I’m going to write about something a little controversial (which is very unlike me) but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. No doubt, some readers will disagree with my opinions but that’s okay. We can have a friendly discussion, can’t we?

I want to talk about jeans. I guess that will lead us into the whole modesty issue. Am I brave enough to continue? Here goes…

I have seen a few articles online that have titles such as Rules for Modest Dressing. The rules consist of a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts that are aimed at teenage daughters in particular. I admire a mother who takes the time to ponder carefully what she wants for her daughters. It’s a mother’s responsibility to pass onto her children what she believes is right. And writing rules is a reflection of a very caring mother. Obviously there are many mothers who agree, because the number of congratulatory comments for such posts are enormous: You care, so you make rules. I admire that!

I used to have a set of similar dress rules for my daughters. Well, actually the rules really only applied to my eldest daughter Felicity as she is seven years older than my second daughter Imogen. Dress codes don’t seem to affect little girls as much as teenage ones.

I decided that jeans were not appropriate dress and so I wouldn’t let Felicity wear them. I told her my reasons: they were immodest and unfeminine. She was a girl, therefore she couldn’t wear pants. Nice and simple. No arguments allowed.

Actually I wasn’t being entirely truthful. The reason I didn’t want Felicity to wear jeans was because none of my friends let their daughters wear them. I wanted to be accepted by these women and so I adopted their standards. I let myself be swayed by others’ opinions – adult peer pressure- but when I thought about it, they were right, weren’t they?

Felicity did not think I was right. I spent a lot of time trying to make her abide by the rules, rules she couldn’t see the value of. Rules can be made, but they need to be policed, and that can result in a lot of time and energy and conflict. And rules can lead to deception and loss of trust. I have heard of young girls changing into their jeans when away from home, hoping their mothers will never find out. 

But rules are worth the trouble, you might say. They were made in the best interest of your child. She needed to be guided in what is right and what is wrong. A parent has to be strong enough to make unpopular decisions, and stand by them.

Or does she? I suppose it depends on whether the reason behind the rule is valid. And are rules the only way of ensuring our children act in an appropriate manner?

Jeans…When I was a teenager and young mother I wore them all the time. Are they immodest? I guess it depends on the cut. Perfectly modest jeans can be found, I’m sure. Are they unfeminine? I don’t think they are as feminine as a pretty skirt. Is it a crime to be unfeminine? I don’t suppose it is. Is the issue of jeans worth fighting over? No.

I haven’t worn jeans for a very long time. These days I am a skirt girl. I like the soft feel of them and the comfort. I always felt rather restricted inside my stiff denim jeans. And yes, I do like to feel feminine.

Do I want my girls to be feminine? I guess I do. But they have free choice in the matter. As long as my children are doing nothing wrong, I can’t force my preferences on them. I don’t have the right to control them. To me, jeans-wearing is not an issue worthy of a rule. It’s not like it has been written into the Code of Canon Law or anything. And it's not as if skirt-wearing makes us better people.

So we have no rules about jeans. Actually we have no rules about modesty either. I have never seen the need to write any. (Dare I confess I generally don’t make rules about anything?) All children, boys included, have always dressed modestly. Why make rules? Instead we have always talked about dressing appropriately:

“Do you think this skirt is good enough for Mass?”

“You might be more comfortable in cargo pants. You’ll be climbing off and on equipment all day.”

“Have you seen my track pants? I need them for running.”

"I want to look special. It's an important occasion."

"I need to find my swim shorts. I don't feel right wearing my swimmers without them."

So what do my girls choose to wear? The daughter who was not allowed to wear jeans prefers jeans (as far as I know!) The girls who never experienced 'the jeans rule' wear skirts. They won’t go anywhere near a pair of jeans. 

Isn’t that funny?

The other day a friend gave me a bag of odds and ends she thought might come in handy for the younger girls. Included in the bag was a pair of jeans.

“Hey Sophie! These might fit you,” I said, handing the jeans to my second youngest daughter.

“But Mum! They’re jeans. I hate jeans,” said Sophie screwing up her face.

“Just try them on,” I encouraged. “You never know when a pair of jeans might come in handy.”

Sophie went off to her bedroom, obviously under protest, trailing the jeans behind her. A few minutes later she appeared with jeans-clad legs and a tortured look on her face.

“They fit perfectly!” I smiled.

“I hate them!”

I guess there’s no rule that says a girl has to wear jeans!

These days many of my girls’ friends wear jeans. My daughters in their pretty skirts are the odd ones out.

“Wouldn’t you like to dress like everyone else?” I ask.

“No! Not if it means wearing jeans,” four feminine voices reply.

There are probably people who look at my daughters and feel sorry for them. Poor girls! Their mother insists on being old fashioned and doesn’t allow them to wear jeans! Others might congratulate me on being a caring mother who insists on her girls dressing as girls. I told you this was a controversial topic.

The truth of the matter is my girls love wearing skirts, and really I see no reason to dissuade them from their preference. As I said, I’m a skirt girl too.

Would Felicity have been a skirt girl too if I hadn’t made any dress rules? What if I hadn’t banned jeans? Can rules actually push children in the direction we don’t want them to go?

Not that it matters. I love all my five daughters, whatever they choose to wear.

Imogen walks by and I say, "Would you like to read my latest post?"

When she finishes reading, I'm struck by a funny thought: "Do you realise I've written a defence for jeans-wearing and none of you wear jeans?" We both laugh. 

"You should have written a post about how jeans-wearing is wrong," says Imogen. "You could have pointed at your daughters: They know they have to follow the rules!" We both laugh again. 

It's good to laugh. Why fight over something that really isn't very important at all?

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  1. I remember as a girl crossing a street with my Mum holding my hand and making a fuss because she had made me wear jeans and I "hated jeans!!"

    I've never found jeans comfortable but I wore them as a teenager because they were "in". I never wear them now, I do wear comfortable pants in cold weather but prefer skirts. Always a skirt for Mass.

    Love the photo of the girls in their dresses :)
    My daughters love comfy leggings with a skirt over the top. No jeans, no way! Even my boy would never, ever wear jeans.

    1. Kelly,

      Jeans really aren't a garment designed with comfort in mind. I don't suppose I cared as a teenager. These days I am much more sensible. It's like wearing high heeled shoes. I don't own even one pair as I love my feet to be comfortable!

      Skirts for Mass? Yes, I agree that skirts are appropriate for Mass. Different clothes for different situations. I wear track pants and shorts for running but wouldn't feel right wearing them to town. I wouldn't mind the girls wearing them though... but they don't want to!

      I used to love dressing my girls in leggings and shirts or short dresses. It's a great combination. I loved that recent photo of your children. Their clothing was beautiful but practical and fun!

      This photo was taken on Easter Sunday and everyone was dressed up to celebrate. We love dressing up!

  2. I remember my favourite article of clothing when I was about five was a pair of purple corduroy pants. I cried so hard when I finally outgrew them. I suppose there's no telling what type of clothes a kid is going to take a shine to.

    And as for purple cords, in my defense it was 1980.

    1. Kellie,

      I love the sound of your purple cords. I had a pair of green ones I was very attached to. They were flares! Now what year were flared pants in fashion? It was so long ago I've forgotten. Probably pre-1980. Now I'm feeling old!

  3. When I was a little girl, I refused to wear pants. FLAT OUT. My teenage sister once called my mom at work in totally frustration because I refused to wear jeans while playing on the swing set!

    Eventually I wore pants, but I loved the way wearing a dress made me feel. I think sometimes having been young in the 90s where so many women dressed like men we have a hard time breaking out of that. There was a recent backlash against that fashion awhile ago, which I am grateful for. I like looking like a girl. lol

    But, there was a modesty survey done by some Christian teens awhile back that I found very helpful on the modesty and pants issue. It is here: http://www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey/

    1. Amy,

      Thank you for the link to the survey. It was interesting to see that more men disagree, rather than agree, that jeans on women are immodest.

      Yes! Skirts can be immodest when doing something that involves turning upside down! They aren't suitable for all activities. In years gone by, girls weren't encouraged to be active so didn't need to worry about their clothes. I really feel girls should be encouraged to participate in sports and so they need to be allowed to wear track pants and shorts, even if they wouldn't wear them as every day wear. I love getting out on the running track with my girls. It's good to feel healthy and strong. I imagine you feel the same way when you cycle.

      You made such a good point... you love the way a dress makes you feel. Yes, clothing does affect our feelings. When a little girl is dressed up in a beautiful dress have you noticed how feminine, polite and graceful she acts?

      So lovely to chat with you!

  4. Sue, I think you were me when you were younger. I imposed the same rule until oldest fought with me about it. now younger ones wear skirts except when they play. I only have two modesty rules now no sleeveless ever and only dresses and skirts for Church. If you're the future me, I'm so glad because your daughters love skirts and you overcame Dragon Lady. Glad you posted this. I'm a skirt person myself except when I'm at home and clean.

    1. Anabelle,

      I used to be you? Ooh, how lovely! I like that thought, even if we both might have made a mistake or two. I don't think you'd want to be associated with my dragon mother phase though! Sigh! We learn from experience.

      No sleeveless ever... I try to make sure my girls have sleeves. It's a sun safety issue too. Their skin burns very easily. Usually Gemma-Rose wears a T-shirt under her sleeveless dresses. I must admit though when it gets very hot, I don't mind sleeveless unless the girls are in the sun.

      I'm totally with you as regards skirts or dresses for Mass (for my own family). But as my girls wear skirts every day, this isn't really an issue for us. They just choose a 'best' skirt or dress for Sundays.

      I loved your comment about our blogs getting on. Looks like we are getting on just fine too! God bless you!

  5. Sue, I am very much with you. To me, the issue is MODESTY and what the person is doing at the time, and otherwise it is not a "deal" to me.

    1. Nancy,

      Modesty and what a person is doing at the time... Yes. Funny how skirts can be immodest in some situations. I've heard some people say that if a girl can't wear a skirt then she shouldn't do the activity, which rather excludes her from doing anything that involves running around. Maybe sport is considered a male occupation.

      The modesty issue can get very involved and more complicated than it needs to be. I bought a book about modesty for my teenage girls. Once I'd read it I decided I couldn't pass it on to my daughters. They didn't need to be told what to do. They were already doing it. I didn't want them to feel they needed instruction, and I don't think our kids are necessarily at risk of being immodest. I do trust my girls to make appropriate choices. But me as a teenager... that's another story!

  6. ahem. When I was a girl at a public school back east, I had to wear a skirt or a dress to school, regardless of the weather, or playing, or swinging on the swings at school. Moving out west in 4th grade, there was quite a cultural shift in that girls could wear pants to public school. But I still wore dresses occasionally at least through 8th grade. After that I only wore jeans. (Kids in Catholic school had to wear uniforms that had a skirt or jumper...no pants at all, although they're part of the uniforms now)

    My two daughters are seven years apart too...the older one is indifferent to clothing styles, wears skirts to hang out in, garden in...while the younger one wears jeans or shorts all the time, and only puts on a skirt for church or a party.

    I like your style Sue - I am glad my daughters willingly wear skirts to church...I think I would have a very hard time if they didn't. My 19 & 21yo sons sometimes wear baggy shorts to church...when they're not with us. I am glad they go - but yeah, I wish they'd wear long pants every time!

    1. Amy,

      Track pants have become part of the school uniform for public schools here. Most girls wear them in winter, though dresses are worn in summer.

      You have daughters 7 years apart too?! Do they have a close relationship? My eldest daughter left home when she was 18, just as my next daughter Imogen got to an age where they could have started to share such things as clothes and jewellery and shopping... Maybe they will share more when they are both mothers. This happened with me and my youngest sister.

      I had to smile over your boys sometimes wearing baggy shorts to Mass. I have two young adult sons. They are so different. The eldest insists on wearing a suit to Sunday Mass. My next son, who is 21, wears long pants and a shirt with a collar but... he often forgets to iron his shirt... and his boots! you should see them. They are so scuffed, they hardly look black. But like you, I'm so glad my sons go to Mass, even when we're not around, and they think it is an important part of their lives. That's what really matters.

      I'm so glad you stopped to say hello, Amy. Thank you for your comment!

  7. I have never really understood the opinion that jeans are immodest. I guess it's because they can be really tight and show curves and that's the part that is immodest. I get that. Still, as I sit at mass and look around me, it's not the jeans that are immodest! I feel as though it's more important to cover up exposed skin. In our current culture...it's all about strapless...backless...low cut...etc. In my mind, jeans cover up.

    I respect that there are differing opinions about modesty.

    1. Nancy...hope you don't mind my chiming in here, but I agree with you. I'd much rather see teens and young women in a neat pair of modestly cut jeans, and a cute shirt or sweater, than in short skirts, sundresses, and cleavage bearing tops (the worst!) Dresses are in style now, but so many of the ones young women wear are super short and very revealing. Of course, these aren't the kind of skirts Sue is talking about. But I agree with the other Nancy that modesty is the key. Although, in a perfect world, I'd love seeing all the ladies in lovely, modest dresses or skirts when at Mass.

    2. Nancy,

      Covering up... you are so right! Dresses and skirts aren't necessarily modest. I guess I was thinking about the clothes my girls and I wear. I forgot all about the strapless, short, backless, see-through, low-cut... ones. I don't think we have a difference of opinion at all, though other people might not agree with us. Opinions... I guess we all do what we feel is right for our own families. I respect that too!

      Nancy, we haven't swap comments for a long time. It is so lovely of you to stop and add to the conversation. Thank you so much!

    3. Patricia,

      It seems that any piece of clothing can be immodest. It depends, as Nancy says, on the amount of coverage it gives.

      I also love to see women in modest dresses or skirts at Mass, though many wear pants. I was thinking about older women. I wonder if pants are chosen because of the ease of getting dressed. I remember how difficult tights were to get on when I was pregnant. I had no balance at all. Pulling on a pair of pants would have been so much easier.

    4. Sue...I always read your blog! It's such a pleasant, peaceful place to come and visit. For a long time, I was using Google Reader and it became a real pain to comment on blogs. Since GR is now gone, I've enjoyed reading and commenting again! This was a very meaningful and thought provoking post! I have one son (who will be 13 next month) and two young girls (7 & 9). My girls are what I call "girlie girls" in that they LOVE clothes...want to look pretty and prefer to wear dresses over pants! Even at their age...I don't allow bikinis or strapless dresses and I usuall make them wear shorts under their dresses! We had a meltdown yesterday morning (about what to wear to church)! My one daughter wanted to wear a dress that had spaghetti straps! They are only allowed to wear those to church if they wear a sweater at all times. Well...this is Florida and it is HOT! Still, I put my foot down about their clothing! It is my job as their mother to protect them from those things that I CAN protect them from. Even if they are completely innocent in their thought process about what they want to wear....this does not mean that those they encounter have innocent thoughts when looking at them. This is why it sickens me when I see young teenagers at church with skirts or shorts so short that if they bent over....well...you know! Do they not know that men are looking at them? A priest once said to me that he wishes that women would cover up more...because although he is a priest...he is also human and is faced with temptations everday. When women (young or old) come up for communion with low cut blouses....you can't help but notice it. It's sad really. I know that it is important that our teens and young adults ATTEND CHURCH! But I don't think that means that "anything goes" as far as attire. Anyway...again...thanks for this post!!!

    5. Nancy,

      My girls are girlie girls too! Yes, they love pretty clothes just like your girls. We really enjoy looking at fabrics and sewing clothes together. I find it frustrating when all the available girls' clothing in shops is unsuitable: spaghetti strap tops, short shorts and mini skirts... I've found pretty ready-to-wear clothes for Gemma-Rose but not for the other girls.

      This has turned out to be such an interesting discussion.. and a friendly one too! I think basically we all agree with each other or we accept the small differences.

      Nancy, I am so pleased you read my blog and enjoy my posts. Thank you for your kind words. I remember you were one of my first followers. I was so excited when I saw you'd followed my blog. I am sure you are missing Google Reader but I'm glad you now have the opportunity to stop and chat. I hope we can exchange more comments.

      God bless!

  8. I was trying to wear skirts more often but in the winter I would be uncomfortable because I was cold! I thought I should wear skirts daily because many Catholic homeschool mothers do. Then someone online talked about this "fad" of Catholic homeschoolers. I then decided to just be me :) I love skirts but not every day and not when it is cold outside. I do wear jeans but I wear comfy jeans that have elastic, not buttons and zippers. Even when I do wear pants, I think I look feminine because I have long hair and I wear pastel colored tops and a necklace often. I currently dress my baby daughter in dresses often, but when she is older I will not force her to. I also find myself putting her in pants under her dresses if the dresses are too short. I already see myself teaching her modesty even though she is little.

    1. Gina,

      Maybe there are many mothers who feel pressured into wearing a particular style of clothing. We aren't immune to peer pressure even though we are adults. I don't think wearing skirts make us better Catholics than those who don't. It's an issue that really divides us, when we should be supporting and encouraging each other.

      It gets cold here, but not as cold as in some parts of the world. I wear lots of layers on my legs: winter weight tights with long over the knee socks on top, plus my long boots!! I love boots, flat heeled ones. They give me that same comfortable feeling as a favourite pair of jeans.

      Yes, women can look feminine in jeans. I just feel more feminine in a skirt. But that's just me. I am sure you look very attractive!

      Dressing little girls in dresses is so much fun!

  9. Hi Sue, I guess living here in America where girls wear jeans more often than not, I never thought of it. Plus I do not have a daughter but if I did, I would want them to wear skirts and dresses. Girls looks so much prettier and feminine that way. And if the jeans were modest, I think they're appropriate especially when playing outside.

    1. Noreen,

      Jeans are very popular here for girls too. Practically all teenage girls wear them, except in summer when shorts are worn (and sometimes floaty dresses.) Boys are so much easier, Noreen! Oh except for those boys who insist in wearing their jeans so low you can't help but see their underwear. Not a good look at all!

      Is your son interested in clothes? My eldest son dresses very conservatively and won't go anywhere near baggy shorts and trendy T shirts. The other likes fashion. But both have no problem with modesty.

  10. I like how you addressed this issue, which can certainly become contentious. I don't see your children judging others for wearing jeans - a family we loved to hang out with ditched all forms of pants for girls a few years ago, and while mom was fine with other people not following their rules, it became an issue for the kids. If their way was right, than any other way had to be wrong, kwim?
    While I like wearing skirts and do so often, if I am making a choice based purely on comfort and functionality, jeans win hands down. I'd much rather wear my soft, faded, rather old Levis with a big sweat shirt or one of dh's decades old shirts than any other outfit I own ;-)

    1. Beate,

      A contentious issue? Oh yes! We do tend to judge others by what they choose to wear. I don't think my girls judge though.

      It must be difficult for kids when the clothes rules are changed. I think this is what happened with Felicity. Until she was about 9, I didn't have any strong opinions about pants and jeans, and then suddenly I was protesting about her wearing them.

      I said jeans weren't designed for comfort. I can see I am going to have to modify those words! Some people do find them extremely comfortable. Yes, lots of women like their soft old jeans. I can understand that! I guess I was thinking about the stiff and tight jeans of my youth!

      I have a lot of denim skirts, including a few very soft and faded ones. These are my equivalent of comfy jeans! I match them up with T shirts and flat shoes... easy dressing!

    2. I have a couple of blue jean skirts as well - but they don't protect the legs from stickers and spear grass ;-) My favorite skirt is a gored knit - it's long and comfy. However, whenever I wear it lately the puppy grabs hold of the hem! It used to be toddlers ;-) The thing with this particular skirt is that is doesn't have a tight waistband, so that could turn rather immodest in a hurry =0! I do remember those stiff Wranglers - I stll buy those for dh but wash 'em a couple of times in super hot water and they're ready for comfort.

    3. Beate,

      Your puppy story reminds me of how Callum's ferret used to grab hold of the bottom of our skirts and then hang on, terrorising us. The girls used to scream. I wanted to as well! The ferret eventually came to a crunchy end and I can't say anyone regretted it.

      Spear grass... we don't have that. Not living on a farm or big property it's easy for us to keep our grass short and so we don't need to protect our legs. I wonder if you have bindis (bindi-eye) in your grass. They stick to bare feet and hurt. Should always remember to put shoes on when going outside, but I don't!

  11. Here's something funny...NONE of my children like to wear jeans. My big boys most especially despise them as not being comfortable at all. : )

    1. Stephanie,

      I wonder if you or your husband wear jeans. It's funny how children make up their minds and then can't be persuaded to wear what they don't like. I like how they're happy to stick to what they like without worrying about what everyone else is wearing!

    2. Actually my husband and I both wear jeans! : ) I find them comfortable and durable. It is more of a convenience and practicality issue. I do like wearing dresses and skirts but my husband and I both dress very simply...meaning we just don't spend money on clothes for ourselves unless we absolutely need to. Jeans are an inexpensive wardrobe "staple" for the two of us because they go with just about anything. I am definitely interested in trying the "30-Day No Pants" challenge that I've heard other women talking about. Right now I just can't as long as I'm on the floor doing puzzles and going down the slides at the park with my toddler. I do find admirable the women who are always dressed up. I think they look lovely and feminine. : )

    3. Stephanie,

      I understand about the need for comfortable and durable clothes. I don't spend much money on clothes either, and when I do, I usually buy something that will not go out of fashion and can be worn on different occasions. I have a wardrobe of denim skirts, different styles, lengths and colours. I can wear them during the summer with T shirts and flat shoes, and in the winter with jumpers and tights and boots. They last for years. They are my substitute for jeans!

      The 30 day no pants challenge? I haven't heard about that. I shall have to find out more! If you ever take it, I'd be interested in hearing how you get on.

    4. Sue, to be honest, I often feel underdressed (except for Sunday Mass when I usually wear a skirt or dress. You are right; I'm sure I could find comfortable and fashionable skirts for not too expensive.

      I'm not sure the 30-day no pants challenge is a formal thing. I've just heard of women trying this. Perhaps next summer I should!

      It has been so good chatting with you again! I have kind of been absent from the web lately. Hope you and your family are well!
      : )

    5. Stephanie,

      Oh I hope you didn't think I was saying that skirts can be just as comfortable as jeans, and you should wear skirts like me. I didn't mean that at all. I was just saying I understand about wanting to feel comfortable while not spending a lot of money! Thinking about that again, you probably realised that! Yes, it's always good when we get the opportunity to chat. I'd noticed you haven't been online much recently. Been missing you! We are all well, thank you. I hope you and your family are too!

  12. Hi Sue,
    I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this (picture red face, sheepish grin here):
    I don't own a skirt. Nary a one can be found in my closet. Don't get me wrong, I like skirts very much...as long as they're not on me. I like dresses, slacks, capris but I hate skirts. I guess I never really felt comfortable in them. Jeans, on the other hand, I love :) The older the better! I love soft, faded blue jeans, bootleg jeans, crisp jeans, Levis, etc... The only jeans I hate are tight jeans, low rise jeans, and those "skinny" jeans that are so popular right now. (Who invented those things anyway? And who, who put the three together and made tight, skinny, low rise jeans?! Ouch. Couldn't have been a woman.) My daughter didn't inherit my jean gene though - she hates them and says they are uncomfortable. She avoids wearing them whenever possible and much prefers skirts.

    I love the picture of your daughters - they are beautiful young ladies. Looking at them I guess I'm quite pleased that Michaela loves skirts and dresses :)

    1. Mary,

      You don't own a single skirt??? At least you have some dresses! I have to admit I don't own a dress. I don't like them at all. I think it's got something to do with being a short person. The waists of the dresses are never in the right place. It's much easier to find a skirt that fits properly. Lots of dresses also seem to be low cut. They look lovely on the hanger in the shop, and then when I try one on, they hang too low and I trip over the excess fabric around my ankles!

      You are another old faded jeans lover! I mean the jeans are old and faded, not you!

      You can enjoy buying skirts and dresses for Michaela even if you don't like wearing them yourself! Dressing girls in pretty clothes is one of the pleasures of having daughters.

  13. Even though I am a jean-wearer I LOVE skirts and dresses. They are so cool and comfortable. I think Imogen, Charlotte, Sophie and Gemma-Rose look really pretty in them.

    God Bless,

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