DEAR HARRIETTE: My 20-year-old son has a 19-year-old girlfriend who is well-endowed and rarely wears a bra. She also wears low-cut clothing and often looks like she's about to fall out. The dress she was wearing the other night was so small on her that she could barely zip it up all the way, and a nipple was close to making an appearance. When she walked in the door, she looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, "I know this is a low-cut dress," as if she knew what my expectations are, but came looking like that anyway.
My son's girlfriend is going on vacation with us in three weeks. I don't want to seem prudish, but I do want to get through to her that this type of dress isn't appropriate for the places we'll be going and the people we'll be seeing. I'll be asking her before we leave if she has bras in her suitcase, and I am ready to leave her behind if she doesn't or make her go out and buy a few.
What else do I do? I don't want to alienate her, but how do I help her to understand that something that is fine when you're out clubbing is not fine when you're trying to make a good impression with your boyfriend's family? -- Appropriate Clothing, Atlanta
DEAR APPROPRIATE CLOTHING: At the very least, you can establish the rules of your home, which should also be the rules of traveling with you. Your situation reminds me of childhood. My father had many rules, including wardrobe guidelines, that everyone had to follow. Once, a boy with cornrows in his hair came to visit my sister. This occurred way before this style was a trend, and more as a way of setting an afro (making it an at-home style, in my father’s eyes). My dad told him to go home and do his hair before coming inside our house. He required all of us to dress up for Sunday dinner, which meant a dress for girls and a shirt, tie and jacket for boys. Strict? Yes. But we had to follow the rules.
Similarly, you can take this young woman aside and share your expectations about personal presentation. Tell her that you think her style of dress is too provocative and is unacceptable in your home. Be sure to tell your son how you feel and what you intend to say so that it comes as no surprise. You absolutely can put your foot down on this. Hopefully your son will recognize that your family values do matter.