Oh joy, it’s back to school shopping time. If you are like me, and have an elementary school-age daughter, you have all ready started comprising her back to school wardrobe or at least you are browsing children’s clothing retailers websites, donating too small items, and making a list of what you need to buy for the upcoming year. If you are also like me, you are gaping slack-jawed at some of the less than age appropriate offerings some of these retailers expect us to outfit the under 10 set in. But if you aren’t like me, and you aren’t scowling at mini one-shoulder zebra print sequin tops and low-rise colored skinny jeans, then lady, you need to be! Because if you are going to let your daughter dress like a Solid Gold dancer circa 1974, then my kid is going to want to do the same thing. And because I don’t let my daughter, this means I’m going to make up lies about your daughter so my daughter doesn’t want to copy your daughter and you don’t want me telling lies about your daughter, do you?
“Mom, how come Lucy gets to wear clothing from Justice? Why don’t you let me buy things from Justice?”
“Well, because .. See, Lucy, I think, has to shop at Justice because it’s the only store that has her size. She can’t wear anything else because one of her legs is slightly longer than the other one.”
How long can my lies go on! Because sometimes it’s not enough to tell your 7-year-old “Baby, we don’t buy stuff like that because in my house, the only people allowed to dress like a Vegas cocktail waitress are the ones who scoop the litter box.” For those of you unfamiliar with Justice, it’s a children’s retailer who states:
“Our girl feels special when she walks into a Justice store. Crossing the threshold, she is immersed in an energetic environment where hottest fashion is brought to life. Justice stores are the destination of choice for tween girls across the country, and with good reason.
Our merchandise sets the trends that keep tween girls fashionable—and, even better, feeling self-confident.”
By selling the 7-12 set bedazzled shirts and sequin sweaters. And jeans that show the tops of their teensy Justice leopard print panties. Justice also carries a wide-array of girl bait like lip gloss, brightly colored clip-in hair extensions, adorable Japanese erasers shaped like cupcakes and kittens, and the occasional Monster High doll, which makes it utter catnip to any child.
But I’m a snob, and a not fun mom, and ugh, I want to keep my daughter in pinafores and basic slacks and cashmere twinsets for as long as I can. It’s not just Justice that’s marketing clubwear to our kids. You can find bling and midriff tops at close to any retailer. Young girls always want to look more mature, emulating Disney starlets, pop stars, and even older siblings. It’s not a fair fight for any girl or mother when confronted with not only classmates allowed to rock two-inch heels, but the world at large showing us the latest tween queen hocking a line of clothing for Target or Walmart. So I buy my daughter “little girl” clothing and unisex clothing at places like J.Crew or the Gap and patiently try to explain to her why mommy doesn’t like her exposing her tummy or upper thighs.
It’s not just the sexualization of young girls that bothers me. It’s not the fact that I find a lot of clothing offered by mass retailers to look cheap and tacky. It’s more the idea that at this age, the elementary years, I want my daughter focused on school, learning everything she can academically while her mind is a vampire sponge, sucking up knowledge and starting to figure out the sort of person she wants to grow into. If she is focused on the length of her miniskirt and the height of her boot heels, isn’t that just another distraction in a world filled to the brim with distractions all ready? I’m not saying that fashion makes girls stupid, or that wearing clothing more suited for a teenager makes them worse at math, but I do think anytime a parent focuses on making their offspring a little fashion plate, they are sending them the message that their appearance is something that they have to be worried about. And other than bathing, brushing their teeth, combing their hair and wearing mittens when it’s freezing out, it just isn’t.
We all know how fast kids grow up. There are so many years that can be filled with big girl clothes and heels and makeup. I know I’m not harming my daughter by not letting her dress like the very youngest Kardashian, and I’d much rather save the hemline arguments for when she is a teenager. But other moms shelling out $60 for an ensemble better suited for a stint on Dancing With The Stars aren’t helping me.
So what if your precious kid bitches and whines about wanting a spangly v-neck sweater or pint sized daisy duke shorts? Tell the little Honey Boo Boo Chile’ no. She’ll get over it. And it will help me out tremendously when I have to tell my own daughter no. Because I don’t like lying to her, and eventually she’s going to figure out our local Justice store didn’t actually burn to the ground.