The Rockwood Files: The demise of decency

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

What I’m about to say is going to make me sound ancient and utterly un-hip. But here goes: When it comes to fashion, decency is nearly dead. It’s just a couple of shorty-shorts away from a total flat-line.

I know fashion is subjective and one person’s idea of “sexy” might be another person’s idea of “vulgar”. And fashion will always try to push boundaries. I get it. What bothers me, both as a woman and a mother, is how often we’re seeing fashion jump the boundaries altogether and end up in the ditch.

In the past couple of months, I’ve taken a few out-of-state trips that gave me the chance to hit two huge shopping malls. These mega-sized malls not only help you get a pulse on current trends, it’s also the perfect place to people-watch. I walked into one store I’d never been into before and quickly realized I was at least a decade too old to be there. The style was definitely aimed at a teenage audience. As I made a U-turn to leave, a pair of shorts caught my eye and I stopped to stare. I picked them up to make sure they actually were shorts because they were so tiny, so barely there, they seemed more like white denim panties fraying along the edges.

I saw at least a handful of girls – most in their teens and twenties – wearing shorts like that, pairing them with a tank top and platform, dominatrix high heels. And these girls weren’t prowling around a nightclub. They were in the mall food court. I saw one at the movie theater for a 7 o’clock show with her date. Every time I spot one, I’m a little stunned because these are the kinds of clothes people used to see only on women working street corners in bad parts of town. Whether they’d ever admit it or not, lots of today’s fashion designers are churning out what can only be called “hooker chic”.

Before I get called a preachy old prude, let me say that I like clothes that fit. There’s nothing wrong with clothes that flatter a woman’s figure and make a man’s eyes get just a little bit wider when she crosses the room. But there’s a line between sexy and skanky. On one side of that line, you’re alluring. On the other, you’re just plain offensive.

Why haven’t women noticed how lopsided this trend is? Boys’ and men’s clothes aren’t all about the size or outline of their various body parts. Men would never go for that. But somehow, women have let fashion designers tell us that tawdry is trendy and smutty is sexy. No matter what label is on it or what celebrity wears it, tawdry and smutty are still exactly that. Always will be.

What scares me most is what this trend may mean for girls so anxious to wear the “in” thing – as almost all normal teenage girls are. A young woman who just wants the end-of-date kiss can end up in a dangerous position if she’s with a guy who’s convinced – by the booty-grazing shorts and the mostly sheer shirt – that she must want a lot more than that because she has dressed the part. Assault is never okay for any reason and is certainly never the fault of the woman, no matter how she has dressed. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we let girls grow up believing appearance and presentation could never put you more at risk of violence.

Whether it’s an Italian business suit or a skimpy tube top, clothes send messages. People listen.

Parents and women need to use our purchasing power to convince the fashion industry that elegance and grace still have a place on the rack and that “hooker chic” is officially out.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.



  1. AMEN SISTER! I don’t understand what is so difficult about telling our daughters “I will not buy those shorts for you because they direct attention to a part of your body that is not appropriate for public consumption.” And for those buying their own clothing, approval of wardrobe is still acceptable if they are living at home and attending high school. Once they’re off at college there’s not much we can do, but hopefully our thoughtful conversations about our self-image might have an impact that will travel with them.

  2. Thanks, Laurie! I appreciate the back-up on this one. I continue to be amazed at the stuff I’m seeing in stores, and I just hope they have a TON of these shorty-shorts left over at the end of the season so that designers get the message.

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