Girls Gone ... Mild: Teens Encouraged to Cover Up

Faith-based program Pure Fashion preaches that virtues, modesty are in vogue.

November 25, 2009, 12:06 PM

Nov. 25, 2009— -- For 14-year-old Amanda Binkley and her mother, Tina, of Roswell, Ga., the mall is a minefield. Every trip to the dressing room brings an all-too familiar battle: a skirt's too short, a top's too tight or a dress is too sheer.

"Sometimes we can be very bitter toward each other. Mostly me bitter toward my mom," Amanda said of their mother-daughter shopping trips.

With a picture of Jesus in one corner of her bedroom and the Jonas Brothers in the other, the high school freshman spends the week in a school uniform and the weekends arguing with her mother over what to wear.

"I have to say, shopping does not come easy for us," Tina said.

In an age of "sexting" and low-rise jeans, many teenage girls are tempted to show some skin. From supposed "good" girls like music sensation Miley Cyrus, to those like Britney Spears and that make a living being bad, pop culture can be unrelenting on teens and tweens.

Now, some parents are battling back, asking an age old question with a twist: what would Jesus wear?

Watch the full story on "Nightline" TONIGHT at 11:35 p.m. ET

Pure Fashion, a faith-based program promoting modesty, takes 14- to 18-year-old girls through an eight-month course in which they are encouraged to "dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God." It's part Sunday school, part charm school and part fashion intervention, all with the mission to get girls to go mild.

"The idea with Pure Fashion is very countercultural," said Brenda Sharman, a life-long model, former Miss Georgia and creator of Pure Fashion. "It takes a girl who is brave and gutsy. ... This is not for the weak and wimpy girl ... to say, 'I'm different, and I'm going to preserve my innocence and virginity,' that's a girl who's radical!"

Sex Sells: Mother-Daughter Standoff

At the mall, in the doorway of Victoria's Secret, Tina and Amanda's mother-daughter shopping trip came to a grinding halt.

"You know I don't like this store," Tina told her daughter. "Probably the only thing we can get is pajamas, but I don't even want to go in here, because I don't like the way this store uses sex to sell clothes."

But their biggest disagreement has been over a pair of shorts in Amanda's wardrobe.

"Whenever I would see a cute guy, I would pull [my shorts] up a little bit and kind of maybe fold the edge over here," Amanda said. ..." I still want to be beautiful and like try as hard as I can to attract some attention. I don't want a lot. I don't care about a whole lot of attention, just some."

Hoping to steer her daughter from overexposed to elegant, Tina signed Amanda up for a Pure Fashion conference in Atlanta.

"I don't want her to be distracted by men. So I kind of don't want men to look at her at all, not notice her," Tina said. "But I recognize that they will, so I just want to make sure they look at her in the way that I see her, which is pure and beautiful and innocent."

Pure Fashion is now in 24 states and a dozen countries. For one Sunday each month, high school girls are taught the do's and don'ts of dressing -- tank tops and short shorts are out; long sleeves and loose pants are in -- as well as lessons in hair, makeup, personal presentation. The company says enrollment is up 20 percent in the past two years.

Sharman drives home the message: Girls who expose too much, risk much more.

"If you are too steamy in your bikini, you will become a part of a statistic," Sharman told a roomful of 40 girls at the Atlanta conference. "By the age of 15, 76 percent of teens are involved in a sexual relationship. What do we expect, really, when so many girls have displayed their bodies to the world? ... For the first time teen girls have the highest gonorrhea rate in the nation, teen boys have the second. Approximately 400,000 teens have abortions every year. And according to UNICEF, half of all new HIV infections occur in young people 15-24."

But are these topics that young girls are ready to talk about? Sharman thinks for parents to face the facts.

'Purity Preserving' Fashion Show Reinforces Message

"There is a problem out there. We have to admit it. And if we don't talk to them about it, the rap star in the song is going to talk to them about it and then they're going to watch a show like 'Desperate Housewives,' and you know they're getting these mixed messages," she said. "So we have to be that small, still voice teaching them what God says and what our beliefs are as Christians. This is a Christian program -- our faith and actions need to align."

Putting faith into action -- with the help of your girlfriends -- is what Pure Fashion preaches. The girls spend a lot of time talking to each other and are reinforced by older girls who've graduated. The conference culminates in a "purity preserving" fashion show, where teens showcase their new styles.

"I got my homecoming dress altered," one teen at the conference said. "I got [the straps] to be thicker and stuff to be more modest."

But not all of these changes come easily. Many girls said their desire to wear trendy, low-rise jeans and impress their male peers' conflicts with Pure Fashion's mantra to stand out with their heart and personality.

Still, Sharman's message resonates for some. "When a guy thinks about me, I don't want him to think about me in the bathing suit that I wore to our swim party," one teen said. "I want him to think of me as the girl that helped him out with something. Like the girl that he wants to marry."

"This has been really helpful for me because I've been to change my heart in a way. To live purity and modesty, like more in everyday life," another said.

Amanda's peers at Pure Fashion seem to have made an impression on her. "I'm going to go over some of the things in my closet with my friends and my mom and we're definitely going to throw out some shorts …and some shirts," she said.

It's a victory for Amanda's mom, but perhaps an even bigger one for Sharman, who admits she's fighting an uphill battle in the culture wars.

"I don't know that we're going to win it. There is always good and evil. Not something we can overcome until the end of time," she said. "But I think that if we can re-sensitize several 100 hearts, thousand, a million -- it's worth it."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events