Set the fashion bar high

Published 9:20 pm Saturday, October 20, 2012

A lace front corset (the kind cleavage pops out of), a tiny four-inch long skirt and lace ruffle bottom bloomers. Can you imagine that? OK, good. Now that you have that visual, imagine it on a little girl! Yes, that’s right, tis the Halloween season and costume manufacturers apparently think that is appropriate for little girls.
A friend sent an email to me several months ago, asking me to write about this very thing. She was appalled at what was being shown in catalogs for little girl’s Halloween costumes. It’s hard enough explaining that $78 is not in the budget for a costume — especially one that encourages all your skin to hang out — when you are under a size 10 and under 10 years old. I completely understood where my friend was coming from and unfortunately it isn’t saved for Halloween.
Now, I am all for personal expression when it comes to clothing. My daughter has always chosen to be a cross between Punky Brewster and Pippy Long Stocking. She wore pink cowboy boots to the pool with a turquoise polka dot bikini because it was fashionable. She was only two and a half years old at the time. If it made her happy, or made her feel empowered and put together, I let her wear it. But, I draw the line at lingerie and bustiers for children. I am not going to buy them.
Just out of diapers and into big girl panties, I tried desperately to find my daughter underwear. I know you will think I am crazy, but thongs and French-cut bikinis seemed inappropriate for a two-year-old and, yes, they make them for girls that age.
Low riding pants that allow a diaper to hang out and bra-style tank tops are not my thing, especially with words printed across the backside of the pants. In my opinion, I am the grown up and it is my job as a parent to guide the choices and dress her appropriately as best I can. I don’t appreciate it when I have to struggle to find pants that come up to her belly button.
These clothing choices are put out there in the market place and splashed over every print ad, billboard and cereal box as sellable to children. It becomes increasingly difficult to teach your children that type of thing isn’t the norm and isn’t “appropriate” for such a young age. This is when I get scared and think, ‘is this what is becoming the norm?’
I don’t want to stop the world and get off (although sometimes I feel that way) and I don’t want there to be so few choices that you can’t be an individual or express yourself. I am not promoting going back to fig leaves and animal hides or simple cotton print dresses because I am a firm believer that a little bling can go along way. I am far from conservative when it comes to clothing ones’ child, so believe me when I say it’s pretty bad when I get offended.
As parents, it is up to us to set the bar high. At least that way, when personal expression kicks in, our children hopefully won’t fall too far. For those who do the buying in their families and in the stores, remember to let them be little, just for a few years. As we know all too well, they grow up in a blink of an eye.
I am sure someone will give me flack about this, and totally disagree, but it’s how I feel. The word “juicy” across the backside of a five-year-old just isn’t an image I am comfortable with.
A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.