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Summer Shopping: It Ain’t What it Used to Be

As summer approaches, I am in full excitement mode.
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Not only am I ready for the sun to shine and the warm air, but I can’t wait to dress my little ones in some attire that doesn’t involve fleece or a hood.  I live in Seattle.  I take what I can get at this point.  Sunbreak?  What time??  I’ll be outside.

I grew up in California and I lived in shorts, tank tops, and swimsuits all summer long.  Though we have a shorter summer experience here, I love the cute sunglasses and hats my kids can wear when the sun pays us a visit.  With my daughter now walking around, this summer is sure to be a new experience for her, and I thought I could get my girly shopping fix when buying her warm-weather outfits.

To be honest, my fun shopping escapades haven’t been very fruitful.  Have you shopped for a little girl lately??  To summarize for you: horrific.  Much of the clothing in the market today would fit my little lady, but looks like it was meant for a woman in her early twenties about to hit the club.  Strapless tube top?  Not happening.  String bikini?  No thank you.  Low-rise shorty short shorts?  They exist!  Tiny sandals with a heel?  Whoa.

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When I was little, I wore clothes that looked like little girl clothes.  I didn’t show up at the park looking like I was trying to get the little boy’s digits at the playground.  Shopping in this day and age requires a more critical eye.  My six-year old goddaughter recently had a birthday and I attempted to find her some cute clothes, but abandoned the idea in the end.  With so many stores out there, I could have found something, but I just didn’t find anything I really loved for her.  It was kind of depressing.

Dressing a daughter is different than outfitting a boy.  I have one of each, so I can say that.  Boy clothing consists of fairly simple shapes and fit: shorts, t-shirts, polos, and jeans.  Girl clothing has different necklines, sleeves (or not), lengths, and material.  I don’t want my 19-month old playing at the beach in a string bikini.  Let’s rephrase that: I don’t want anyone’s 19-month old wearing one.

Why are retailers carrying these kinds of clothes?  Because parents are buying them.  Why are parents buying them?  Because as children get older and have an opinion about what they wear, the marketing message seeps into their consciousness.  According to current research, younger and younger children are being affected.  Marketing is a beast to be reckoned with.  If you see enough belly baring midriffs for your young girl, maybe it will seem acceptable somehow.  How else can you explain padded swim tops for young girls?

Sexualizing the clothes that young girls wear is dangerous.  Why do we want our daughters to look like they’re older than they are?  Don’t they grow up too fast anyway?  As parents, it is our job to monitor the media madness that exists in magazines, catalogs, television, movies, and retailers.  Your kids will thank you for it.

How do you navigate the powerful messages the media creates?


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