Mommyish Debate: Did Ariel Winter Choose An Age-Appropriate Emmy Look?

Watching the Emmys, or any award show, usually comes down to dress watch. It doesn’t take a slew of best dressed or worst dressed lists to convey how fixated we are on the looks women sport down the runway. But what about our underage starlets? Although entitled to look just as pretty as their adult counterparts, what underage girls wear down the runway matters greatly when we consider the consistent sexualization of girls in our culture.

Mad Men star Kiernan Shipka opted for a very demure dress befit for any 10-year-old girl on an Easter Sunday. The young actress didn’t look any older than she is, which seems like more and more rarity these days. But 13-year-old Ariel Winter of Modern Family got some criticism for for having a “mature” look, according to US Weekly.

The curvacious teen had a little cleavage to her rose gown, but defended her wardrobe choice by citing her body:

“I thought it was very youthful, yet mature because it has the flowers and it’s blush pink,” she told Us Weekly. “I have a sort of body in a way that you can’t really put a dress like this without it looking older and more mature, so it’s kind of not my fault!”

Deputy Editor Koa Beck and contributor Lindsay Cross debate Winter’s dress as being age-appropriate given her adult figure.

Lindsay Cross: For a 13 year old? My mother would have never let me wear something like that…

Koa Beck: I think it’s fine. She’s a very busty girl which can’t really be helped. I like the quote she gave to US mag about how given how mature her body is, it’s difficult to find clothes that people aren’t going to take issue with

Lindsay Cross: I don’t think that it’s wildly inappropriate or something, but I love that Kiernan Shipka’s dress looked like something that an actual 11 year old would wear. Ariel Winter’s looks like a tween girl in an adult dress to me

Koa Beck: Kiernan’s dress is a very sweet.

Lindsay Cross: I had DDs in middle school and while it’s not easy to cover them up, it’s possible. It’s not like there’s anything saying that an awards dress has to be cut that low…

Koa Beck: That’s true, but given how curvy she is, despite her age, a dress like say Kiernan’s wouldn’t look very flattering. I think she did well with the body she has.

Lindsay Cross: I just mean, the fact that she has a more mature body would have been a reason for me to dress more conservatively, not less. And I don’t think she didn’t anything wrong by showing a little cleavage. But I don’t know… I wouldn’t point it out to my daughter either.

Koa Beck: Personally, I don’t believe that being a well-endowed girl means that you should feel compelled to cover up more.

Lindsay Cross:  I’m not trying to say that she did something wrong. But if it was my teenage daughter, who would be in about 7th or 8th grade at age 13, I wouldn’t let her dress like that. That’s not to say that someone else needs to have the same rules as me…

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  • Eileen

    I probably wouldn’t have put in the cut-out. But I don’t know…remembering eighth grade and the excitement of, well, suddenly having cleavage and all, I think the impulse at that age is to try to go for something even sexier. It’s a pretty, flattering dress, and that wins her a lot of points in my book.

  • Pix

    I’m torn. She looks gorgeous. But I don’t care if it’s pink or has flowers, that is an adult’s dress.

    It doesn’t seem like the point here is for her to look fancy or pretty. The point here is clearly for her to look sexy. And I think it’s a little too much for a 13 year old.

  • Leigha

    I would be surprised if there weren’t girls at a middle school dance dressed somewhat similarly to this. Not to mention, at least her dress is floor length. The non-see-through part of Kiernan’s is maybe halfway down her thighs. If it didn’t have the see-through part, it wouldn’t even have met the dress code at my high school.

    Also, did she really pick that herself, or did she have a stylist do it for her? Because I was under the impression that famous people rarely actually pick their own outfits for appearances (or at the very least, pick from a selection).

  • Christina

    No way…this is completely inappropriate for a 13 year-old girl. I wouldn’t let my 16 year-old out of the house in this dress. I understand cleavage at a young age–I was an -cup F in 7th grade, but that doesn’t mean you cut a dress to show it off for a girl that age. The bustline cut out was COMPLETELY inappropriate. This dress would have looked just as beautiful, if not absolutely stunning, on her without that section being cut-out to flaunt her 13 year-old cleavage. The stylist should be fired!

  • Lala

    Completely inappropriate. And it is completely BS about her being busty and not being able to find a dress to fit. She could have one custom made! She isn’t looking for her dress off the rack at macy’s. her costar had a dress made for her by Christian Siriano. Geez, They could have made the front of this one completely closed and it would have worked. it is a cop out to try to justify such a dress on a child.

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  • Megan

    On one hand, I’m firmly in the camp of women should be able to wear what they want and not worry about what’s going on in men’s heads. If I want to wear a low-cut top, that’s not degrading to me just because some guy likes my boobs. That’s his problem.

    BUT. The thought of older guys–some much, much older–looking at her in a lascivious way creeps me out. If I were to wear something like that–and honestly, I think it’s fairly conservative!–I’d do it with the knowledge that I’d be getting stares, and I’d be okay with the sexual nature of those stares. My guess is that she already finds her chest to be a pain in the ass, and this time said, “You know what? I don’t care!” and went for the dress. I don’t want her to feel like she has to cover up, because that leads to the whole can of body shaming/modesty worms. And having a big chest can be tough! But on the other hand, I want to protect her from a 65-year-old dude getting a boner for her cleavage. Because she’s 13. It has nothing to do with her “innocence,” it has everything to do with she doesn’t need the attentions of much older men at this age.

    • Cartman

      “Getting stares from older men” Stares are stares, age makes no difference, as if some horny teen is going to have a more “innocent”stare than an older person! Revealing cleavage at 13,14,15,16 and 17 is a no no.

  • Crimson Wife

    I was busty as a young teen. but no way would my parents have allowed me to wear that dress. At 17, maybe 16 fine. At 13? Absolutely not!

    It would’ve been lovely without the cutout.

  • Annie

    I’m 13, going on 14, and that dress is honestly nothing compared to the things everyone around my age wears on a daily basis. The funny thing is, they constantly update their statuses on facebook actually bragging about the attention they’re getting from 60 year olds on their way to school. Society nowadays,

  • Shae

    I don’t think it’s what you wear – it’s how you wear it. And she wears it innocently.

  • cb

    Megan: If I want to wear a low-cut top, that’s not degrading to me just because some guy likes my boobs. That’s his problem.

    so what are some reasons you would want to wear a low-cut top?

    • Leigha

      Because you really really like the design of the shirt and it just happens to also be a bit low-cut? Because it’s hot out and you want to wear as little clothing as possible to be cool? Because it’s what your friends wear? Because you feel you look good in it and that makes you feel good? Because you’re particularly fond of your collar bone, for some reason?

      Okay, so the last one may have been half-joking, but people can want to wear things for reasons OTHER than “Oooh guys will think I’m hot!”

  • cb

    Leigha, thanks for your reply. Your answers still leave the issue a little vague to me — like, what else about your appearance in a top would make you think you look really good, such that its low cut becomes a non-factor? isn’t the cut one of the major issues? — but I can start to see the thinking.

    My hypothesis is that low-cut tops are worn more to impress other girls/women than men, somewhat going along with your “what friends are wearing” idea. Still, 50% of the audience is going to be men in most situations, which could be something to keep in mind…

    • Leigha

      For me, certain types of shirts make me feel like I look older (I’m 21–and not at all the target demographic for this site–but I look maybe 14, so looking older is always a good thing for me), which makes me feel less insecure about being so young-looking. I personally don’t tend to achieve that by wearing low-cut shirts, but I could see where someone would. I also generally try to aim for generically attractive in an aesthetic way, rather than sexually enticing, although that’s a very tricky goal and I think a lot of women (particularly young women and teenagers) underestimate the fine line between the two.

      And I do very much believe it is largely just fashion and peer pressure. Girls normally do dress primarily for other girls. Even when they DO dress to attract male attention, who do they go to to make sure their outfit works? Other girls, normally. I don’t think most girls have more than a vague understanding of what guys really think about what they wear.

      There is an answer, somewhere between “If you dress immodestly, you’ll make guys want you, so cover up every inch of skin on your body or else” and “Wear whatever the heck you want, you have the right to and no one can tell you otherwise.” Because the second statement, while technically true, will not prevent anyone from judging you negatively and harshly for dressing in a way they deem inappropriate.