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See-Through Dresses For Pre-schoolers?

I saw this headline on a news feed and was immediately enraged. Turns out it was simply a blog post written by a Mom whose two-year-old was demanding to go outside in her flimsy bathing suit cover-up.

It did however; touch a nerve since I have been recently aware of how the girls in my son’s 1st grade class tend to dress. On Halloween, we had a sexy, short-skirted super girl. On any day of the week, we might see barely covered tummies and dresses worn sans shorts and considered suitable for hanging upside down from the monkey bars.

With Christmas coming, dresses at such popular mainstream retailers as Macy’s border on the absurd. This might just be me, but, I find it hard to understand why parents agree to sexually provocative outfits for their young girls.

This article in the L.A. Times, Sexy Halloween Costumes For Little Girls, quotes author, Diane E. Levin, a professor of education at Wheelock College in Boston and co-author, , of “So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.”

Since television was deregulated in the early 1980s, marketing strategies have taken over all aspects of kids’ lives. From bedsheets to clothes and shoes to the lunch box they carry — they’re all linked to media, to popular culture. The message is, this is what’s desirable, this is what you should be.

And look at what they were offered: For boys, there was GI Joe, He-Man, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. For girls, there was My Little Pony, Care Bears, Disney’s princesses. Gender roles were very much part of that marketing. There was a whole new escalation in gender division when children began to become a market.

Kids are trying to figure out from an early age, “What does it mean to be a girl, or to be a boy?” They look at the most dramatic examples they can find to figure that out. Marketers are making it the most extreme they possibly can for that reason. Sexy is part of that marketing to girls — just as macho and violent has become the way to market things to boys.

This is one of the reasons we choose not to have a television signal at our house and why we shy away from movies made in the last 20 years. Mothers of girls worry that their daughters will grow up to believe that being sexy is all important. We mothers of sons worry that they will agree.

With the holidays coming can I put out a plea to all mothers of girls? Please dress her like one.

Photo Credit: MyMollypop at Flickr Under Creative Commons License.


  1. Great post. We don’t have a tv signal at our house either. My husband didn’t want to pay the bill anymore. I wanted to get the tv commercials out of my house and away from my boys who thought they needed every toy and mommy needed every “as seen on tv” item (Shamwow, mommy, we have to have a shamwow!).

    I’ve also thrown away every holiday toy catalog that has come to the house (well, recycled them) so the boys don’t see them. I had thought I’d canceled all of them, but some of them started coming in my husband’s name instead of mine. Very clever.

  2. We’ve noticed the same thing, as have some other parents. Libby’s dresses generally have an extra two or three inches added to the bottom of them. Part of it is because she is smaller around so she’s still wearing 3T, but is far too tall. The other part is yeah, even in the toddler/preschool set, they are making dresses with far less fabric than they should.

    (I’ve also found that clothes purchased from Etsy and other independent sellers are more appropriate for the age)

    One side benefit of living in a cold climate is at least from October to Mid June, most of the school girls are either wearing pants or leggings/thick tights under their skirt for warmth.

    I have no clue how we’ve done it (or if it will last even past this year), but my kids get super excited when the toy catalogs come, but not for the normal reason. They want me to cut out the photos they think are cool. They don’t seem to associate the catalogs with existing toys, just fun photos. They turn them into stickers for their collages (which then become greeting cards for the extended family set!).

  3. I can’t handle shopping for my 8 year old daughter now that she is officially in “big kid” clothes. Everything is either too sexy/racy or a mini version of what I would wear. I don’t want a mini-me or a little girl who thinks sexual attention is the only way to get attention.

    This is just one of the many reasons I have become much better at consignment store shopping. I also add white eyelet petticoats under dresses (this adds length and let’s them be worn longer!) and we have a shorts required rule under all dresses. My 8 year old is trying to skirt around that one lately, to the point I have to check for the shorts. Evidently its not cool.

    Unfortunately, we do have TV at our house as hubs can’t live without the NFL Ticket. We do only have one television in the main room of our house so we closely monitor what the kids get to watch. No Hannah Montana, no Bratz dolls, etc…

    I recently read about a study that linked teen pregnancy to girls watching “sexy” tv and movies. That wasn’t a surprise.

  4. My daughter (age 5.5) is a huge fan of layering leggings and long flouncy skirts under every single outfit. (We live in a climate where for 7 months of the year you need to be covered up to stay warm, so it’s just as well.) We shop almost exclusively at thrift and consignment shops for her, too — and we’ve gotten compliments on her “unique, artsy sense of style” from other kindergarten parents.

    We do have TV – just one, and viewing limited to Treehouse and PBS shows that I record using a PVR.

  5. how timely this post is. just tonight i went shopping for my kindergartener because she has pictures tomorrow at school. i commented to my husband about how i didn’t know who the buyer was for macy’s but the 7-16 size is too ‘teenagery’. (my 5 year old is sort of on the cusp of the 2 different size and essentially in macy’s, 2 different sections in the store. gone was the cute and pretty it seemed for the ‘older’ kids. so, yes, i agree, get the ‘skank’ out of the children’s section. it doesn’t belong!!

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