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Balenciaga and other brands need to stop sexualizing children – USA TODAY


Children need to be dressed in a way that keeps them safe. That is just good parenting and making conscientious consumer choices.

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Bedazzled booty shorts and crop tops as far as the eye can see – that was the nightmare that I found myself staring into when I went shopping for clothes for my young daughters this weekend. 

Why a child would need a high-rise short is beyond me. But to imagine why someone would sell crop tops and high-rise shorts to 6-year-olds makes me slightly ill.

First, some background. I am the mother of two lovely little girls, a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old who are also growing way too fast. Like many parents, I regularly run to the mall to buy new clothes for my kids whose pants now look like capris but aren’t supposed to look like capris.

This past weekend, while browsing the department store Zara, I was very unhappy when I saw that all the shorts in the girls section were booty shorts, or “high rise” as they labeled them, and the skirts were all miniskirts. From Balenciaga to Zara, big name brands are hypersexualizing kids, knowingly or not.

It’s shameful and needs to stop.

Skimpy kids clothes are old news

I walked away without buying anything, and with my kids still rocking their ankle-biting pants. This time they didn’t complain. Parents can show designers and big brands they want a change by not buying into that nonsense and demanding more from retailers.

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I understand that corporations are marketing to what the public wants and, in a much broader sense, this is a bigger conversation about a need for massive societal change. But there is at least one simple solution within reach for big retailers that can help them tone the sexy down. Big name brands with loads of resources can pay their designers to create some cute clothes that don’t stop at the pubic bone. 

There is nothing new about my complaint. I know that the hypersexualization of clothes for young girls is old news. For a long time, I have shopped for my daughters in the boys section of stores from Target to Old Navy to H&M. But it doesn’t feel like things are getting any better.

It actually feels like things are getting worse.

I love fashion, and I used to love the Spanish fashion house Balenciaga. But its designers lost their minds recently when someone (or a team of people) OK’d a holiday ad campaign with little kids and BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism) fetish objects, including bondage teddy bears. Another advertisement promoting its “Hourglass” handbag contained court documents that referenced a Supreme Court case on child pornography.

Balenciaga issued an apology and is suing the production company and its set designer for $25 million in damages.

Advice for brands and parents

I am more than happy to share some advice for big brands like Zara and others that insist on keeping clothes for children too sexy. I also have some suggestions for fashion houses like Balenciaga, Miu Miu and Armani that, knowingly or not, gave the green light to ad campaigns sexualizing children or very, very young looking girls. 

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Here’s my advice: Don’t do it. 

Kids and fashion isn’t that hard to get right: Balloon skirts are cute, but crotch-skimming balloon skirts for children are not. And no, an oversize cable knit sweater cannot hide the fact that I can see a child’s butt cheeks in her high-rise shorts. 

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It’s not about politics, either.

I happen to be a progressive, but I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum – I’d venture that most parents would agree that little kids need to be dressed in a way that keeps them safe. That is just good parenting and making conscientious consumer choices.

The bottom line should be kids’ safety, not profitability. Let kids look like kids, and grownups look like grownups for God’s sake. 

Carli Pierson, a New York licensed attorney, is an opinion writer and a member of the USA TODAY Editorial Board. Follow her on Twitter: @CarliPiersonEsq

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