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One Third Of Girls' Clothes Are Too Grown-Up

By Sierra Black |

Once a year, before the school year starts, my daughters go shopping with my mom. It’s their annual treat, a chance to buy new clothes from a real store. The rest of the year, we get our clothes second-hand from swaps, hand-me-downs from friends, and the occasional trip to Goodwill.

There’s something magic about starting the year off with some fresh new things. Watching my mom carry on this ritual with the girls brings back all my memories of school shopping during my own childhood, too. I love the little fashion show the girls put on when they get home with their loot.

All of this is to explain why my six-year-old has a leopard print miniskirt. It was a gift from their Nana during their annual pilgrimage to LL Bean, and I couldn’t bear to take it away from her. Ditto the bikini that showed up from a different relative on her birthday last year.

You’d think wearing a tiny bikini or a leopard print skirt would make my first grader look strange, but she’s just doing what all the kids around her do. Sexy clothes for girls this age have become the norm.

Sexy clothes are so normal that up to a third of clothes for girls have “sexy” characteristics. According to the researchers, a lot of these clothes have features that are cutesy and childlike, while also having sexualized features that emphasize the appearance of non-existent breasts and curves. As they told United Press International:

“Confused parents might be persuaded to buy the leopard-print miniskirt if it’s bright pink,” the study authors say. “Clearly, sexiness is still visible beneath the bows or tie-dye colors. We propose that dressing girls in this way could contribute to socializing them into the narrow role of the sexually objectified woman.”

I remember getting “sexy” clothes as newborn gifts for my baby; there’s no age at which clothing makers don’t make sexy little things for girls to wear. I admit there’s something adorable about miniaturized biker jackets and baby leopard-print. But does anything in a 0-3 month size really need breast darts and a plunging neckline?

Why do people make these sexy things for little girls? We don’t really want little girls to be putting their bodies on display as sex objects. Do the designers just think it’s cute to dress girls like grown-ups? Is it simple silly fun?

I’d rather my kids didn’t have any “sexy” clothes, but I haven’t been able to keep their wardrobes completely clear of them. Do you worry about the sexy stuff your kids wear, or has it just become the normal look? Does the mini-adult fashion strike you as cute or creepy?

Photo: nrbelex

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About Sierra Black

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Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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11 thoughts on “One Third Of Girls' Clothes Are Too Grown-Up

  1. Bunnytwenty says:

    “Why do people make these sexy things for little girls?”
    Kids always want to be, or at least appear, more grown-up, so naturally, they gravitate towards the clothing that they associate with the adults who seem to have the most admiration and social approval (sexy grown women). Their parents get it for them because they think it’s cute and harmless, but it just reinforces the notion that sexuality is the only important thing about you if you’re female. It makes me sad. (And that mindset affected me quite a bit even without a sexy childhood wardrobe! how much worse must it be now?)

  2. Sara says:

    The study seemed to sexualize things that aren’t sexual. Jeans back pockets with sequins on them aren’t sexy. Neither is a sundress like the girl in the picture for the article. The example the study uses, a pink leopard print mini skirt wouldn’t be sexual unless the skirt was extra short (and most mini skirts are sized to the knees) and not worn with tights or leggings. Leopard print is not sexy.

  3. adriana shuman says:

    I believe firmly that little girls should be little girls’ not little women! That’s why at my store Summer For Kids you will find sweet, eco friendly clothing suitable for little girls not sexy women! Check out our wonderful clothing and all our wonderful green, eco, safe and fun products (toys, bedding, mattresses and more!) today at http://www.summerforkids.com. :)

  4. RT says:

    I’m kind of surprised to hear that LL Bean sells leopard print skirts. For the most part, they’ve always seemed to have much more conservative clothing.

  5. Mmm says:

    This might be a stupid question, but what about leopard print makes it inherently ‘sexy’?

  6. jenny tries too hard says:

    yeah, I’m not seeing how leopard print is sexy by itself, either. Tacky, sure, but not exactly sexy. And, no, sequins and embroidery on jeans pockets aren’t “sexy” either. Ditto for a mini biker jacket. I have trouble with the concept of little girls (like 6x-12) shorts or skirts being “mini”. For starters, their little bodies are not exactly uniform; a size 7 “miniskirt” on one little girl might hit just over her knees, while her neighbor might have the same skirt not pass the fingertip test, so “mini” is hard to say til the girl actually puts it on, and it matters whether she wears the skirt over leggings or pants or bare legs. Little girls can also wear shorter skirts and shorts than teens and women *because* they’re little girls.

  7. Gagagolly says:

    I think people are fishing for things to fret about…or maybe are Amish.

  8. Kikiriki says:

    @Jenny, ITA.. My daughter wears dresses and skirts that are shorter precisely because she is a little girl, and she needs to be able to climb and bike in them! She wears them with leggings or shorts or tights. They are not sexy, they are little. And when I was little, some of my favorite dress-up clothing were a couple of grown-up slinky dresses that my mom had discarded (which I loved because of the feel of the fabric and the shininess, not because they were ‘sexy’). The problem is not necessarily with all of the clothing out there (although I do agree that some of it is inappropriate), but our schizophrenic puritanical/overly sexual way of looking at everything that has to do with females in this country. The clothing that irks me the most are the shirts that have overly “gendered” sayings on them (they always seem to be about being cool or sporty for boys, while girls have stuff like “sugar sweet,” “little princess,” and “goin’ shopping” – ugh). That being said, there are some items of clothing out there that I wouldn’t let my kids wear, boys or girls, because they seem inappropriate to me.

  9. nutterbutter says:

    Why is leopard print considered sexy? I find that an interesting question… and I think it is answered by reference to how leopard print (or sequins/feathers/tulle/leather etc) has been used in the past and in what context. I suspect, much like the colour “black”, the use leopard print in clothing has several associations which can attributed to it eg animal skin, tarzan, jungle, skimpy clothing, sensuality, provacative, sophistiction… such that leopard print wasn’t usually associated with children’s wear except perhaps as a luxury/glamour item for royalty to show status. In any case I am guessing it has for a long time been considered an adult print so for many consumers it retains that image. It is really interesting to me because it is just a print- a pattern of ink that could easily be polka dots, but it has such symbolic power. What is “sexy/adult” changes over the passage of time…we are allowed to see ankles now!
    This discussion led me to recall a comment once made in reference to my daughter’s clothing… “oh, she’s a lot more fashion forward than my girls”. There was no “sexy” involved, cotton floral print trousers and a cute T shirt from Boden, that were just more interesting than Lands End T shirt dresses that her daughters were wearing. I often wondered how much of the comment was intended to be as judgemental as I felt it was. I would never have dreamt of saying anything like that to anyone and had never eaven realised such attitudes existed.

  10. Francine says:

    “I’d rather my kids didn’t have any “sexy” clothes, but I haven’t been able to keep their wardrobes completely clear of them.”

    Well, you’re the parent. You make the rules. If you don’t want them to wear it, you shouldn’t get it or accept it as a gift. Too bad if the person giving it feels hurt, they should’ve taken your opinion into account. And the ‘sexy’ clothes they already got, you should throw or give them away. Your children may protest, but you’re the parent. If your children were old enough to decide what to wear themselves, they would be old enough to wear ‘sexy’ clothes.

  11. sarah says:

    I don’t see how leopard print is sexy, I’ve always found it fugly. Even when I was a kid. I really think it’s dependent on the context of the clothes. Are you allowing your daughter to have plunging neck lines and skirts that so short her panties show even when she merely sits down? Why do your children even have such things in the closets? Who’s buying the clothes for them? You’re the parent, if someone else is buying the clothes, tell that person not to buy such things for them. If they get offended, too bad. I agree with Francine, if your child protests, or begs, whines, throws a tantrum, too bad, you’re the parent. Besides, not dressing sexy doesn’t mean not being pretty or beautiful. You just have to find what works for both of you while being age appropriate.

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