Breaking: Teen fashion shocks parents

New York magazine reports that young girls are "dressing like strippers" -- only, not really

Published August 16, 2010 5:01PM (EDT)

The launch of Material Girl, the juniors' clothing line designed by Madonna and her 13-year-old daughter, Lourdes, has given New York magazine an excuse to pose a parent-baiting question on its cover: "Why do tweens dress like strippers?" It turns out that particular question isn't answered by the article it teases, nor is it clear that tweens are actually dressing like strippers. False advertising aside, though, the piece proposes a more interesting theory: That "our fetishization of youth" has created quite the sartorial paradox. "Older women are dressing younger" and "young girls are dressing older," writes Alex Morris. The upshot is that "no one knows quite what to wear."

There is one stripper reference in the piece: "She can have the taste of a stripper, if I don't watch it," the mother of an 8-year-old laments. For the most part, though, it seems tweens are aspiring more to the edgy, mix-'n'-match, rock-'n'-roll look of Taylor Momsen, the face of Material Girl. Morris describes watching an 11-year-old girl shopping with her father: She comes out of the dressing room "in skinny black jeans with a stripy tie-dyed pattern and a camisole printed with enough bubbly slogans to make Pollyanna claw out her eyes just for spite." Adorably, her dad goes, "I don't think that goes together too well. It's a little wild for me." Then follows the daughter's apparent discomfort as she pulls at the clothes and her admission that, "yeah, I just realized it doesn't go so well." 

Now, that is a scene that has played out countless times in the past. The phenomenon of adolescent girls trying to look like adults is hardly a new one, and the results of said attempts have always been smashingly awkward. Such is adolescence. But Morris suggests that today's young girl/older woman "role reversal can present particular confusion." And, apparently, kids aren't the only ones confused by it. Morris quotes Madonna herself from a promotional video about her clothing line: "I always have two reactions when Lola comes into my room with an outfit on. One is, 'Oh my God, she looks amazing, what incredible style.' And then my second reaction is, 'She's dressed completely inappropriately for school.'"

If Morris is right that both girls and women are striving for a Lolita look, the confusion is understandable. By definition, then, a tween who looks "amazing" would also look "completely inappropriate," which is a succinct way of describing the teenage fashion of ... always.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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