Dress Codes

Updated on March 25, 2012
J.W. asks from Buffalo, NY
23 answers

Does your family have a dress code? Not like a written down set of rules, but just, rules everyone knows to follow. Do they get broken? A lot? How is it handled? I ask because my husband and I have the standard of no drawing on yourself\no fake tattoos\no heavy non costume makeup. This gets broken so often I have almost stoped caring. My husband still gets mad about it, then yells at me for not being more upset. Personaly I feel like a hypocrite I have 3 tattoos, one of which I just got last year. Wondering you veiw on family dress codes, and how much you follow them. Also, any advice for me?

A quick edit! My kids are 7.5, 11.5 and 14, so these things happen at school and at friends. As for why we have the rules, I think fake tattoos (as in the designs of them) Normally just look, bad. The no writing thing is just due to the fact I hate when I see kids with phone numbers, little designs, and the such up and down there arms at the end of school.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

The only dress code I had for my daughter was that her privates had to be covered if she was out in public. Beyond that, how she dressed, if she wrote ion herself, fake tattoos, etc. were all up to her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

My kids aren't really old enough to have to deal with makeup but I still write things down on my hand sometimes and I'm about as conservative a dresser as you can get and have a fairly high level professional job. I won't allow trashy dressing but the other stuff - no big deal!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Austin on

I do not understand what harm fake tattoos are. They wash or wear off obviously.. What is the deal with your husband? What exactly does it mean to him to see a fake tattoo on a child?

Heck I used to purchase the fake ones to give away in Easter eggs, in Pinatas for grab bags.. Even the teachers at school started giving them away as treats, since candy and snacks are not allowed to be given away.

Now our daughter knew the law, no tattoos allowed without a parents permission until she was 18.. And she knew I was never going to pay for one..

She knew the school dress code and so we used that as a rule all through the year.

Pick your battles.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

For us, personal appearance is generally not a hill worth dying on. My SD (14) has been dying colored streaks in the underside of her beautiful blond hair since she was 11. Her mom did it, I think it's trashy looking but...whatever. The kids aren't allowed to wear anything sexually provocative and for family functions, holiday dinners and church, what I say goes. Other than that, I don't care if they wear their hair long or short, wear the occasional fake tattoo or draw on themselves, wear shorts in the winter (the older kids - I do make the younger ones wear seasonal clothing), wear their sneakers until they have holes in them, wear pants that are too baggy (unless I see underwear), wear tacky jewelry or nail polish, etc. Make up does need to be tasteful and minimal. We allow the kids a reasonable amount of personal taste and freedom in their appearance on an day to day basis, and in return, they comply with dressing up when needed. Last night we went to Temple with my husband's family for an annual memorial service and they all willingly wore suits and dresses and looked smashing.

LOL Julie B yes my kids will never wear anything printed across their butts. That's so trashy. I especially loathe the "Pink" ones on young girls - way to advertise that you buy your girls clothes from a lingerie store. And no camouflage prints for the boys and I hate muscle shirts and "wife beater" undershirts too.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I have said this a few times on this board but it is really good advice handed down to me by a psych professor. If you look forward five years and whatever it is will not effect them then it is not a battle worth fighting.

In my world everything you listed falls under that rule.

Does it look bad, sure, but then a day later it is gone. I have raised two to adulthood, they will come up with things worth fighting. Don't believe me take a look at your teen years. Okay maybe you were a good kid but mine makes my kids look like angels.

I never had a dress code but my kids never tried to wear or do anything I found offensive or worth fighting over.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

You are joking right??!!!??

Childhood is a time for learning and experimentation. I agree with the no boobs, butt cracks ect showing. No eating without a shirt on. But seriously, if your daughter wants to experiment with make-up what is wrong with that? If she wants to color her hair --it's her hair and it will grow out. If they don't have a peice of paper and need to write down a phone number who cares? As long as they write it down and wash it off when they get home. The fake tattoos wash off so what's the deal? I learned a long time ago that if you make an issue of trivial things the kids will do what they want once they are 18.

To me since you have tattoos and are telling your kids they can't use the fake ones -- is like a parent who smokes, as they are blowing smoke in their child's face, telling them not to smoke.

Your hubby sounds like an extreme control freak and needs counseling.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

never heard of a family dress code but all the things u mentioned wash off so i dont really see what the big deal is .. i remember being in like 4th grade and one of my friends and i played connect the dots with all the freckles/beautymarks on our arms and we both had alot of tthem.. wen i got home my dad laughed n said u better hope that comes off or your gna look pretty dumb walking around like that for the next week.. theyre young theyll grow out of it

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I teach situational awareness.


Suit @ the park & jeans at the ballet? Not the best choices, but better than not going to either.

Nothing is flat out banned (green hair for StPatricks? Sure), and everything is negotiable.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

No, we certainly do not have a family dress code. Common sense, not looking slutty and showering....yes! These are just not things I would worry about. It sounds very stressful with the kids not listening, family dress codes, you and your double standards and hubby yelling. I think you guys need to lighten up...even with your son wanting to invite female classmates to laser tag for his birthday and your concerns that it is inappropriate.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Wow your husband sounds so rigid.
Kids are kids.
You teach them what you think is important, but everyone has their own personality. People with tattoos, are a stereotype.
Your Husband, seems hung up on stereotypes... and thus, he has a dress code.

I have NEVER heard of a family, that had a dress code.
Good grief.

The other problem is: you and your Husband, have a different set of standards and priorities.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Well, aside from wash your face, brush your teeth, comb your hair, wear clean clothes and shower daily....I guess we don't have a "dress code" here!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i agree with Abbie, if thats the worst they are doing they are doing well, save your worry for drugs, sex, and other serious issue that plague our youth, but i can understand if something bothers you, it bothers you...If you ignore it they will stop and move on to something else...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think it's not worth fighting about. (within reason)
I require that my son's appearance is in line with the school's dress code, if it's a school day.
He needs to wear clean clothing that fits well and is in good shape. That's about it.
I have a boy so I (hopefully) won't ever have to worry about provocative or age inappropriate clothing.
My advice for you? Sit down and have a heart to heart chat with your husband about why those things bother him so much.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Reno on

My family's rule is that you must look neat and presentable for the function. Generally, my boys wear jeans and t-shirts to school and collared shirts and trousers for dressier occasions. All pants must be belted above the butt, not below.

When I was a kid, particularly a teen, I had a similar dress code. I had to dress modestly unless it was a formal dance, then strapless dresses were ok. I was a busty girl, so I had to make sure not too much cleavage was showing...unlike today where girls (at least at the high school I teach at) don't want to leave ANYTHING to the imagination.

If my kids aren't up to snuff, they have to change. If they're late for an event, too bad for them. If they make the family late to an event, life is pretty uncomfortable for a bit (extra chores, grounding, etc. depending on their attitude when corrected). They've NEVER been late to school over a family dress code violation. For the most part, my boys think current teen guy styles are awful and dress conservatively all by themselves. Not a surprise, both my husband and I dress conservatively as well.

But, back to your questions. If you have rules, enforce them. To have them and do nothing sets the stage for your children to think that rules can be broken at will. If your husband is the one with the issue, HE needs to enforce the dress code with you backing him up. If you are holding your children to a higher dress standard than yourself (e.g. tatoos, fake or otherwise), well then, yes, I think hypocrisy is the right word. You're their model. Dress the way you want them to dress. If that requires that you change your dress code, and you don't want to, then it seems to me you might want to reflect on what exactly you want and how badly you want it.

After 20 years of teaching high school, I can tell you that students act the way they dress. If you're dressed up in a tux and formal gown for prom, you're going to act like a lady or a gentleman (at least until the dance is over, given how many girls have babies 40 weeks after prom). If you dress like a tart or a gangbanger, well, that's likely how you're going to act. And, certainly, that's how people will see you. Yes, it's wrong to judge children (or adults, for that matter) by what they wear, but it happens all the time.

Bottom line, there's a dress code for everything, whether its school, a job, a trip to the beach, skiing or simply staying home on a lazy weekend afternoon. You don't wear winter wear to the water park during summer and you don't wear a bathing suit to go snowshoeing. And no one gets dressed up to be a couch potato on Super Bowl Sunday. The sooner kids learn this, the faster you can move on to more important lessons.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I've never heard of a family dress code. I guess with teenagers (I don't have one yet), especially girls, you need rules for makeup and clothing. But I don't see the harm of writing on yourself or fake tattoos. It all comes off. My son draws on himself with Sharpies. He's not supposed to, but it's hard to keep a preschooler from being a preschooler.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My kids are little so as long as they have clean, weather appropriate clothes they are usually good. They hate wearing shoes though so that can be a battle when it is cold. My Kindergatener has to follow the school dress code but that is pretty basic for a kid that young (almost everything he owns I bought or approved). I wouldn't care about fake tattoos. Writing I agree I don't like to look at but I wouldn't crack down unless it was excessive. Make up depends on the age of the kid and the amount.

As a teenager my mom let us color our hair (I never did and my sister picked natural looking colors). My mom was of the opinion that fewer rules means less to rebel against. She did say say that lots of make up on young girls looked trampy in her opinion. But she never got on my case about how much I wore which wasn't usually that much (except the year electric blue and purple mascara was popular).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My husband always makes our adult daughter go back up stairs and put some pants under that dress that looks like a top! She won't listen to me, but turns right around when he is home. The six year old reminds her to close her top.

It sounds so horrible, it is very nice clothes, but rather risque.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

Dress code? Sort of, I guess. Young ladies don't show too much leg or show their tata's off... young men keep their pants around their waist, not below their butt (wear a belt!!)...

Makeup must be age appropriate; fake tattoos are for fun on the weekends, to be taken off before going to school (says the mom literally covered in tattoos).

No makeup at school; no heels more than a kitten heel.

I'm STRICT. I'm both mom AND dad. I'm the disciplinarian. But you know what? I'm also the fun, easy going, let's do something totally silly and off the wall.

When it comes to making a first impression, manners come first and foremost, the way you dress and carry yourself come second. I won't let my kids skimp on something that will last them a lifetime. Once they're adults they can make their own rules for themselves, but under my roof, MY RULES :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

hmm. i have put fake tattoos on my son a couple of times. once when he was 2 and i dressed him up as a rock star for halloween...that was awesome :) i also have a couple as does hubby. my son asked once about them and i told him it's something only grownups can do. one is of his name so he doesn't associate it with anything taboo or scary. so he thinks it's fun to have the fake ones. i think in his 5 1/2 years he may have had them 3 times. including that halloween.

but as far as writing on himself my son never has. i don't think it's occurred to him. he did, however, spend most of his saturday today, magic-erasering crayon off his bedroom walls. maybe the fact that you have these "rules" and your kids know it, is why it happens so often.

i understand how these things happen, hello, i just admitted my son was unsupervised long enough to personalize a mural on his bedroom wall. so i get it. maybe a crack down on writing utensils is in order though, if it really bugs you that much and it's happening that often. only using them with supervision, etc. at least for awhile after they break the rule, as a consequence.



answers from Los Angeles on

i hate the writing on the body too. the fake tattoos i could care less about. i have tattoos and my 5 year old loves to get fake ones on. but i have to ok them. my daughter does where make up (for pageants) and for special occaissons. but if i feel a skirt or dress is too short she has to have leggings under it. at home i dont care what she wears but out in public and school she has to dress appropriately. shoot my youngest sister has her navel pierced and my daughter will walk around with a plastic ring hooked on hers. i dont see it as anything to worry about since i have 12 years before i would even contemplate her having a belly ring.



answers from Colorado Springs on

I guess I would have to ask why you have the codes you have in your family. I'm not saying they are right or wrong, but why do you have them. Do the children understand the why? Are you proactively teaching them what you believe and why? And, if you don't want fake tattoos, why do you have real ones, and recently? That makes no sense to me. Surely your children know of the hypocracy and are probably either confused or don't take you seriously. And, if your rules are just random without thought behind them, then why are they following it?

Having said that, we (in our family) believe that culture is religion externalized. So, what we believe shows on the outside, in what we wear, if we tattoo, how we wear our makeup, etc. And, it shows in our music, media choices, how we entertain ourselves, etc. And we spend a great deal of time teaching our children these things. We immerse them in what we believe by limiting what they are effected by in terms of tv, radio, movies, books, etc. What we believe shows in how we live. So, we personally don't believe in tattoos as a form of expression suitable for Christians. I know many Christians would disagree. That's fine. This is what we believe. So, our children don't tattoo. It would be crazy to think that they would. I can't even wrap my head around it. My husband and I also don't tattoo, so we set the example to them. We don't give them a bunch of random rules and expect them to follow them but not actually live them out ourselves.

As far as "dress codes" goes, we do have some loose rules. We must be modest, meaning no mini skirts, skin tight jeans/tops, etc., even the boys must be modest in dress. But this also flows into other areas, not just dress. It doesn't mean that we are frumpy or dowdy. :) We love beauty, and try to look updated in our dress, just not slutty or too "trendy." If that makes sense...

Live what you believe. Throw out what you don't believe. How old are your children? If they are little, you should have more control over these things. Define the reasons behind your rules. What is really at play here in the various rules. Don't over-regulate your children. We believe in very few "rules." We want our children to know the major rules, to have good relationships with us, so that they know what we think just because they know us. And, they will make wise decisions based on that relationship. Ask your husband about his rule. And, support him in it if you respect him and his opinion for your children. This is not a hill to die on. Explain why you are not upset. What does he think of your tattoos? Is he mad about them?

Anyway, I'm rambling. Some things are easier discussed in person, I guess. :)



answers from Eugene on

No more than 2 inches of underwear showing above the top of your pants.
No crack showing when you bend over.
Wear your shirt at the dining room table.
Holes in pants OK but no indecent exposure.
Tatoos and piercings allowed for those over 18.
Clothing with solid food blobs, obvious stains and bad smells must be removed and put in the laundry.

These rules seem simple enough though they are not always observed in our house. Oh well.



answers from Kansas City on

my daughter and I do fake tattoos all the time, we're currently sporting Avengers ones we got in the party section at Wal-Mart. (Mine is Iron Man, hers is Captain America.) We generally try to dress modestly, although she's 5 so she doesn't always remember to keep her legs together like a lady. We don't have any hard and fast rules, though. My husband would like to implement a no crazy hair color rule, but I think that's silly since when you're a kid is the best time to do it, when you're an adult and have a grown up job you don't always get to.

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