It’s that exciting time of year when adolescent girls across the nation go in search of the essentials for starting off the school year
prepared and ready to learn as a hot new ‘tween: pink, padded bras, T-shirts with slogans declaring their total lack of smarts (“I Left My Brain in My Locker”) and, perhaps, a Juicy Couture gym bag made especially for prepubescents, announcing “Juicy and Happy.”
So reports Slate’s Emily Yoffe from the back-to-school shopping battlefield. Yoffe braved the mall with her 11-year-old daughter and discovered that “scanty panties for girls are standard” and no more are the days when girls would stuff their bras with tissue paper — now Limited Too (which targets girls ages 7-12) has a line of “padded, underwire push-up bras for girls with nothing of their own to pad or push up.” ‘Tweens are expected to account for $13 billion in clothing sales this year, and retailers are none too proud to resort to selling sex to the girls in this desirable demographic.
This isn’t a new trend, of course. Abercrombie & Fitch stirred up quite a storm when it targeted young girls with a line of thongs with coquettish catchphrases. But flash forward a few years, and it’s more remarkable to find a major clothing company that isn’t targeting ‘tweens with flirtatious, peek-a-boo panties. Back in my preteen days — just over a decade ago — I’m not sure I even knew what a thong was.
There is a middle ground for those wary of joining the Bratz pack but creeped out by modesty campaigns like Pure Fashion. Amid the trash, Yoffe was able to find a few items that were “trendy but not trampy.” Naturally, mother and daughter don’t always agree on what’s trendy and, of course, ‘tweens will be ‘tweens; when Yoffe held up a pair of modest pants from Talbots Kids, her daughter responded: “Mom, I’m 11! I’m not Harriet Miers!” (You gotta love sassy Washingtonian ‘tweens.)
Back-to-school shopping has and always will be a battle — it’s kids’ job to push the limits of age-appropriate dress and it’s parents’ job to try to reasonably enforce them. But, parents, be warned: Your preteens have reinforcements.