First off, it sounds like you are vey tuned into your daughter and her feelings which is great, and i think you should use your instincts here in order to determine the best course of action. It also sounds as though you've worked hard to keep an amicable relationship with your daughter's father and step mother, so now's the time to use both those things to their full potential and sort this out before it drags on and becomes messy. I'd suggest that you talk to her father and step mother together (if you just talk to Dad, the message may get distorted by the time it reaches stepmum, or she might feel like she's being ignored), but I'd talk to them initially without your daughter there. Not to shut her out, but so everyone can say exactly what they think without fear of upsetting her. Ask them for a meeting to discuss this. Be firm, say its an importatnt issue that's affecting how she feels about staying with them and that you need to get it resolved for her sake. If they care abou her, they'll agree. Make sure beforehand you are clear on what you want to say, be concise and to the point. Talk about how your daughter feels, what she says etc, and ask them what their main concerns are over the way she dresses. Is it that they are worrying she's gay, is it that they think other kids will tease her for her appearance and they're trying to protect her? Then explain your own view point. i cant tell you how it will pan out, but if you thrash out your views openly, then maybe you can all agree on a plan of action you are all happy with in order to keep your daughter from feeling victimised. Then bring your daughter in on it all. Its very important that they hear HER say how she feels, so they dont perceive it as just coming from you. Try to agree on something which you can all be happy with. Maybe take her on a shopping trip with stepmum,or get her a funky new haircut? Theres no harm in them suggesting new things as long as its done in the right way, and she's not forced into anything.
I personally dont think theres a problem here. 12 is still very young, its possible she hasn't fully hit puberty yet even, so she's still discovering who she is, what she likes and what she doesnt. you said she jazzes things up with jewellery, so she is experimenting, but what's more important than what she wears is that she feels comfortable with her appearance. Plenty of young gils who dress to attract attention do so because of LACK of self confidence. The fact that your daughter doesnt feel the need to do this, actually suggests that she is a well balanced, well mannered child with a good appreciation of what is appropriate for a girl of her age. Try pointing that out to your ex husband and remind him she's only 12. Most fathers would be delighted to have a daughter who is taking her time to mature into a young woman. Would he rather be dealing with a teenage pregnancy? It may be that his view of what a 12 year old girl should be doing is being warped by his wife who possibly has her own issues to deal with. But your job is to see these are not projected onto your daughter. So stand your ground on this. Make it clear its not personal, you're just not willing to see her pushed into anything that makes her unhappy. And your daughter will be fine by the way, she has a great mum to back her up
Former Tomboy now mother of two, with an ex husband and his new partner to deal with!