Lately I have been hearing about the new controversy surrounding child modeling, and I just read an article that speaker/writer Dannah Gresh posted to her Twitter which made me want to put my two cents’ in. It may not be about fair trade, but it is still about the fashion industry. And a distant cousin to child labor, depending on your point of view!
Please refer to the article for photos, or even the website of the fashion line in question, at any point. I would suggest doing a quick scan of the photos now!
First of all, I want to say that children’s lingerie is no new thing. I decided to browse the websites of major stores like Macy’s, Target, and Gap to see what they had for sale in the kids’ underwear sections. The designer for the Jours Après Lunes hasn’t done much new in the area of trainer bras and panties for young girls compared to mainstream apparel. But nonetheless, Jours Après Lunes has crossed a line… which I’ll get into a little more after my introduction.
When I was about nine years old, I had no breasts but my older sister owned a bra and I wanted one. I think a couple of years later I got that same bra as a hand-me-down which I thought was unfair… but, hey, I was wearing a bra! It was white. It had no cup to it. I didn’t think about bras coming in any other color. It was only later that I decided I wanted a tan bra… and even later a colored bra… and much later a fancy patterned or lace trimmed bra.
Not that I wore it for anyone but myself, unless I was using the colorful straps as part of my wardrobe (admit it, you did or even still do that too)!
So, I look at these fancy kids’ bras from Jours Après Lunes and am stumped why in the world they are even necessary. Especially for girls who appear to be much younger than 11-13 years old. The only thing I can think of as a purpose is if a parent is okay with her child running around the house or a private yard without a shirt on, but feels more comfortable with at least something covering the breast area just in case a neighbor stops by and she’s teaching her daughter some semblance of modesty. Or perhaps it’s about the innocent excitement of a girl getting her first bra that happens to be pink and embellished instead of white and plain cotton… because she is still a child who has her favorite color, or likes pretty things. And who wouldn’t even think that the bra in question was for appealing herself to the opposite gender rather than just snapping on a point of pride for growing up.
This brings me back to recent memories of shopping at Target and seeing those A-cup bras that are bright neon colors or floral patterns that are obviously marketed toward young girls. I always wonder who buys them; why a mom would purchase something so ridiculous for her teen or even pre-teen girl. It really doesn’t matter, because she’s probably covering it up with a shirt. Only some girls that young are showing it off to more than just their girlfriends at a slumber party (as she pulls on a pajama top over it!).
When it comes down to it, I could care less if a girl wears a patterned bra hidden beneath a modest outfit. I still must say that it is sort of pointless because it is an undergarment… But maybe once I’m a mom, my daughter will get something a little nicer. And white is still the worst color to wear underneath so many colors. So, Jours Après Lunes on the surface is just selling designer bras and panties to mothers who will buy them (because they are expensive, because they are cute, because they might be higher quality than the French version of Hanes).
So, now we get into the argument of the principle of it: that girl will eventually grow up.
Is she predisposed to being physical with a boy more rapidly because she wore trendy underwear as she was developing? I’m not a psychologist or a statistician or an expert on female development, but I am great at forming opinions. I can’t imagine my mom giving me a purple bra when I was eleven and me becoming way more interested in flaunting myself toward boys all of a sudden. Unless someone had pointed it out to me, I think I would have still remained clueless, naive, and innocent for about the same number of years. Even now, being pretty modest and also basically heading toward old maid status, I wear my lacy lavender bra for myself.
That’s just me, though. We live in a society where teens and even pre-teens are having sex. It’s disgusting. Poor parenting choices including neglect, apathy, and misdirected priorities are a huge reason for this (again, with my opinion based on observation). I’m certain that apparel marketing is as well. It was one thing to have voluptuous airbrushed mid-twenties Victoria’s Secret models featured in commercials during the Super Bowl or in magazines as I grew up… I knew I wasn’t quite there yet either physically or emotionally. But nowadays, what are girls ages 8-14 (or younger!) thinking when they see girls their own age wearing bras that rival D-cup push-ups on an Angel in either the cute or sexy factor? And furthermore, posing with legs sprawled or eyes “calling”?
Not all of the photographs that Jours Après Lunes feature are exploitative. In most, a little girl just looks at the camera looking super girly and cute, wearing a tank, framed just right so that there isn’t any kind of suggestion other than “this could be your kid sitting on your couch playing while you snap a photo for the family album.” Kudos to them for capturing some adorable, rather normal expressions on these sweet young models. Even the majority of ones that show girls’ bellies are just moments of a little girl having fun. I am all for being expressive, avoiding fear of one’s own body, and natural beauty. But with some of the photos, I just can’t say that they differ much from what you might see in an ad for an adult lingerie line. Especially now that even those models are becoming younger and younger… more petite and youthful looking… child-like. It’s reflective of using sexual appeal to run a business for profit.
Whatever is happening to this Western society (which, in turn, will affect many other cultures), we are turning from honoring and protecting childhood to using it for our own pleasures. We want to look and feel young. Plastic surgery. Botox. Hair plugs. I am not really understanding why teenage girls are modeling clothing that wouldn’t even come in their sizes – because it’s for a fashion line for adults. Kids are no longer kids – they are being treated as future consumers way too early; and at the same time, being used. Toddlers and kindergarteners are being told to act like adults to bridge the gap between age groups, and in some ways, muddle it.
Sure, buy your five-year-old a bra. Just remember that if you get dressed in front of her, she will see you wearing a bra. When you take her to the doctor’s office and there is a fashion magazine lying on the table with a celebrity wearing a bra and jewelry – and little else – there is a chance that she will connect the dots. For me, it didn’t happen until I was probably somewhere between 12-15. It didn’t even set in until I was in college. Do you really want her knowing that sex sells before she has learned all her times tables? If you are the mom of a boy… knowing that his sexual curiosity will naturally start before any girl of his same age… do you want him to be exposed to girls in his third-grade class who talk about how they can’t wait to fill out their (now cup-less) bras?
I probably sound like I really haven’t made up my mind. For one, I say, who cares if a girl wearing a trainer bra has it neutral or colorful? I still stick by that. It is different, because at some point a girl starts to grow up and usually it happens when, A) she grows breasts and B) she gets her period. We all know that is for baby-making. But calling kids’ panties “lingerie” and selling bras via magazine spreads, online ads, and catalogs to preschoolers is truly borderline pornographic on the advertiser’s side and potentially harmful on the consumer’s (mother’s/father’s) side.
I would love to read some comments. I will monitor them before I post, so please write your words wisely.