Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dressing like a trashy vixen

Any mother of daughters knows how frustratingly, tiresomely difficult it can be to find decent, affordable, suitable clothing for girls when they reach the age in which the cute little dresses and outfits available in the toddler or young child departments no longer fit.

And it's even worse when they outgrow the next size up, and can't wear the 7-14 sizes anymore; the pickings may be slim in the 7-14 area, but at least it's possible to put together an outfit that a rational creature doesn't mind wearing.

Because after the 7-14 area, the next size available for young girls is called the "Juniors' Department," which is short for "Junior Streetwalker/Adult Movie Performer Clothing" by the looks of what is actually offered there.

I remember how hard those years were; how I scoured the "petite" department instead hoping for something cute and not too old-lady for my girls to wear (as someone who never got tall enough to move beyond the offerings in the petite department, I find it irritating beyond belief that the designers for that part of the store assume that the only short women are in their nineties and have terrible eyesight, hereditary colorblindness, and no sense of fashion). Fortunately my girls take after their tall dad; the older two have been able to wear women's clothing sizes for a couple of years, and Hatchick shot up over the summer from a petite extra-small to a regular women's small, increasing her clothing options exponentially.

Which I thought was a good thing, when Nikki at Banana, Bear, and Bophie sent me this upsetting article:

Clothing stores aimed at teenagers and twentysomethings are expanding their reach, trying to hook customers barely out of kindergarten with their own lines.

Teen retailer Aeropostale Inc. last year launched its first P.S. from Aeropostale for children ages 7 to 12. It has opened almost 40 of them and is expected to have 45 by year-end.

Aeropostale calls P.S. "a logical extension" of its brand. It hopes to capture some of the multibillion-dollar preteen or "tween" market, which has been largely the domain of mass merchandisers.

Other youth-oriented chains have also begun making tinier clothing. Forever 21 this year launched a new line, HTG81, for children 6 to 14, available in select stores.

Whereas Aeropostale clothes have a casual feel, HTG81 offers trendier styles, including shimmering dresses, T-shirts that say "I love shopping" and berets.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. has even reached toward the toddler set with its 77kids line for children 2 to 10. American Eagle launched 77kids in 2008 online and has a few stores open, mostly in the Northeast.

Branding experts say that as youngsters get more sophisticated, it makes sense that growth-hungry retail companies would target them.

"Little kids are so status-conscious about clothing now, more than ever," said Eli Portnoy, a branding strategist based here. "It was a natural evolution for young college, teenage brands: 'Why not go after them younger and get them hooked into our brands?' "

Um, because your clothing is a collection of overpriced junk? Because seven-year-olds don't need denim miniskirts? Because having status-conscious, brand-aware kindergartners just makes it easier for kids to divide along "haves" and "have-not" lines, with all the bullying, exclusion, and pettiness of behavior that goes right along with all of that?

And, perhaps most worrisome of all, because your clothing offerings for older teens tend to be the same "edgy, trendy" stuff the Junior Streetwalker department offers, and all you're really going to do is create a demand for same in the Pull-Up (tm) set?

I know mothers of sons have some of these same concerns, too, though I don't have first hand experience of what it's like to shop for boys' clothing. The bottom line, to me, is that whether the clothing stores are marketing their stuff to toddler and preteen girls, toddler and preteen boys, or both, they are attempting to do an end-run around parents and create demand for poorly-made, ugly, and often immodest fashions (some of which can get quite expensive) directly in the minds of the children.

I don't like it when fast-food companies market their products directly to young children, who lack the wisdom and experience to make sensible food choices. I don't like it when sugary cereal companies market their products directly to children, who lack the wisdom and experience to understand that a healthy breakfast doesn't usually involve marshmallows. And I certainly don't like it when companies which exist to sell trashy/slutty clothing made by desperately poor and frequently exploited workers in third-world countries market their garbage directly to children, who are too young not to take peer pressure over "brand awareness" as lightly as such stupid notions ought to be taken.

At least there's one good thing to consider: the most rebellious clothing choice a young woman can make today is to choose a modest, sensible, practical, nice-looking outfit. Dressing like a trashy vixen these days is just being a pawn of the clothing pushers; it is an act of conforming to the world and what it expects of teen and preteen girls.


Avid said...

Ha ha! I was just complaining the other say about this! It seems the sizes go from "6x to sex"! My lovely eight-year old is reaping the benefits of handmade dresses at thrift stores. I'm keeping my kids as sheltered as possible. No surprise that this is all part of an agenda. Geesh!

Anonymous said...

I live in the NE, all teens I see where the same outfit: jeans, long t shirt, NorthFace and Uggs. It's quite modest. Boys usually wear basketball shorts and hoodies until Jan or so. Since I buy all my girls' clothes, I have final say over what they wear. Yes, there is a lot of trashy stuff out there, but nobody forces you to buy it.

L. said...

The alternative that worked extremely well in our family was encouraging my preteen daughter to wear boys' clothes, and swim wear. Baggy tee-shirts, baggy jeans, baggy shorts in the pool....nothing slutty, ever. And she could wear her big brother's hand-me-downs.

Kim said...

Lands' End. Homeschooling. Limited mall exposure. No TV or video games (except the occasional Little House on the Prairie rerun). Very limited pop magazines. Lots of friends--no sleepovers.

And would you believe my kids are all actually *happy* ?!

Karen M. Patrick said...

As a 16 yr. old I can really relate to this. Luckily at 4'11" I can still go to the kid's department for somethings, but as I have 37 inch hips finding bottoms is hell. Like you said most of the stuff in the petites section is really matronly and all the juniors stuff looks like something out of a porno. Right now I'm thanking the heavens that my late grandmother was of a similar build because she left me the contents of her extensive closet including some great modest vintage pieces from the 40's and 50's.

Apostle to Suburbia said...

What does HTG81 stand for? Hate Gate One? How To Go ...? Hot Trashy Garbage for 8 to 1 year olds? It's like a license plate that's too clever for its own good.

Charlotte said...

I think this is just a mini-me syndrome. Parents want their kids dressed as miniature replicas of themselves. It's narcissicism.

I think what you did with your kids is fine. However, I would counter that it doesn't teach girls to be feminine, which I think is important. (As long as femininity isn't defined as looking like Nellie Olson.)

L. said...

Charlotte -- I am not "teaching" my daughter to be feminine. She naturally has some feminine traits and some masculine traits (she loves to wear skirts, sometimes, but she can also be very aggressive on a basketball court). I am encouraging her to develop all of her personality traits in a positive way.

And in our "gender-neutral" household, I'm trying to teaching all of my kids to be respectful and chivalrous -- and wear comfortable, practical clothing.

c matt said...

I think this is just a mini-me syndrome. Parents want their kids dressed as miniature replicas of themselves. It's narcissicism.

Or not wanting your kid mistaken for the Whore of Babylon. We Catholics are a little sensitive to that.

Rebecca in CA said...

I have four little girls, the oldest is ten and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find nice clothing for her. Buying clothing in a store is increasingly difficult. It's actually not too hard to find online seamstresses who make modest clothing, but they all seem caught in a certain era.

Anonymous said...

I don't have girls, but what I'm finding with my 13-year-old son is that nearly everything in his size features a skull and crossbones, a sarcastic saying, or something similarly 'edgy'. Not going there.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Declare your individuality! March to a different drummer! Dress modestly!