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This girl puts me to shame

May 21st, 2004 · 5 Comments

From the front page of today’s Seattle Times More modest clothing, please, girl asks Nordstrom:

Ella Gunderson became frustrated trying to find something fashionable — yet modest — in a world where she seems to be surrounded by low-riding jeans and tight, revealing tops. So she penned a letter.

“Dear Nordstrom,” she wrote. “I am an eleven-year-old girl who has tried shopping at your store for clothes (in particular jeans), but all of them ride way under my hips, and the next size up is too big and falls down.

“I see all of these girls who walk around with pants that show their belly button and underwear,” she wrote. “Your clearks sugjest that there is only one look. If that is true, then girls are suppost to walk around half naked. I think that you should change that.” (sic)

Perhaps I’m making more of this story than I should. But I liked it a lot.

As a matter of principle and practice, I believe in modesty and that “less is more” when it comes to exposing certain body parts. As a matter of practicality: I’m in my thirties and have had three babies. So I have a number of reasons why I do not parade myself about in navel-revealing attire. But as a mom of three daughters, I am concerned about what my girls will be wearing. None of them (at least for many years) will be allowed to leave the house wearing the aforementioned fashions of exposed underwear and belly button (yes, another reason why we homeschool: we can’t find appropriate clothing for our children 😉 ) I’m grateful for Ella Gunderson providing her blunt appraisal questioning whether girls are suppost to walk around half naked.

My own beliefs about modesty aside, I find this story illustrates other principles as well. Here is a picture of Little Girl takes on Big Corporation. Well, I wouldn’t say that eleven years old is “little” and Nordstrom’s is a hometown shoestore so it doesn’t seem such a faceless monolith. Yet it still has the flavor of Girl takes on Giant. And Girl wins. Slingshot 1, Store 0.

It’s a story about a girl who was willing to stand up for her principles and go against conformity and corporation. I like that part.

And it’s also a story about what customers can do. If the company doesn’t have the product you desire, you can let them know you are unhappy and you can also organize your own options. It’s a story about communication. Freedom to speak and to choose. A story about action and alternatives.

Ella Gunderson is one voice. One voice from a child. One voice that spoke up and got others to notice. She was brave. Rather than wear clothing that made her uncomfortable, she was willing to be uncomfortable for her beliefs.

This girl puts me to shame! How many times have I been told in the fitting rooms by the clerk that what I was wearing was The Look? Even if The Look didn’t look good on me, or even if it made me feel slightly uncomfortable, how many times have I either bought the clothing, despite my complaints and concerns, or wore my old clothes for one more season? How many times have I taken the time to speak up and ask for what I want?

Last time I went shopping, The Beast formerly known as Fashion was declaring all the rules – or rather The Rule for The Look. But this girl said no. And Nordstrom’s listened.

“Your letter really got my attention … I think you are absolutely right. There should not be just one look for everyone. This look is not particularly a modest one and there should be choices for everyone.”

It’s a story of individuality. Individual power. A story of choice. A choice story.

Tags: news

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob V // May 22, 2004 at 5:14 am

    I have a hard time seeing this as little girl against The Corporation. Corporations didn’t decide to only provide little girls with revealing clothing. Little girls did. (probably with assistance from the entertainment industry)

    When stores offered low-rise jeans, they continued to offer regular-rise jeans. The problem is that no one bought them. In fact, women wouldn’t even wear the regular-rise jeans that they had already purchased. The Corporation offered a modest option, but no one wanted it. The problem was that they did listen to their customers, not that they didn’t.

    I definitely admire the girl’s decision to write a letter. I’m sure that she is learning about how these decisions are made. At the same time, she needs to learn that there is more available than just jeans!

    Nordstroms offers slacks, dresses, chinos, and a number of other options that are modest. There is no right demand modest jeans when there are so many other options available.

  • 2 Julie // May 22, 2004 at 11:36 pm

    Hi Bob,

    I have strong feelings about this so I probably did paint it too big. I do think that the girl or any customer should be able to ask for what she wants. The company doesn’t have to supply it. But I think that both the customer and the company are better off after having a conversation.

  • 3 Darlene // Jun 7, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Hallelujah! As a mom trying to help my daughter to be fashionable but not parade around in skin flaunting, hormone enticing styles, it has been a real struggle. Just because so many people want to walk around half naked and soliciting themselves for others to think that they are ‘sexy’ or to lust after them, doesn’t mean that the all people do, and it doesn’t make it right just because so many are. Basing your self esteem on how much skin you can show or striving to be a fashion clone shows just how much the ‘followers’ in the world will go with what ‘the crowd’ deems ‘in’ at the time. Self respect is much more honorable and shows more characther and strength than ‘going along with the crowd’. I can’t wait to take my daughter shopping at a store that will put moral integrity and values before the profit line!!! My wallet is ready to support them!!!

  • 4 ruthie // Jun 7, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    I am extremely annoyed with this girl. If she doesnt like what they are selling go to talbots. I dont were low rise jeans or anything like that but if peole are happy with what they are waering why shoudl this girl change it just because she wants to??? She shoudl really think before going and ruining a whole line a fashion.

  • 5 Rosie // Jun 27, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    For who ever says to be “annoyed” by this courages girl, I think you got it all wrong. She doesn’t want to “ruin” fashion. All Ella is saying is that she along with many many other girls, would like a choice in fashion. There are the ones that choose to flaunt and those that like to dress modestly and simple. We need CHOICES!