie doll. The doll's wardrobe included many immodest articles of clothing, including a bikini bathing suit. Following the promptings of the Spirit, I sat down with my daughter and sorted her doll's wardrobe. She helped to decide which items were modest and those which were not. We discarded the immodest clothing and now her Barbie dresses modestly too. We must be more aware of where our children find their role models. It may be in the toy box. – Shelly Swenson, South Jordan, Utah

Modesty should prevail

It is sad that some people, men and women, turn to the ways of the world. Exposing bodies is not a modest gesture and sometimes, not even a thing of beauty.

Hopefully, the way we should dress is taught in our early years, at home. Modesty should always prevail; the world should not dictate our dress codes. One way to help keep our minds and actions on the "straight and narrow" would be to always think of our Father in Heaven. Would we dress in outlandish or abbreviated clothing if He were standing near by?

We cannot see those who have gone on before us, nor see Him whom we should be following. But, He can always see us and how we live our lives. We need to gain self-respect and represent Him in honorable ways. "Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand." (Philip. 4:5.) – Leah Larsen, Pico Rivera, Calif.

Leaders, parents

If we as leaders and parents dress with dignity and modesty, we can show young people what is acceptable and still fashionable.

We must remember that Church dress standards are consistent and still flexible depending on the circumstances. Conservative swimsuits are appropriate at the beach but not in the chapel, just as a dark suit wouldn't be fitting for a hayride.

If we focus on favorite Church leaders and emulate them in our manner of dress, we probably can't go wrong. – Craig Young, Boise, Idaho

Law of chastity

As missionaries, when we teach youth about the law of chastity, we explain that it not only includes being morally clean but also to be modest in our dress.

When they come to understand that they are children of our Heavenly Father, they have more respect for themselves, in such a manner that they dress to please God and not their peers.

When children realize what a great gift their bodies are, they will do all they can to protect them. – Elder D. Wayne Dick and Elder Eric T. Martin, California Oakland Mission

Lord will help

The Lord, through prayer, will help us help our young people dress modestly. When my niece turned 12, I took her shopping for an outfit. She found a white skirt that she really liked, but I wouldn't buy it for her because it was too short and too tight.

We looked at other stores, but all the white skirts we found were also too short, and she wasn't interested in any other color. We went back to the first store. She was very upset that I wasn't going to buy her the white skirt there because she had her heart set on it. I wanted her to have what she wanted, but I didn't want to buy her anything that I knew she shouldn't have.

So, in the middle of the juniors section, I prayed to Heavenly Father that He would help me find a skirt that my niece would like. Practically before I said "Amen," I saw long, mid-calf-length white skirts exactly like the short ones. She loved the longer skirt even better than the shorter one, and we bought it.

I testified to her that Heavenly Father wanted her to wear modest clothing. – Jo Ellen Ashworth, Salt Lake City, Utah


How to checklist:

  1. Start when children are young; teach them at home.
  1. Teach that they are children of God, that bodies are gifts.
  1. Discuss what they see in media; encourage discernment.
  1. Be an example; show what is acceptable, yet fashionable.

WRITE TO US:

Feb. 3 "How to remain in love with your spouse despite the rigors of life."

Feb. 10 "How to help young men honor the priesthood."

Feb. 17 "How to help children overcome shyness."

Feb. 24 "How to be an active contributing member of your community."

March 2 "How to make your home safe for children, other loved ones."

March 9 "How to help young people refrain from gambling."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: [email protected]. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.