In our society, the fashion trend of preteens and teens seems to be becoming increasingly sexually provocative. Is this just a harmless way for girls to express themselves and their sexuality? I say no. The clothing marketed to pre-teen and teenage girls sends negative messages about body image and self image, promotes negative stereotypes, and objectifies women; the created image of young girls as sexual beings is dangerous. To further understand this, let us examine some of the popular clothing styles today, the underwear being sold to teens and preteens, slogans on clothing, clothing size and style in relation to body image, and advertising used to target these young girls. We will also explore the possible motivations and dangers for young girls to dress in this manner and parents’ role in all of this.
Today there are several popular styles for young girls that are sexually provocative. We see low-rise jeans with thong underwear sticking out the back, very short skirts and shorts, midriff bearing tops, off the shoulder tops, incredibly low cut tops, tops that look strikingly like lingerie, and skimpy swim wear. The article, “Strip Till You Drop,” by Alison Pollet and Page Hurwitz, describes clothing marketed to young girls as being “. . . a creepy synthesis of cute and tawdry” (Pollet, Hurwitz 20). Pollet and Hurwitz also bring up the new “revamped” Playboy logo, the Playboy Bunny. The Playboy Bunny has been remade into something cute, cuddly, and childish. We find the Bunny on shirts, underwear, hats, socks, jewelry, and on many other products targeting young girls. (Pollet, Hurwitz 21). The Playboy Bunny is a prime example on how cute and sexual is meshed together. Regardless of how cute the Playboy Bunny now appears, it still represents “Playboy” and the images of women as sexual beings. There really is nothing innocent and childlike about “Playboy Magazine.” So why is their logo on products marketed to young girls? This is only one example of the many combinations of cute and sexual.
Possibly the most alarming and sexually provocative article of clothing sold to teens and preteen is underwear. Walking through the local mall, I decided to see what was being sold for young girls. For teens it seemed that “anything goes” from thongs and g-strings, to super low-rise, string bikinis, and “boy cut.” They come in every color and type of flimsy fabric. Some also have words written on them such as “vixen,” “hottie,” and “trollop.” For bras, stores offered a little of everything as well: lacy pushup bras, sheer bras, bras with cartoon characters plastered on them, and a lot of lingerie looking undergarments. I did not see any thongs or g-strings in the pre-teen or “Girls” section of stores, but there were plenty of low rise, string bikini, and lingerie type underwear. There were padded bras in the girl’s section of department stores. At Kohl’s, a popular department store, I found what appeared to be a pink lacy pushup bra in the girls department.
The bras being sold at Kohl’s in the girls section were not just “training bras” but mini versions of the bras being sold to teens and adults. This is a great example of the term “age compression.” According to CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, “Age compression is a marketing strategy in which adult products and attitude are pushed on younger kids.” (Sex Sells… CBC). These bras are being sold to girls who have no physical reason for needing one. There were sizes as small as 30AA being sold, and they were padded. This seems to send the message that having large breasts is an important part of being an attractive woman. We see age compression especially with underwear and undergarments marketed to preteens. Lingerie, lacy underwear, and lacy push-up bras are typically what one would consider adult apparel.
Although I did not see any actual thongs being sold specifically to preteens, it doesn’t mean it does not happen. Thongs and g-strings made for teens are also made in size XS (extra small), the perfect size for a preteen girl. According to Dave Ford, author of the article "Abercrombie's Lolita Line of Thongs Goes Beyond Bad Taste,” Abercrombie and Fitch actually created a line of thongs specifically for 10-14 year old girls in 2002 (Ford). Abercrombie and Fitch “. . . adorned the baby thongs with images of cherries and such messages as ‘Wink Wink’ and ‘Eye Candy’" (Ford). These little girl thongs stuck perfectly out of the back of their little girl low rise jeans. Ford argues that this turns 10-14 year old girls into sex objects. The thong is commonly viewed as a very sexy undergarment, traditionally worn by strippers before making its way into the mainstream. It is disturbing that some little girls are wearing underwear, commonly associated with being sexual, before they even begin to menstruate.
To be continued. . . Part II- Slogans