'You're not going out in that?' It was a question rather than a statement. But as I climbed the stairs to the top deck of the bus, my then boyfriend following, maybe my mother should have put her foot down. My white lace dress – if it could have been called that- came just below my knickers, and I mean 'just'. Think of tennis dresses in the 1970s and you've got the picture. A friend had an identical dress and I think we competed over who dared wear it shorter. Soon afterwards, maxi dresses were all the rage, so my parent's worries were over, at least regarding clothes.
But are you worried about how your son or daughter presents themselves to the world through their wardrobe? Do you find yourself saying 'You're not going out like that'? And do you worry that your child may, naively perhaps, be sending out the 'wrong' messages?
Sam, who has a daughter aged 14, explains: 'I have constant battles with my teenage daughter on the appropriateness of her clothes. I will not allow her to wear low-cut tops. "Crop tops are her latest passion: she can wear fitted ones over high waisted skirts and jeans; she can wear loose ones over fitted tops. But I don't want her flashing her midriff.
"This is a source of contention all the time. I won't allow her to wear high heels, but she can wear shorts over leggings or opaque tights.
"When we go shopping we have to go through the rituals of negotiation; there are no hard and fast rules, but I do have a say. As a parent I believe in freedom of expression, but not in early sexualisation."
Of course, in a perfect world girls would be free to wear whatever they like, but as parents do we have a role in toning down some of their outfits? Sam believes we do. "Some of my daughter's friends wear what would be considered 'sexy' clothes. In our experience people see the outfit before they see the person, and make judgements. And I know that when girls have a label it can be hard to shake it off."
Julia takes a similar line with her 15-year-old daughter. "I don't mind her wearing short skirts or dresses; she has good legs so she does look nice. But I do advise her on what she wears with them. I won't allow her to wear revealing tops - low cut or see-though- and certainly never at the same time as a very short skirt.
"I also say she can't wear high heels with short skirts, because the overall effect is just tarty. There's real pressure on teenagers to follow the crowd, but sometimes teenage girls lack perspective on how they appear to others especially, it has to be said, to men who have a very stereotypical attitude towards revealing clothes."
Katie, on the other hand, has a different issue with her daughters aged 16 and 11. "They never want to look smart. They insist on wearing T-shirts with skulls on which is fine by me - but not for weddings or parties. I have to try very hard to get them into skirts or dresses when the occasion requires those. The only good thing is that our clothes bill is tiny."
The problems with clothes don't always begin in the teenage years though. Louise told me how, "I won't allow my seven-year-old to wear Barbie, Bratz or Disney clothing. I think they are all too sexualised for her age. I don't like Barbie because of her unrealistic figure, so it's not an image I want her to try to copy. I only allow her to wear flat shoes."
And what about boys? The most frequent complaint among mums is about boys who want to wear very low-slung jeans. Carrie said: "I used to have arguments with my son over how low his jeans were, especially the rear view. I simply told him that he couldn't come out with me anywhere like that so he had to find a belt or not be taken anywhere for anything."
Susie has different issues with one of her sons. "Occasionally he wants to wear rather odd things, such as long white sports socks worn over his joggers, which looks ridiculous. I know it's not a huge issue but as he's eight I assume people will think it's my choice as I'm responsible for his clothes. He sometimes wants to look too smart when he ought to be casual - such as donning a smart jacket when it's not necessary, or wants to stay in his tracksuit when he ought to be smarter."
How much freedom do you think your child should have with their clothes? Is there a case for parents saying 'No' to overly sexualised outfits, or to clothes that are just not appropriate for the occasion? And do your children ever smuggle their clothes out of the house to do a quick change when they are out of your sight?
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