Down's Baby to Be Designer Swimsuit Model, But ... Why Are We Designing Swimsuits for Babies?

down syndrome, down syndrome models
Valentina Guerrero

10-month-old Valentina Guerrero of Miami has been chosen as the face of the new Dolores Cortés USA swimwear line as well as the brand’s 2013 DC Kids ads. According to Ad Week, “Last Friday, Cortés showed off her new collection in Miami Beach, and brought Valentina out on to the runway. Valentina is said to be the first person with Down syndrome in history to be the main model of a campaign from a prestigious fashion designer.”

That’s totally great, but, why are high-end designers making swimsuits for babies and kids anyway?

Doug Barry at Jezebel says, “Though product-hawking campaigns are always transparent attempts to establish some consumer good-will, it’s pretty easy to appreciate this step towards helping normalize, not just Down syndrome, but any difference that might ordinarily cause a person to be unfairly marginalized.” Alright, I’ll let go of my cynicism and just go with it. Let’s assume Cortés really is being genuine when she says, “People with Down syndrome are just as beautiful and deserve the same opportunities. I’m thrilled to have Valentina modeling for us.” That still doesn’t answer the nagging question: why do kids need to wear “designer” swimsuits? Do 6-year-olds really need a designer swimsuit with tummy cut-outs, like the one below?

designer swimwear for kids
Lotta boom-boom-pow goin' on here.

I am not one of those moms who goes crazy about swimsuits, spewing faux outrage everywhere, mostly because we’re all kinda half naked when we swim, no matter how modest the suit. But given the fact that 6-year-olds now understand what “sexy” is and feel compelled to present themselves in a way that’s sexy, I wonder, is a regular old one piece for a kid that age so bad? My daughter is 6, and I don’t want her to feel the need to be “sexy” – not ever. Genuinely feeling sexy when you’re an adult and feeling societal pressure to be sexy (especially when you’re too young to be sexually mature) are two very different things, and I’m of the mind that you can be sexy in pants and a t-shirt. I can’t help but feel like anyone who’s willing to buy the suit pictured above is sending a message that women’s (and – ew – even 6-year-old girls’) bodies must always be adorned in a way that focuses on form, not function. That focus on a very narrow and objectifying definition of beauty undermines the inclusive message Cortés is trying to send by choosing a model like Guerrero to be the face of her campaign. Hopefully the 2013 line for kids will have fewer holes.

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