Are Children Growing Up Too Fast?

06 Sep 2006

Though I am not a parent, I can’t help but be concerned with the way that some young girls are dressing nowadays.  I’ve seen girls baring all in skimpy tops, micro minis and low-riding jeans.  Is it me, or are these items of clothing inappropriate for a preteen, or a teenager for that matter?

For the past couple of years the fashion industry has been hitting the younger market. The tween fashion market (tween: ages 8-12) is booming and quite a few companies are cashing in on the latest trend. There are several fashion lines, stores and magazines that are designed specifically for young girls. (Think fashions from Hilary Duff and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and the tween and teen targeted magazine, Elle girl.)  They take their fashion cues from trends taking place in the mainstream fashion world, and then modify them to fit the younger generation. Some items may be suitable, but there are the odd ones that cross the line of good taste.  I have no idea why some articles of clothing are even made for the younger shopper.  Honestly, is it really appropriate for a third grader to don a bustier?

One of the incidents that prompted me to write this article occurred when I went shopping in a department store. As luck would have it, it was the exact moment that millions of parents were doing their kids’ back to school shopping.

I spotted a young girl wearing a t-shirt that made me shake my head. The angelic looking girl looked like she could be no older than eleven years old, but to my surprise, she wore a cropped shirt with the word SEXY plastered on her chest.  I actually had to take a second look just to make sure that I read the word correctly. I thought to myself, “What does an eleven year old know about sexy?” I don’t know if I was angrier with the child for having the audacity to wear the shirt, or if I was angrier with the parent that purchased such a provocative top.

“The second incident that baffled me occurred not too long ago.  I was flipping through a fashion magazine and I spied an advertisement that I found a little disturbing.  It was an ad for the children’s line of a well-known hip hop label.  It featured a young girl---perhaps five or six years old--that posed suggestively and wore an outrageously over-the-top outfit.  She wore a leather trimmed fur vest, bling, and had an extremely vacant look on her face.

Not only is this advertisement glorifying excess (leather and fur for a preschooler?), it made me feel a little uncomfortable to see a young girl draped in clothes that were way too old for her.  She looked like a child that got lost her in mother’s closet, and was desperately trying to escape unharmed.

My biggest problem with this ad wasn’t just the fact that the clothes looked ridiculous on her; it was the fact that she didn’t really look a child anymore.  She looked unnatural, like a little girl’s doll that came to life and was adorned with a million dollars worth of luxurious clothes.

These two incidents got me to think back when I was young and how geeky I used to look.  My shapeless clothes hid my figure and I was okay with that.  I really didn’t know anything about fashion; and besides that, I was only allowed to wear the clothes that my very “over-protective” mother bought for me.  So that meant that everything I wore covered every inch of my body.  I was lucky if my wrists were showing!  These days, kids don’t even look like kids because their styles mimic adult styles.  I’ve actually seen a mother and daughter dressed in the same outfit.  The mother could have been in her late 30s and her daughter may have been 12 years old—give or take a few years.  Perhaps the blame should not only be placed on the fashion designers.  Parents need to take some responsibility as well.

Upon further reflection on this growing problem, I thought about the deeper effects of young females dressing like adults.  In an age were sexual imagery is all around us, it puts a lot of pressure on girls to look a certain way.  Sexual images are plastered in magazines, movies, music videos and television, and in most cases, it is the sexiest woman that receives the most attention and praise. So why wouldn’t impressionable girls want to dress provocatively?  Unfortunately, these girls don’t realize that dressing in a provocative way may send the wrong signals and incite the wrong attention.  
This type of objectification can make girls feel that their only worth is based on what they look like. It breeds a very superficial and unhealthy self-image.  It can spawn eating disorders, low self esteem, and just a general feeling of low self worth.  However, this is not a new discovery.  Women have always felt pressure to look a certain way.  It’s just that this warped way of thinking is hitting younger girls.  Girls as young as six years old are extremely conscious of how they look.  Dieting and cosmetic surgery is now a childhood concern.

Maybe I’m getting older, but I would like to see kids go through the awkward, geeky phase and enjoy their youth.  Being perfectly primped and coifed is nice, but not very necessary for the fourth grade. It’s refreshing to see a ten year old look like a ten year old instead of a mini version of J Lo.

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