Gap selling suggestive clothing for toddlers

// 29 June 2007

As the old adage goes, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, but where does this stop? Human decency should dictate that until you’ve reached physical maturity and adulthood that you should not be subject to the body fascism that makes us all want to leave the house from time to time shrouded in nothing more than a bin liner or a furry cagoul, for fear of exposing our fat thighs to a world that promotes nothing less than complete dedication to self-perfectability. Not that we should be subject to this even then, but for children and toddlers to be ecnouraged to adorn the same skimpy garments that would not look out of place in Playboy magazine (all in the name of fashion) is an outrage.

According to a report by Arizona Republic teenagers are not the only ones being encouraged to appropriate suggestive clothing; the trend has now spread to toddlers.

Gapkids have recently started stocking bikinis for toddlers aged 12-months, which, accordding to the article, can best be described as a:

“…white, crocheted, string bikini you’d likely see Anna Kournikova wearing on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue.”

But why this trend for encouraging children to grow up so quickly? Patricia Leavy, a sociology professor at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass, believes that the reason for this is purely financial. According to Teen Research Unlimited, in 2006 youngsters between 12-19-years-old spent $179 billion on products ranging from clothing to toys and snacks, and big businesses are now determined to target children at a younger age so they will have a substancial number of loyal consumers buying their products for a longer period of time.

Leavy is not optimistic about this:

“It’s a very scary phenomenon. I don’t think it’s going to go away. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

So yet again we are left questioning the ethics of business. With the success of Bratz dolls, along with the media attention given to stars such as Lidsay Lohan, Hilary Duff and Britney Spears, who grew up rapidly in the public eye, aspirations to maturity have long been marketed as something one must have in order to be fashionable and ‘cool.’ But what are the long term ramifications of this likely to be?

Already we know that cases of anorexia have increased as young women and girls attempt to emulate the images of gaunt and uber skinny celebrities splashed across the daily press. Also, the pressures placed on children to grow up rapidly obviously encourages them to become sexually active at an earlier age, and as we know, the number of teenage pregnancies across Europe is amongst the highest in the world. Of course, where does one draw the distinction? If children are told they should look like adults, dress like adults, then what’s going to stop them fucking like adults?

Surely providing suggestive clothing for toddlers is going to force them into some sort of body awareness well before this should happen, and indoctrinate them to believe that to be a success they have to adhere to rules of self-perfectability. What’s likley to happen is generations of young women will grow up harbouring greater and greater insecurites about their body, leaving them unhappy in a world that is increasingly putting emphasis on the attainment of the ‘body beautiful.’ Regardless of the money, these companies should take a step back to consider the mental health of their ‘target market’ over a long period of time, because to encourage children to wear adult clothing is just not right. Let’s not encourage out youth to go out and get up the duff before they’re legally aloud to sip a pint, or to starve themselves to the point of death just to become that one size smaller.

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