I remember that as a child my younger sister and I often dressed alike. My mom would buy us matching holiday dresses and play clothes, and though sometimes in different colors, they were always the same style or design. As adults, my sister and I shop together and often find that we like the same clothes. My sister will ask, “If we buy the same outfit will we look like geeks?” To which I typically reply, “Who cares? We’ve been dressing alike since we were kids!” For me, this is one of the things my mom began doing for us when we were kids, so why change it now?
Recently, I overheard a conversation between a mother and her daughter, who didn’t look more than four years old. The child asked about being able to wear some of her favorite clothes and her mother’s response was, “It is too cold to wear your sexy clothes.” My initial reaction to this response was a bit dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it. Do children really wear “sexy” clothes? How does it impact a young girl to think of her clothes as sexy?
Within a week of overhearing this conversation, I saw a feature on the Today Show in which parenting experts were responding to a bathing suit designed for girls, as young as seven, that included a padded bra. And again my initial reaction was to not believe what I was seeing and hearing.
One parent on the Today Show was quoted, saying, “I don’t know what the big deal is, if you don’t want it for your child – then don’t buy it.” I agree. Parents make decisions daily that impact their children. Making conscious choices and aligning those with what you want for your child is the responsibility of parents. However, I think there is more to this. In raising children –especially our young girls – I think we need to be very intentional about the message we give to them. Describing or portraying girls as “sexy” – especially at a young age – could have lasting effects on how they view and value themselves and their bodies.
I have often observed parents laughing as their young children dance in provocative ways. The child, loving the attention from their parent, will laugh and continue to perform. But the cost later for this attention now may be that a young girl who will continue to use her body or “cuteness” to please others.
My mom dressed my sister and I alike, and I believe her actions influenced my practices and thoughts about clothing as an adult. Choosing “sexy” clothes for young girls will contribute to the pressure many girls already have to measure their self worth on their bodies, how “cute” or “sexy” other people believe them to be. Instead of sexy, let’s dress our girls for success – let’s help them make clothing choices now that will influence them to show-off their own personality with a splash of style and grace.