Modesty and purity are essential for the emotional, physical, and spiritual well being of girls, women, and society in general. I have a 5 year old daughter, and I have already set the standard for how she is to dress. Her shoulders must be covered up to her neck. If she wears a dress it must come down to her ankles, and she must wear shorts or pants underneath it. If she wears pants they must be loose, and she must wear a shirt that covers her waist and bottom. No tight fitting clothes of any kind. No makeup, lipstick, or earrings.
I set these standards now, so that I won't have to argue with her when she's 11, 12, 13 or older. I affirm her natural beauty and emphasize how gorgeous she is without any extra adornments or "cute" clothes. I strive to lavish her with fatherly affection and consistent discipline. I emphasize that her beauty comes from God. She is my Princess, and I tell her that a true Princess conducts herself in a righteous and modest manner. I don't allow her to look at Barbie dolls and cartoon characters as role models. I show her icons of the Holy Virgin, and tell her that's what true beauty looks like.
My daughter is a happy, kind, and outgoing little girl. I know that we have a long way to go and there will be many challenges ahead. But by setting the guidelines early on, I believe parents can save themselves much aggravation and prevent a lot of heartache in the long run.
I am so happy for you that you are raising a "happy, kind, and outgoing little girl." I can't begin to tell you how these words stir many wonderful memories in me - exactly because my daughter fit this description 100% when she was little. Maryana was a truly amazing child: always wide open, radiant eyes, always a smile on her face, always ready to dance or recite poetry (she had a fantastic memory and would easily remember hundreds of lines of Ukrainian poetry read to her). She was the life of every kids' party, and she was never a troublemaker - parents of the kids with whom she played always told us that she has a positive, calming influence on her little friends.
We never enforced any strict dress code for her though. Or any other strict code, for that matter. And she was just "naturally good." She never swore, never smoked or got drunk or high as a teen, never behaved promiscuously with boys. She went through a phase of being a rather typical nasty, tense, angry American teenager - but only very briefly, between the age of ~16 and ~19. Yet, even in those difficult years, she graduated from her high school with top grades, was admitted to Tulane, and earned a steady GPA 4.0 at her university. And again, we, her parents, never noticed that she would become habitually swearing, or sexually promiscuous, or abusing alcohol or nicotine or drugs. We did not need to teach her not to do all that - she just developed her own internal moral code, a very strict one, but coming from herself, from within her.
Maryana did go through a phase of... well, not really "immodesty," but of a certain "weirdness" in her manner of dressing. She wore some oversized, baggy clothes. She pierced her eyebrow, and she colored her hair bright red or sometimes green. But that never lasted long - and again, not because we, her parents, told her that she should not do it, but because she herself understood that this is superfluous, not needed for a person like her. By the age of 20-21, she got rid of the piercings and of the baggy clothes and of the strange paint on her head.
Right now, Maryana is a Ph.D. student at Harvard, continuing to keep her usual GPA 4.0, working a lot as a teacher's assistant and on her thesis in the library. She looks wonderful - no weird stuff, all normal, modest, clean-cut, healthy. She is very happily married, and, generally, lives a good, productive, healthy and highly moral life. I admire her and look up at her; she is my wonderful friend, companion, co-conversationalist, advisor, counselor, judge.
I am not saying that the parents never should impose any rules on their children (in dress and otherwise), but I can tell you that my wife and I did NOT impose any rules - and yet raised a wonderful person. It is not impossible then. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples when imposing strict rules on children led to tragedies, to truly broken, wasted lives.
Children are different, families are different. We should look closely at our kids, study them, understand them - and then we will all be fine, good Lord willing...