Is Tween Fashion Too Sexy?

Filed under: In The News, Fashion, Tween Culture

A recent shopping trip to her local mall turned into a jaw-dropping experience for Roxann Reid-Severance.

As the Chicago-area mother of two girls, ages 10 and 7, shopped with her oldest daughter for a dress for the tween to wear to a family wedding, she says she discovered rack after rack of low-cut, sequined sheaths.

"I was blown away by how provocative the dresses were," Reid-Severance tells ParentDish. "It was a nightmare. There has to be a balance between fashion fun and good taste. These dresses were skinny straps, lower cut and the fabric had as many sequins as I would have worn on New Year's Eve. It's not age appropriate."

Many moms are agreeing with Reid-Severance, finding themselves on shopping excursions with their young daughters that take them through a Material Girl jungle of animal-patterned, lace, leather and faux fur tween fashions. "Hookers on parade," is how one mom describes the dresses she saw on display during a recent mall visit.

"It's almost as if the fashion world is trying to make preteens look like they are going to the high school prom," Reid-Severance says.

Billions of dollars are on the line in the fashion industry, which targets the 8-to-12 set known as tweens, according to ABC News.

But it's a line increasingly blurred between cute and hot, adorable and sexual.

In addition to spending $30 billion of their own money, American tweens hold sway over another $150 billion spent by their parents each year, ABC reports.

"You go into a juniors department, you have a rack of clothing that is appropriate for an 11-year-old next to a rack of clothing that isn't," Alex Morris, who recently reported on tweens and fashion for New York magazine tells ABC. "It's certainly blurring the lines. ... It's making it harder for parents to set boundaries."

New research released by the American Psychological Association earlier this year found that sexual imagery aimed at younger girls is harmful to them and increases the likelihood they will "experience body dissatisfaction, depression and lower self-esteem," Morris tells ABC.

Compounding the issue is the fact that tween girls look to celebrity idols, such as 17-year-old Miley Cyrus, who often dresses in daringly sexual outfits, ABC reports. Other teen stars have dressed the sexy party, too: Britney Spears went from a bubblegum pop image morphed to provocateur. Ashley Tisdale left "High School Musical" to "Crank It Up." And former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes is now on the cover of Maxim, Morris tells ABC.

"The easiest way for a celebrity to transition from being a child star to an adult star is the pathway through their sexuality," Morris tells ABC. "Children are attracted to this kind of look, it's what they see Miley Cyrus wearing, Demi Lovato wearing, Lindsay Lohan wearing."

It's also what "Gossip Girl" actress Taylor Momsen is wearing on the pink carpet as the face of Material Girl, the recently unveiled clothing line created by Madonna and her 14-year-old daughter, Lourdes, according to ABC.

"I think the reality of the tween fashion market is that the clothes are just more grown up," Michelle Madhok, founder and editor-in-chief of of and, tells ParentDish. "Whereas a few years ago parents were up in arms about clothes being too revealing (belly shirts, short shorts), the clothes we're seeing now don't show as much skin, but the silhouettes and prints are what you'd normally expect to see an adult wear. No more smiley faces and peace signs, that's for sure."

MoMMoMo.. WWWWWWWMichelle Madhok is Founder of and MomFinds.coyyyy yyyCritics, such as Washington, D.C.-area mom Michele Woodward tell ParentDish these clothes might work for 20-somethings, but are too racy for girls in their tweens and young teens.

"My daughter and I have had the discussion about what's appropriate just this week, in fact," Woodward, mother to Grace, 14, tells ParentDish. "The new hot trend at her school is wearing tights under a plaid shirt. A shirt which doesn't come down and cover her butt, tunic style, but a short shirt. Nothing is left to the imagination. As we talked about this trend, my daughter leveled her gaze at me and said, 'Mom, if you dress like a 'ho, you get treated like a 'ho.' Precisely."


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.