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Girls' Fashion Isn't Looking So Good

If you’ve ever dressed a young girl, you know girls’ fashions can be problematic. There are the string bikinis for toddlers. There are the sparkly high heels sized for three-year-olds, just waiting to snap an ankle. There are endless frilly skirts, not so great for climbing monkey bars.

Then there are the t-shirts. There’s been a whole string of scandals recently about t-shirts with slogans like “Too pretty to do homework” on them. A lot of these awful shirts have been pulled from the market after a hue and cry on the Internet about their offensive content.  Good work, Internet. Those bad shirts needed to go.

Sadly, they were just the tip of the iceberg. Jezebel took a good look at what’s still on the market for girls’ clothing, and it’s pretty scary.

It’s not that any one item they dug up is so offensive, though a few of them are. It’s that the overall state of our daughter’s wardrobes encourages a subtle sexism. As Jezebel writes:

For girls at JCPenney, 14 t-shirts mentioned or alluded to appearance — from the blunt, “Cutie Pie,” to the vague, “Fame, Fashion, Friends.”

For boys, guess how many alluded to appearance?

One.

That’s fourteen “I make this shirt look cutes” or “Fairy Glams” for girls, and one “So cute it’s a crime” shirt for boys.

OK, so girls’ clothes are over-focused on appearance. They also offer up stats on the difference between boys and girls choices when it comes to “action shirts”; T-shirts that depict a sport, or a thing happening, as opposed to just standing around look cute.

Unsurprisingly, boys have a lot more options in the action department, even though there are more girls’ shirts overall.

Mike Adamick, who wrote the column, goes on at eloquent length about the problems with the prints emblazoned on little girls’ tees. It’s a common refrain among parents I know, but not one I’ve encountered much of. Buried in his article, I found a partial answer to why.

Target. Of the four major clothing retailers he looked at, only Target did a decent job of offering athletic clothes to kids of both sexes, as well as some cute stuff for each and some plain, old-school clothes. We mostly shop at Target, when we shop at all. So that explains in part why my girls’ closets are full of stripes and floral prints and the occasional cute creature but not a lot of sexist slogans.

Another reason: we just don’t buy that stuff. Once in awhile something makes it through in a gift box from Grandma, but for the most part I am not shy about saying to my kids, “Sorry, no, that’s not appropriate.”

What gets me about girls’ clothes isn’t the bad t-shirt designs, which can totally be shopped around. It’s the quality. Boys’ pants have reinforced knees and good thick fabric. Girls’ pants are invariably thinner and tear more easily. Ditto their shoes, which tend towards dainty and fashionable rather than durable. Everything tends to be pale colors that stain easily.

I care less what their clothes look like than what they can do. I want my kids to have clothes that encourage them to run and climb and get dirty and ride a bike and cause trouble. I don’t care if it’s covered with rhinestone hearts and a picture of Prince Charming, as long as it doesn’t fall apart when they bike across the neighborhood to climb trees with their friends.

What do you think? Does fashion for young girls freak you out?

Photo: Salvation Army USA West

 

From sturdy to studded, check out Babble’s Best Kids Backpacks of 2011!

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