HOW TO WE DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN HIGHLY FASHIONABLE AND HIGHLY OBJECTIONABLE?
“Trendy fits for the stylish kid”—that is how Fashion Nova described the children’s line launched in late September. Social media users instantly criticized the line, with many referring to the clothing as “scary” and “sexualized.” Concerned parents deemed the collection as inappropriate for young children to wear. The line includes crop tops, leather mini skirts and body-con dresses manufactured for children as young as three years old. Some parents applauded the brand’s trendy and mature spin on children’s fashion, and many social media users praised the line as cute and exciting.
Childrenswear was not popularized across classes until the 1920s when a post-World War I economic and technological boom allowed a new culture of youth to develop. This change led many adults to view children as separate entities rather than miniature adults, as they had been seen in the past.
The Puritans who founded America, were extreme with their practice of Christianity; they forbade holidays, mandated attendance of Sunday services, and banned the wearing of fancy clothing and smoking in public. Many states have retained the Puritan laws because they are too expensive and time consuming to repeal. For example, kissing in public and being “idle” are technically still illegal in Massachusetts.
Our cultural history of slut-shaming women, scrutinizing outfits that show skin, and suppressing sexuality and body positivity in the U.S. is rooted in our Puritan foundation. Puritan culture viewed premarital sex and lust as sinful and satanic, and any expression of it—especially from women—was scorned and punished.
Our country’s childrenswear did not originate in the United States until the 1920s when a post-World War II economic and technological boom allowed for a new culture of youth to develop. This change and led many adults to adults viewing children as separate entities, rather than miniature adults, as they had been seen in the past.
Before the 20th century, children were been dressed in smaller versions of their parents’ clothing, However, the Industrial Revolution and the setting of standardized clothing sizes allowed for the mass production of garments.
There is a societal struggle to find a balance between suppressing anything sexy and objectifying women to the point where their status in life is reduced to solely their bodies. Women have always been the guardians of virginity and sexuality; they have been deemed responsible for keeping male suitors at bay and drawing them in to secure an impressive marriage.
There will never be anything inherently sexual about children, how they look, how they dress, or who they are. It is not the responsibility of children to dress or behave in a way that is innocent and modest to adults. Instead, it is the duty and moral obligation of adults to look upon children with nothing but compassion, respect, and pure intentions.
Society has been able to accept and respect the bodies of men and boys, but not women. Young boys are allowed to swim topless, wear ripped jeans or shorts without issue. The fashion industry does only create cropped tops and booty shorts for women and girls the male gender has never been expected to expose or modify their body. Forcing children of any gender into antiquated stereotypes does immeasurable harm. From the time they are born we send the men that they are meant to objectify and tell women that they’re meant to be objectified.
If a child wishes to dress in nothing but colorful, ill-fitting outfits, that child should be allowed to do so. However, if a child does wish to dress in trendy outfits and mimic loved and respected adults, that child should be allowed to do so.
Our discomfort with female bodies is rooted in antiquated and toxic religious extremism. Rejecting the pressures society places upon children is the only way to heal as a civilization and become whole.