Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Too hot for tweens: Why some parents dread back-to-school shopping

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Tue August 13, 2013
Parents say too many fashions for young girls are too sexy, too short, and definitely not age-appropriate. Do you agree? Click through to see some of the outfits that have moms and dads most concerned and get tips on how to get your girl to dress her age. Parents say too many fashions for young girls are too sexy, too short, and definitely not age-appropriate. Do you agree? Click through to see some of the outfits that have moms and dads most concerned and get tips on how to get your girl to dress her age.
HIDE CAPTION
Parents struggle with clothes for tweens
Too short?
Too Sexy?
Parents struggle with clothes for tweens
<<
<
1
2
3
4
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Parents across the country say tween fashions for girls are too skimpy, short, sexy
  • Study: Sexualization of clothes and media can lead to self-esteem problems in girls
  • Tween girls' fashion is a multibillion dollar industry
  • Parents urge other parents to call out "obscene" brands in social media

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She's a mom of two girls and lives in Manhattan. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- When Fred Goodall went shopping recently in Houston with his 12-year-old daughter, finding a dress took a "long time" because most were too low cut, and some even offered the bare midriff look.

"Wow, this is not clothing for children, this is clothing for older adults," Goodall, a freelance writer, Babble.com contributor and father of three, recalled thinking at the time.

In interviews with moms and dads from across the country, I heard his complaint echoed again and again: The current fashion choices for tween and young teen girls are too sexy, too skimpy, too short.

A mom of three who goes by the name "Miss Lori" online says what she calls the "Shorty McShort Shorts" in the stores are a problem.

"Because all the styles are this way ... you run up against that wall as a parent, 'But Mom, everybody else is wearing that, why are you so uptight?' " said the kids television host and social media specialist.

Mike Adamick, a stay-at-home dad in San Francisco, pointed to the swimsuit choices he and his 7-year-old daughter encountered recently.

"There was a lot of string and barely any material," the blogger and author of the book "Dad's Book of Awesome Projects" said.

Study: Sexy dolls marketed to kids

Abercrombie criticized for selling push-up tops to little girls

Pageant kids: Too sexy, too soon?

There are plenty of examples, according to these moms and dads: Victoria's Secret recently coming under fire for its younger "PINK" lingerie line, Halloween costume choices for girls such as a "sexy vampire" and shorts that moms say they wouldn't even wear when they were in their 20s. (To be fair, Victoria's Secret says its PINK line is marketed to college-age women and not young girls. But those candy-colored underwear are undeniably intriguing to the younger set.)

Can I say right here how worried I am about this looming issue for my own family, with girls ages 5 and 7?

Monica Vignier, an attorney in Northern Virginia, shares my concerns. She has two sons and a daughter, who's about to turn 4.

"I just think, particularly with younger girls, there is this sort of over-sexualization ... making little girls look like adults," Vignier said.

Parents should be "monumentally concerned" about this, says Adamick, who referred to research done by the American Psychological Association in 2010, which found that sexualization of girls in clothing and media can have a negative impact on a girl's self-esteem and can also increase the risk of depression and eating disorders.

Opinion: Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps

"So anybody that's concerned about the emotional well-being of their daughters should be really concerned about these types of clothes or messages for their girls," he said.

"It's all about the almighty dollar and our children are being pimped for our dollar," said "Miss Lori," who's also a Babble.com contributor, referring to the multibillion dollar fashion industry targeting tweens. "We have to say no as adults, we have to say no."

Parents can do that, she and the other moms and dads I interviewed said, by taking their outrage to social media, calling out brands on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

"As parents, we need to let them know, 'Hey, the clothing you're selling is inappropriate,' " said Goodall, who recently wrote a post on his blog, Mocha Dad, about how to find age-appropriate clothing for tween girls.

Parents can refuse to buy the "too sexy" options and buy alternatives that are more suited for a tween, he added. They should also have regular conversations with their kids about what's appropriate and what's not.

Avoiding sexy costumes for kids

"Miss Lori" has had some painfully honest talks with her 12-year-old, telling her that wearing clothes that are too sexy can lead to unwanted and inappropriate responses from men -- something grown women have to deal with too, even though it shouldn't be that way.

"It's really allowed my daughter to have a few 'aha' moments about why I am saying the things that I'm saying," she said. "It makes a difference."

Making school uniforms your own

Stephanie O'Dea, a mom of three girls and blogger whose been part of the BlogHer publishing network since 2008, says she has a "constant dialogue" with her kids about what's appropriate and what isn't.

Her kids' fashions also have to pass a certain test, said the author of the book "Totally Together: Short Cues to an Organized Life."

"So you put the shirt on, both hands go up and if you don't see skin, then it's fine," she said, describing how she makes sure shirts are not too skimpy. "And then for shorts, you have to have your hands straight down and they have to be at your fingertips or longer." (How clever is that!)

Adult-inspired lingerie marketed for young girls

Fred Goodall has other good advice for any concerned moms and dads: shop with your children and have them try on their fashion choices.

"That's also a big thing because actually sometimes the things I think are too skimpy, when she tries it on, it's not," he said.

Mike Adamick says sometimes the biggest stumbling block may actually be other parents.

"The hard part is pushing back other parents who say, 'Oh come on, it's just one T-shirt,' " he said. "I wish parents would wake up ... clothes that put little girls out there as objects should be severely frowned upon."

"Miss Lori" says our tweens and teens are already facing tough times, entering puberty at earlier and earlier ages than we did growing up. Now they also have to face sexualization of their clothing, television shows, and video games, she said.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

"I know that having all that stimulation, having all that titillation affects these children who are already battling hormones like 'Pacman' -- and it's not fair," she said.

"It's almost like I want to do a marketing campaign on childhood, saving childhood so children have the room to be able to grow and explore as they need to," she said.

Amen, I say. Amen.

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter and like CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Not again.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
I happen to agree with Renee Zellweger that all the chatter about her face is "silly." But I, and many other women I talked with via email Wednesday, would add some other choice words to the mix to describe the non-stop attention about her appearance: nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
I have long thought millennials, who expect flexibility in the workplace, would be the group that would bring an end to the stigma that is too often associated with flex time -- the belief that wanting a flexible work arrangement means you aren't willing to work as hard. But now I'm thinking it's going to be men who will get us there.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Say it with us: Kids today have it sooooo easy.
updated 2:29 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
updated 4:18 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
updated 10:57 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
"Breaking Bad's" Walter White may have cleverly dodged authorities during his career as a drug kingpin, but his action figure hasn't dodged the wrath of a Florida mother.
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
updated 3:23 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
updated 10:52 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
updated 8:56 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
updated 6:33 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
A 12-year-old girl called Dick's Sporting Goods out on its lack of female athletes in the Basketball 2014 catalog.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Before he was even born, Shane Michael Haley had already met the Philadelphia Phillies, been to the top of the Empire State Building and shared a cheesesteak with his parents.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I read the initial comments from Microsoft's CEO on how women who don't ask for raises will receive "good karma."
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
A photo series "From the NICU to the Moon" imagines premature babies in future professions with a series of imaginative doodles.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
Jessica Dunne and her father Michael P. Dunne
"I don't think anyone is ready for grief. But when it hits you, it knocks you out cold," Jessica Dunne wrote after the sudden loss of her father.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Most moms will say they long for a day when moms stop criticizing one another, but most of us are guilty of tearing each other down.
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When we think of terminal cancer patients, we don't imagine Brittany Maynard -- 29, vigorous, happy. But she will soon take a handful of pills that will end her life.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
"Back in my day, we used to walk five miles uphill, carrying all our books in the blistering cold and the pouring rain..." Some schools have found a new way to making walking to school safer -- and more fun.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
The death of a New Jersey boy, the first health officials are directly linking to Enterovirus D68, has parents wondering whether school is the worst place to send kids susceptible to the virus.
updated 10:22 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
It's a heartbreaking time for three families, football teams and communities after three players died last week. Investigations are under way, but some parents are wondering, is the sport safe for children?
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Here's what some schools are doing to create welcoming environments for transgender and gender nonconforming children.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Nothing could prepare this mom-to-be for what she learned at her first ultrasound.
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A 15-year-old British schoolboy has struck a chord with his eloquent response to actress Emma Watson's United Nations speech encouraging men to join in the fight for gender equality.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT