Girls can show beauty without showing skin

Dr. Elizabeth Marshall recently caught a few minutes of “The Brady Bunch.”

When the TV series premiered in 1969, she was nearly the same age her seventh-grader, Berit, is today. Seeing the Brady kids’ outfits through the eyes of a mother, Marshall now notices “the skirts were short, but everything else was fairly modest.”

The Everett doctor isn’t a TV buff. She invoked “The Brady Bunch” when asked whether styles have really changed all that much since she and I were teens in miniskirts. Marshall is 49.

Modest style show

Real Beauty, a style show of modest-yet-fun clothing for teen girls, will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at North Middle School, 2514 Rainier Ave., Everett. The event is sponsored by WyldLife, Young Life ministrys program for middle school students. Tickets are $10 at the door. For information, call 425-339-8047.

“Kids are definitely growing up faster now. I’m trying to reverse a trend,” said Marshall, an Everett Clinic physician with specialties in family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics.

She and her husband, Dr. Timothy Reisenauer, have two daughters, Berit, 13, and Emma, 10. These days, skimpy camisoles pass for shirts. Glossy magazines are filled with celebrities flaunting low-slung jeans. It’s a challenge to find appropriate clothes for young girls.

Marshall is troubled that society has normalized the sexuality of very young girls. The issue of styles that are provocative and too mature goes beyond fashion. “It’s about who these girls are going to be,” Marshall said. “They’re beautiful human beings.”

With a goal of showing that beauty without revealing too much skin, Marshall has organized a fashion show of modest styles for girls. It’s from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at North Middle School in Everett. Admission is $10.

Marshall leads a Wyldlife group at North Middle School, which Berit attends. Wyldlife is the Young Life ministry’s program for middle school students. Wyldlife girls and boys meet every other Friday night for fun and to share their Christian faith.

In Sunday’s show, seventh-grade girls will model clothes provided by the Alderwood mall JC Penney store. There are outfits for four seasons, and prom dresses, although a prom is a few years away for these girls.

Fathers, who’ll wear tuxedos, have been recruited to escort prom models. Marshall hopes to give the girls a glimpse of how it feels to be beautifully but respectably dressed.

“Many girls in society want male attention so badly,” she said. With fashion ads and a celebrity culture marketing women as sex objects, Marshall said, girls confuse the love they eventually want with the blatant sexuality of pop culture.

“Girls don’t know the difference,” Marshall said. In her view, revealing styles can sometimes unwittingly lead girls toward dangerous choices, and far from their goals and true selves.

Girls in her Wyldlife group don’t disagree.

“Sometimes I’ll go into a store and find nothing to buy but low-cut or tight things,” said Ashley Ogorsolka, 13, a seventh-grader at North. “I want to project an image of myself. I want people to respect me.” At the same time, Ashley said, she doesn’t like wearing “turtlenecks, and jeans that go up to my belly button.”

“I think the media has a lot of influence,” said Emily Harrison, 13, another North seventh-grader. “Some things, my mom won’t let me wear. We were just shopping for jeans. It took two hours to find jeans that fit.”

Hannah Larson, another 13-year-old at North, said she has figured out which stores have appropriate styles. She appreciates Marshall’s focus on girls’ goals. “I want to stay in school and be a teacher,” Hannah said.

Another North Wyldlife member, 13-year-old Mallory Malone, said some girls feel pressured by trends. “Girls wear tight pants and belly-button shirts because people would be mean to them if they wore what they like to wear,” she said.

Marshall’s daughter, Berit, attended a modest style show in Bellevue this spring sponsored by Challenge Club, a Catholic girls’ group. In 2004, 11-year-old Ella Gunderson of Redmond, a Challenge Club member, gained national attention with her letter to Nordstrom requesting clothes that aren’t so revealing.

“Sometimes I’ll think something is cute – cute if it had a top over it,” Berit said. It bothers her how popularity is tied to what a girl wears. “It shouldn’t be that you’re popular because you have all the cool clothes,” she said.

Berit takes to heart age-old wisdom that never goes out of style. What counts is on the inside. “Outer appearance shouldn’t matter,” she said.

Asked how she knows an outfit is appropriate, Berit offered a foolproof test: “Ask your dad.”

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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