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Silky shorts and other horrors

By Hildie Westenhaver

My 14-year-old son has a pair of bright orange silky shorts. I loathe silky basketball shorts. I’m sure I must have bought them for him because I buy all his clothes. But what was I thinking? Was I so exasperated with clothes shopping that I just said “fine” when he waved them in front of me? Oh, we somehow ended up with a red pair too.

Every time he wears his bright shorts I want to tell him to go change. There is no way those are stylish in any crowd at high school. I want him to look cute in public. But I also don’t want to be one of those bratty moms who has too strong an opinion about what her kids should and shouldn’t wear.

I have a friend like that. I love her but she’s always got some issue about what her daughters are wearing, whether its high heels to school, or a belt that’s really jangly, or anything striped (“stripes don’t look good on anyone!” she says.)

I reckon that as long as my kids are being modest then they should be able to wear what they want. But then I think of those stupid basketball shorts. I really would like to “accidentally” spill bleach on them.

When I think back to the dreadful clothes I wore (anything fluorescent, T-shirts with biking shorts, the month where I wore shoelaces in my hair) and my appearance in general (disgusting perms, purple and blue striped eyeshadow and, horrors, white lipstick!), I wish my mother had maybe stopped me once or twice as I was walking out the door and had me rethink my choices.

But it probably would have turned into a giant fight. I’m not sure whether my mother was being wise or simply didn’t care.

Do you think that we have the right to help our kids make fashion choices? It can be futile to insist that a three-year-old change her clothes but what about a thirteen-year-old?

What about husbands? Do you let the man in your life wear whatever he likes? Do you disagree? Do you even care? Does he?

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

34 thoughts on “Silky shorts and other horrors”

  1. Yes, as a parent it is your responsibility to help your kids make fashion choices where modesty, weather appropriateness, and situation appropriateness are concerned. After that, allow fashion to be an expression of their personality and not yours.

    DH is not allowed to wear whatever he wants. I refuse to let him out of the house with holes in in clothes or deodorant stains unless he's actively working on a project and only going to Home Depot. After that, he's a grown man and can purchase and wear whatever he chooses.

    We do hope in the future when our child gets to the age where "fashion" starts to matter to send him off shopping with a modest, fashionable older teen or young adult. This is in recognition that, in our child's eyes, whatever we suggest will automatically be declared "uncool." The hope is that they can be start to learn and be taught how choose what to wear and what not to wear.

  2. Isn't controlling what your husband wears more than a little inappropriate? It's one thing with kids who are still your legal responsibility, and still need to be taught what is good and what isn't, but if a grown man wants to look like a slob, it's his prerogative.

    Now if he ASKS for help, or for your opinion, give it. But that's different.

  3. It has to be clean, seasonally appropriate and modest. My teen and tween-aged daughters do occasionally ask (and take) my fashion advice, but I try to bite my tongue unless they ask.

    I fight far more often with my husband over clothes than I do with my daughters. I buy everything for him except suits, because I need his cooperation for that. We're well into our second year of negotiation over buying a new suit (or two) with no end in sight.

  4. I don't have kids, but from the perspective of a daughter and sister, I'd side with the "bite your tongue" approach. I feel that my fashion choices have been closely tied with my identity and sense of self. My sense of style is fairly close to my mom's, so I've never really had any battles with her in this area. My sister, though, is a different story. I know that she's felt judged and unaccepted by some of the comments my mom has made to her about her clothes, hair, and makeup.

    As long as clothes are modest and appropriate for the situation, I think it's best to let kids make their own choices. Sure, they may look back at those choices and cringe, but that's all part of development, right?

  5. Occasionally, clothes of my husband's will disappear after he puts them in the wash… I've never yet had him notice — or at least say anything about it if he's noticed. I feel it's my duty as his wife to make sure he's dressed appropriately and somewhat flatteringly. If he had any desire on his part to take charge of his wardrobe, then I'd let him, but he's happy to have me buy his clothes for him. (Generally, the things that disappear are ones that someone else bought or else they're torn, shrunk, or stained and need to be tossed. This includes his holey underwear.)

    As for my kids, I try to keep only season-appropriate clothing in their dressers, so generally, they can wear whatever they choose.

  6. PS: I also have an expectation that if my husband sees me wearing something unflattering or in need of repair (or if I have a curler still in my hair, for example), that it is HIS duty to tell me so that I can do something about it, too.

  7. I groaned a little at my husband yesterday as he was walking out the door wearing a mustard yellow sweater, probably 10 years old, all pilly and too big. He responded with "Hey, I like this sweater." And that was the end of the conversation. Sometimes, I wife just can't help herself where old, pilly, mustard yellow sweaters are concerned. At least not this wife.

    I also probably bug my kids a little too much about their clothes, but only if they are wrinkly or too small or don't match. It's not so much the *fashion* choices, it's the "oh, hey, I found this in the corner of my dresser all wadded up into a ball and it's two sizes too small and I'm wearing it to school" thing that gets me. I know, I know, I should just keep my mouth shut, but I can't help it. Sue me.

  8. I figure my husband is a big boy and can figure this stuff out on his own (unless he asks). I take this line with most of my children too. I have a couple kids that have a keen sense of fashion and really like matching their outfits right down to their underpants. Then I have a few who couldn't care less and seem to resent any interference. So unless it is immodest (so far not an issue) or weather inappropriate (shorts in 30 degree weather), I generally keep my mouth shut–it's how I learned.

  9. My oldest is 8 and we've clashed somewhat when it comes to clothes. I'm more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of person, and she loves skirts, leopard print, glitter, and anything somewhat outrageous. We are also blessed to get a lot of hand-me-downs, but sometimes all the pieces of an outfit aren't there or she likes to combine things in interesting ways. I've learned to just keep my kids' drawers full of season-appropriate clothes and bite my tongue. Today she went to school wearing a bright red shirt, a black skirt, and hot pink tights. Not the greatest combination, but not the worst. The truth is, I'm glad that she has confidence in herself and that we live in a neighborhood where the other kids aren't excessively concerned about clothes and don't give her a hard time. I have occasionally given her suggestions about things that would go together better, simply because I know she's not always old enough to figure it out on her own and she does need to learn basic color matching at some point in her life.

  10. Rules for my kids: Modest, Fits, Weather-appropriate. They are clean freaks, so they tend to wear something very clean every day ("But daughter, those jeans are JUST FINE!") and I've had to convince them that re-wearing even pajamas is okay. Sigh.

    My husband never had a good fashion sense, and so he was very happy to get my opinions. But he's learned pretty well, and rarely needs my intervention. And he usually buys his own clothes, so it's not a big deal, anyway.

    My mom (a 2nd grade teacher) was really concerned for my second oldest daughter because of her unique and quirky fashion sense. She was worried that she would be made fun of at school all the time. But, my daughter as the unique and quirky (and outrageously fun) personality to go with her outfits, and so nobody has ever made fun of her. Like Foxy J, I do my best to teach her basic matching techniques, though, but she is a whiz and coming up with eccentric and fun outfits that match our rule criteria.

    My boys have a rule they hate: You have to wear shirts at all times, except when swimming. They don't understand why I hate that double standard –even if it does biologically and sexually make sense that women cover more (and rarely do in society, sigh, sigh, sigh). My boys will NOT be slobs or immodest in their dress simply because they are boys. And obviously, I feel kind of strongly about it. 🙂

  11. I was gathering up old newspapers yesterday and came across a Baby Blues comic strip from a couple of weeks ago. The dad is sitting in the living room as the daughter (who's what, about 5?) goes out to play. He stops her and makes her turn around by quarter turns. Once she's facing the door again, she asks if he's going to do a wardrobe check every time she leaves the house. He replies, "Only until middle school. Then it'll be twice."

    Seems like a good rule to me! 🙂

    I have no problem telling my husband that I think he looks like a throw-away; there are certain items of clothing he owns that I'd rather not be seen in public with. But trying to get him to dress for the weather is a lost cause. I don't think he feels cold at all.

    My daughter is not even 2 yet, so we haven't gotten to the point of fights over clothes. I suppose the weather- and activity-appropriate and modest route is generally a good route to take, though that doesn't mean I can't encourage certain styles or combinations. I've already decided that I'm not going to make an issue of hair styles and colors—after all, I dyed my hair purple just last year (and should have done it earlier). Why not? Though I might cry if anyone does anything too hideous. There is a point I think you can go too far—my mother still picks out my 16yo sister's outfits every day; I don't know if Macy can pick out her own clothes sometimes.

    I don't, however, think there's anything wrong with asking (either my children or my husband), "Are you sure you want to wear that?"

  12. My 7-year-old has some of those shorts. I'm pretty sure my mother bought them for him. Luckily he is young and therefore grows out of his clothes pretty quickly, so once they didn't fit anymore, they went straight to the goodwill pile so I don't have to deal with his younger brothers wearing them!

    My husband dresses wonderfully when he dresses up, but can't dress casually to save his life. He has improved tremendously in the ten years we've been married, but in my opinion still has some room for growth. I buy most of his clothes so I try to gently ease him out of his comfort area and sometimes I've had great success and he finds a new style that he loves! Sometimes I feel embarrassed by his clothing choices, but I realize that's really my problem to fix, not his.

  13. I'm glad I'm not the only one who dresses her husband! I think SilverRain and I must have been typed our comments at the same time, and I'd like to respond.

    Making my husband buy his own clothing would be adding another thing to his to-do list. Because I know his preferences and sizes and am also responsible for dressing our five children, it's not a big deal to pick up new shirts or socks for him, too.

    Also, my husband is the sole breadwinner for our family. Making sure his clothes are appropriate for his job is one very small way to help him be a good provider. He appreciates it, and when he does disagree with me (as in the case of the new suit) he lets me know loud and clear.

  14. It's funny where my opinion differs from that of my husband's as far as fashion sense goes. He'll hold on to a really, really old favorite that he never wears just for memory's sake. It's cute for certain items. Others make no sense. I plan to make a blanket out of the ones he is set on keeping for the rest of his life so that he doesn't feel guilty for having them and not wearing them. But mostly we enjoy going clothes shopping with each other for his clothes.

    My little boys, though, rarely have opinion on what they wear. Well, the 3yo has shoes he's assigned for certain activities (preschool shoes, church shoes, camping shoes) and there is no intermingling activity and shoes. Except for the cowboy boots. Those are somehow appropriate everywhere. 🙂

  15. As long as it's modest and mostly weather appropriate I let my kids wear what they want. I have been know to let my son wear shorts to school when it's too cold for them, but I also know that his teacher won't let him play outside when he wears them. So that usually only happens once each school year and then he learns. And mainly it's more about advoiding the fight when I know that he'll learn the hard way that wearing shorts in winter is no fun.
    Actually it's all about picking my battles. If my daughter wants to wear colors that so don't work together but she is covered then no biggie.
    Cheryl, I have the same rule about my son always wearing a shirt, though I make him swim with a white undershirt on only because he burns horribly and that seems to really help prevent it.

  16. I've always thought that clothing is a very temporary and harmless way to assert independence and identity. My mindset is to explain basic fashion rules, but then if it's modest and clean, let them break them all they want to. They'll learn the consequences of their clothing choices. But I haven't hit tweens or tweens yet, so I'm no authority.

  17. I'm with Dori & ErinMadamLibrarian (love the name). Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves, I say. There are enough things that I'm tempted to pick a battle over, and that's one I'm more than willing to let go. One of my kids hated to wear her coat when she was in first grade. Hated it!! But after she went in short sleeves on a really chilli day, it hasn't been a problem since. She's in 4th grade now and always dresses appropriately for the weather. 🙂 Modesty & cleanliness . . . they know my standard. But the rest is fluff. And like someone said, they can express their individuality–stripped tights & polkadot skirts . . . bring 'em on!

  18. Growing up my mother always micromanaged my wardrobe, hairstyles, and make-up choices. Her message was two-pronged 1) you are representing the family 2) you will be treated better by others if you look nice. It didn't mean she chose my clothes for me everyday, but she would tell me if something was just plain unflattering. We had a lot of fights about my hairstyles because of this. She was right, but I don't know if it was the right battle to choose.

    Me? I am more relaxed, but my mother's two things keep drumming through my mind. There is a family we are friends with who let their kids wear whatever–whether it fits, or is dirty/stained, or seasonally inappropriate. Part of me admires them for really not caring what people think, and the part of me my mother raised is horrified by what they let her kids go to school in.

    And, sadly, my mother is right. Children who look nice do get treated better, and so do adults. So I try to help my children look nice, but I hope I will be able to find some sort of balance. I can't say I am there yet.

  19. Once in a while my husband can put together a casual shirt and jeans that look nice together, but most of the time he looks like a logger. A bachelor logger. Sometimes a homeless bachelor logger. He calls every color "gray" and thinks all grays "go together." What I call green, he calls gray. What I call blue, he calls gray. What I call brown, he calls gray. Sometimes when he walks in I just have to laugh. He always shops alone because he thinks I'm too picky (imagine that.)

    Our daughters have much nicer taste in outfits than I have, so I've learned (and taken) from them more than they've learned from me (ha!).

  20. My husband is overweight and has some disproportioned body parts which means his clothes never really fit that well. I would feel pretty awful telling him that an outfit doesn’t look good and I’ve never told him what he should/shouldn’t wear. He is also an adult and can choose what to wear, just like I can.

  21. Not to be a contrarian, but I'm rather shocked by the comments here. As a disclaimer, I have neither husband nor children. But I find it surprising, and a little odd, even, that women who would let their kids wear whatever fashions they want (within limits of modesty and and so on, which I agree with) find it appropriate to tell their husbands what they should or should not wear. Am I missing something?

    I dated a guy in grad school who wore basketball shorts to school most days. Yeah, they're kind of hideous, but he never asked my opinion, so I never gave it. It's been years since I've had any contact with him, but even now when I see a guy wearing basketball shorts, I think fondly of my old friend.

  22. Laura, I think it just boils down to women caring more about how they look than men do. And since no woman wants her "other half"to look slobby, sometimes we women have to step in. I never really cared what my husband wore until we got married. Then it seemed a lot more personal. Like if he looks bad then it makes me look bad.
    I'm sure I should be bigger than that, but I'm not.

  23. as long as its modest…not going to choose that battle(my son has SO many silky basketball shorts given to him by a cousin because they NEVER WEAR OUT! I hate them too…but never say anything about them)

  24. My husband will sometimes ask my opinion, but if I just give it freely, he completely ignores what I have to say. I have a feeling this may be related to the fact that I have very little of my own fashion sense.

    STILL, I have more than my daughters. I do try to give them advice about what matches, what goes together, etc., and then let them make their own decisions. They are casual girls though – they usually just wear jeans and some type of top, and it's pretty hard to end up with a crazy looking outfit when you follow that formula. I frequently go through their closets to pull out the stuff that is ill-fitting, stained, etc.

    My seven year old son is more of an issue. He always wants to wear t-shirts, even in 30 degree weather. He would wear his Jr. Jazz jersey to school (with nothing under it) if I let him. (I won't let him.)

  25. One particular child of mine was much easier to influence at 3 than at 13, but that's another story for another day.

    As for my husband? If he asks, I will tell him, but other than that he's an adult and part of what that means to me is to be able to make your own choices. A freedom I not only expect, but relish.

  26. My son has a pair of silky shorts but I have called them "athletic shorts." They are to be worn when participating in sports NOT school, NOT hanging out with friends, NOT to lounge around the house in. I've never had a problem.

    I think that our wardrobe says a lot about us. My husband is a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. He even wears this to work. He makes sure they are nice, no holes. If we go out, he trades his t-shirt for a polo. I think it says, "I'm a casual kind of guy and I like to be comfortable." Most of the other people he works with dress that way too. I'm fine with it. However I think it's really strange that he likes solid colors and NO stripes. I still can't figure out why. He also dresses nicely for church. We recently bought him a new suit. His old one was falling apart.

    As for me, I'm a stay at home mom. I usually wear a nice blouse or t-shirt and jeans. I have to think that my clothes have the potential to get dirty every day. I do have a nice pair of pants and shirts for those days when I want to wear something nice. I used to wear sweats and a t-shirt but I didn't like it. I felt really sloppy and I wasn't very happy. Being a mom is my job and I decided I needed to look more "professional." Of course, professional needs to be machine washable!

    With my 14 year old daughter I've taught her since she was very young about being modest. That modest dress is not just covering up our sacred bodies but what we put on them is important too. "Does this outfit show that I am a daughter of God who respects myself and the gift of my body?" "Would I be embarrassed if I met my bishop or stake president when I was wearing this?" "What if I met President Monson while dressed this way?"

    A few years back our school district decided to start a more strict dress code. All of my daughter's friends complained about having to have clothes for school and clothes for non school activities. My daughter pointed out that she didn't have trouble with it because she dressed that way ALL the time.

    I ask her, "When someone thinks about you what do you want them to remember?" As a read through her yearbook last year so many of her friends wrote about her cute clothes and how her smile and laugh brightened their day. I even had the principal compliment me on my daughter's attire. He wished more parents cared about what their children wore.

    I do have a strong opinion about wardrobes. I think that clothes need to look like you care. Holey jeans have a place when painting or doing dirty yard work. Our bodies are a sacred gift from our Heavenly Father and we need to treat them that way.

  27. My son wears nothing but those "ghastly athletic shorts". He knows I can't stand them, he's not particularly athleticly inclined, but he likes them. Once, I asked why did he like them? He told me that he doesn't like jeans, they are too stiff and not comfortable. When he gave me a good reason for not wearing jeans, I let it go. As a kid, I was always the one with the tags ripped (literally) out of my clothes, so who I am to make him wear something he finds uncomfortable? He'll wear the same color (ugly red shorts with red t-shirt) and I asked him if anyone ever made fun of him. "One girl said I looked like a dork" and when I asked how he felt about it, he said it hurt his feelings, but he liked what he was wearing, so he was going to keep doing it. I figure his clothes are clean, modest and well-fitting. This isn't a battle I'm picking.

    My daughter goes from fashionita to "Seriously? You're wearing that?" Again, it's modest, it's her, she's 8.
    I'm in jeans and a 14-year old sweatshirt right now, so any fashion help I offer will probably be laughed at.

  28. The rule in our family is no wearing the same thing twice in a row and no wearing dirty, stained clothes you pulled out of the hamper. After that, it's up to you. We haven't had to implement very many modesty rules yet but I'm sure that will be an issue soon.

    My seven year old daughter has put together some very interesting choices but I've bit my tongue and let her as long as she follows the two rules. I'd like to think that after about three or four years of dressing herself, she's starting to understand what looks good together and what doesn't. Maybe she had to go through the years of not matching to get to that place. Or maybe that's just something I tell myself to feel better on the days she walks out the door wearing a pink striped shirt and orange plaid shorts.

  29. With very mild sensory issues, my 12 year old wears soft athletic pants and shorts every day. Every couple of years I buy him some jeans but it is a big waste of money.
    I worry about pants length, holes, dirty/stains, and whether they wear it more than a day in a row (which seems to happen if I don't crack down).

  30. I think I'm doing pretty well if I notice whether or not I'm wearing clean clothes before I leave the house. Noticing whether or not my kids' clothes are clean is going the extra mile. I wouldn't know whether or not they are fashionable. I don't weigh in on my husband's clothes, generally. I figure he's a grown man, he can dress himself.

  31. Particularly while I am pregant, I have (gasp) found MYSELF wearing those atrocious silky basketball-type shorts out of the house. (They actually belong to my husband, but what's a girl to do when she doesn't fit in any of her own clothes anymore.)

    It's not flattering. It's not stylish. I just keep my fingers crossed that maybe that Stacey London from What Not To Wear is secretly filming me and planning a great makeover.

  32. I pretty much let my kid wear what she wants, and I am waiting for the day she says "mom, why did you let me go out of the house like that?" and I will repeat what my mom said to me when I said that "I let you dress yourself". Ah, the circle of life.

    As far as hubby goes, I buy all his clothes, and I read an article yesterday and I was very pleased that we don't have to worry about anything. The gist of it was not wearing stained or holy clothes to work, wearing the right kind of socks with the right pants, and the right type of shoes.

  33. Please tell me you didn't really ask "Do you let the man in your life wear whatever he likes?"

    That's just silly. Men are grown ups and don't need permission or help getting dressed just because they're men! Yes, some have atrocious taste in clothes, but I laughed when reading the tail end of this post. My husband has never let me influence his fasion choices, and he looks pretty hot without my help anyway.


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