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Crop Tops for Teenage Girl?

Dear Your Teen,

Should I allow my 14-year-old daughter to wear crop tops? She likes them, but I think they are too revealing.

EXPERT | Catherine Pearlman

When children are young, parents blissfully control all of the clothing decisions. Mom or Dad shop and decide what their child will wear each day. Sure, there may be an argument or two, but parents generally call the shots.

But when kids enter middle and high school, they want to make these choices for themselves. Unfortunately, some of those selections can be upsetting for the grown-ups.

Parents of girls often prohibit crop tops and other revealing attire because of modesty standards or school dress codes. Others fear unwanted attention from boys and older males. The conflict arises, however, when teens want to express themselves through their clothing while learning how to dress their newly-developed bodies. Additionally, teens often want to wear what other kids are wearing.

Puberty and the teen years are filled with lots of pressure to fit in. Self-esteem can take a nose-dive for girls this age. It would be great if you could allow your daughter room to feel good in her skin wearing what feels most comfortable to her. Of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate for your daughter to wear anything she wants. But, instead of unequivocally saying, “No” to everything, try to set parameters and open the discussion.

Are Crop Tops Appropriate for a 14-Year-Old?

Give some thought to why you object to crop tops. When we tell teen girls to cover up to avoid unwanted attention, we might send a message to them that it’s their responsibility to manage the sexual feelings of the boys and men in society. We also run the risk of shaming girls about their changing bodies. This can have long-lasting consequences.

In giving some deeper thought to your objections—and discussing them with your daughter—you can invite a deeper discussion about sexuality, body image and consent.

Ask your daughter why she wants to wear crop tops and what she sees as potential downsides. Offer your thoughts and opinion but without lecturing. Discuss your concerns and fears but try to have an open mind to her point of view. Then, see if you and your daughter can find some compromises so you can each feel comfortable with the outcome (e.g., it’s okay to wear a crop top to the mall, but not to school.)

If you absolutely cannot find space for your daughter to wear a crop top, that’s ok. But be prepared for some angry teenage backlash. It will likely pass; however, you will probably need to revisit this issue repeatedly over the next few years. And be prepared for the inevitable: She may change her clothes as soon as she leaves the house.

Catherine Pearlman is the author of  Ignore It: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction. Catherine is a licensed clinical social worker and the founder of The Family Coach.

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