09.07.12 Parenting

The Scary Implications Of Back-To-School Fashion For Young Girls

BY Lauren Paige Kennedy

It happens every September.

I arrive at my girls’ elementary school to drop them off and I’m immediately startled at what passes for little girl fashion these days. My inner alarm screeches almost audibly in that first week or two of school, when newly purchased outfits are inevitably on parade. Looking left or right I can’t help but wince. Because even among the youngest grades it’s a veritable runway show of Glamour magazine “don’ts,” only kiddie-style.

Here’s what I see: Exposed navels. Seriously short shorts. Glitter shoes, some with heels. Lace, fingerless gloves. Mesh. Message tees with impertinent slogans on them. Mini skirts. Oh, and let’s not forget the lip gloss. On first graders, fifth graders and every grade in between, I can’t help but gape? I scrape my chin from the floor. It’s true I live in LA, but c’mon!

Lest you think me some kind of fashion frump, or a former member of an Amish sect, please allow me to share a bit of my style (back)story. At 15 I wore combat boots paired with a felt ‘40s fedora to the mall simply because I was in the mood. I hung with the art class cult, listened to Siouxsie Sioux, and favored anything in brocade or black leather. At 17 I shaved my head with clippers, first sheering off the left half of my hair right down to the scalp so I could work the asymmetrical look, then later lopping off the other half, leaving just a Mohawk sprout in the middle up on top. It goes without saying my theatrical makeup frightened small children and animals. I virtually lived in smelly thrift stores, hoping to score the ultimate find—the perfect army jacket, beautifully broken in.

In college I majored in the Band-Aid dress, the shorter the better, and super-tall hair. I never met a mini I couldn’t hike up higher. And after graduation, while residing in New York, I once walked to the corner bodega in nothing more than a too-small wife-beater, men’s breezy boxer shorts, and four-inch-heeled clogs. Because I could.

I tell you all this so you won’t immediately chalk me up as some kind of old-fashioned, uptight bore (or even just simply as old). Fashion should be fun. Fashion should be creative. Fashion should express the individual’s personality and point of view. But one thing little girls’ fashion should not be is risque.

It’s safe to say that daddy ain’t buying this stuff. I refer to trashy ensembles better suited for women who work the closing shift in a Vegas nightclub. I’m willing to concede there may be a clueless single dad or two out there- men who, like docile lemmings, are led to follow the pack, scooping up whatever they’re told to place in the shopping cart at Forever 21.

But mainly, it’s us moms. It’s women who are tarting up their sweet angels to look like slightly older, even cheaper versions of those poor girls on Toddlers & Tiaras. The likes of Honey Boo-Boo, after all, wasn’t born. She was made.

I want to ask them: Mothers, what’s the rush? Why are you so keen to make your seven-year-olds seem so sophisticated, so savvy, so adult? Or maybe it’s a competitive thing? A one-ups-womanship between the moms? As in: “Look how my girl rocks her skinny jeans! Legs like toothpicks, that one! And isn’t she so street in her leopard-print?” Are your daughters little “Mini-Me”s, meaning it’s absolutely essential for them to reflect their mother’s on-trend fashion sense?

I confess, I don’t get it. And I don’t get retailers who increasingly translate adult trends for children. It’s creepy. I do understand the entire Western demographic is going the way of homogeny, with 65-year-olds embracing the same styles as their grandchildren, but still. I feel profoundly alarmed that a toothless six-year-old is more concerned with her silver metallic biker jacket than with the contents of her backpack. Worse, when female designers actually market “loungerie” (as the company Jours Apres Lunes did last year in a controversial collection of bras and panties for girls as young as 4 years old), you know something sick is at work in our society…

Our girls have years ahead of them to play the part of fashion trollop, and it’s a role we mothers soon won’t relish. That’s what the teenage era is for, and it will be our job to curb their enthusiasms for wearing too-revealing side-boob shirts and the like. Why encourage them to flaunt their assets before they even have them?

My two young daughters, poor things, are outfitted most days like Mary and Laura on Little House on the Prairie. When their grandmother orders them yet another floral sack dress from Land’s End I rejoice. Bring on the un-cool, I say! Bring on the sweet and slightly frumpy. I want my little girls to be little girls, not sexy hipsters in the making. I suspect they’ll be scaring small children, animals and me with their own fashion choices soon enough.

Do you find the latest fashion trends for little girls alarming as well? What’s your take on the outfits being sported in elementary schools?

Lauren Paige Kennedy is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She has interviewed hundreds of high-profile women, including Sheryl Crow, Queen Latifah, Katie Couric, Christina Hendricks, and Alicia Keys (and a few famous men, too, such as Jimmy Fallon, Rob Lowe, Andre Agassi, Matthew McConaughey, and more). Her work has appeared in WebMD the Magazine/WebMD.com, USA Today, The Financial Times, Men’s Fitness, Travel + Leisure, The Washington Post, and more. For clips, see: www.mediabistro.com/LaurenKennedy and be sure to follow Lauren on twitter @LPKwriter.


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