Corset onesies, Chest hair toddler tshirts and 3-inch heels for 8 year olds. All have been sold at one point or another. I didn't struggle to find these examples of inappropriately sexualised childrens clothing. I had a plethora to choose from. Such designs are not only sold in poor taste, but are believed to have damaging effects to a childs mental state.
I have previously written on the issues of inappropriate slogans, language and colours within childrens clothing here, but the issue extends beyond, to include the style and design of a garment too. While some may say that clothes replicating more adult styles are just harmless fun, with perspective this fashion is more accurately just too much, too soon. The truth is that children are not miniature adults and shouldn’t be dressed that way, even for comedic effect. A padded bikini is not more comfortable or convenient for a child. Age appropriateness should be paramount, children like to move freely leaping, jumping or doing handstands without concern of clothes restricting movement or exposing them.
When we dress children in uncomfortable, sexualised childrens clothing we are telling our children ‘It is more important to look good for others than to feel comfortable and have fun’
I don’t doubt that some children do have preference for wearing a two-piece, and it has no correlation to trying to be provocative. Similarly if parents buy their child a shoe with a little heel, it could be that age appropriateness hadn't crossed their mind.
To clarify, the root problem of sexualised childrens clothing is to ask 'Why we live in a society that sexualises children and teenagers to begin with?' If you suspect that your child will grow up in a society before this mentality changes then you should know about the implications of children wearing sexualised clothing:
-Self objectification, whereby children correlate their body with an object of others desires
- A narrower concept of beauty which can lead to low self esteem
-Lack of confidence and feeling comfortable in their own skin
There should be a clearer line between child fashion, teenage fashion and young adult fashion. Retailers tend to replicate style choices that are popular in their adult ranges and then launch the same design across the children’s department too.
Until this societal shift happens, parents and carers may want to:
-Purchase only clothes that you wouldn’t later restrict their child from wearing outside
-Protest with their purse, shop at independent stores that follow the same ethos and put children’s comfort first.
-Help children establish their own understanding of self by letting them pick out their outfits. For younger ages and speed, parents could create a shortlist that the child can pick from.
Click here for some of the most inappropriate children's clothing ever made that helped inspire this blog post!