What’s too sexy for your kids?

The recent outcry and removal of a padded bikini top for young girls from Abercrombie Kids’ line has AJC reporter Nedra Rhone looking at the “Sexy Lolita” fashion phenomenon.

From the story:

“ ‘It has been going on for the last 10 years,’ said Meenakshi Gigi Durham, assistant professor at the University of Iowa and author of ‘The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It’ (Overlook, $24.95). ‘Abercrombie & Fitch has been nailed before for this sort of thing. They have always been pushing the sexualization of little girls, so I can’t say I was surprised.’ ”

“It was surprising to see the product disappear — presumably in response to public pressure.”

“ ‘I do know that in many places, there are conversations about this sort of thing and there is a lot more public discourse about it and that is encouraging that there is some push back,’ Durham said.”

“Public opinion on the topic is pretty clear. Two recent polls on an opinion website, SodaHead.com, show 51 percent of respondents agreeing that ‘young girls dress too sexy.’ ”

“Eighty-five percent of respondents in a separate poll said Abercrombie Kids’ padded bikini top is not OK for little girls.”

“What parents consider inappropriate garments extends beyond outfits at Abercrombie Kids.”

“There are kitten heels in sizes small enough for 4-year-olds and T-shirts with sexy sayings sized to fit newborns at Gymboree.”

“Macy’s carries tops for juniors that leave little to the imagination, such as a bandeau with sequins from Material Girl, a line launched last year by Madonna with input from her then-13-year-old daughter, Lourdes.”

I think it’s been going on longer than 10 years. I personally would date it back to the Madonna days but that was my generation. Someone older than me might date it back even later.

I have been having an internal bikini debate about my soon-to-be 10 year old. She has worn bikinis before when she was younger. She had several from Lands End. Most recently she has been wearing fairly athletic-looking tankinis. I like them because you can get them off to pee but it still gives you some coverage – from sun and from exposing things while you play in the water. But this year she has specifically asked for a bikini. I’ve been sort of all over the place on this as she is developing.

I picked up two new suits for her at Target the other day. One was a tankini but it has the v-neck look to the top. I also grabbed a bikini because at least it was the right size. She’s been trying on really old ones that were just way too small.

My neighbor had an interesting take on it and she felt that it was the triangles that were the problem. She said they are meant to have breasts in them (and I guess show off the breasts). I had never thought about it like that but I did realize that all the bikinis she had when she was little were the straight across the top ones, not the triangles.

My sort of compromise was that she could just wear the bikini at home and not at the Y pool or the beach when we go.  I’m still thinking on this. She hasn’t pulled the tags off yet.

So what do you think off the Lolita effect on fashion in general? How conscious of it are you?

Where do you fall on the tweens in bikinis debate? Does the shape of the top make a difference or is it just how much skin is shows?

37 comments Add your comment


April 8th, 2011
12:04 pm

I was raised on the beaches in Florida and never thought a bikini was too grown up. I only rule my mother had about swimsuits was there were to be worn only to the beach or pool. Not to go shopping in or to wear out and about.

When my daughter was starting to develop she liked the look of the one piece so it was never an issue, also she had to wear a one piece for swim team.

I just don’t want to see you out in a swimsuit (one or two piece) running around town.


April 8th, 2011
12:06 pm

I think the shape of the top makes a difference. My 10 y.o. is a jr. size 9.. very athletic and we go through this all of the time. When we purchased a bathing suit last week, it was a tankini, but not with the v’s. Girls get enough attention; I don’t want to add to it. I think kids should wear clothes that are age appropriate. This is why I HATE the color black on little girls. Black is a sexy color and no 5 year old needs a black dress in my opinion…..

I was in the mall two weeks ago a two twin toddler girls.. about 3 y.o. had on t-shirts that read “If you think I’m a bi*** you should meet my mom”. I was disgusted!!!!!


April 8th, 2011
12:16 pm

iwa, I so agree about black not being an appropriate color for young kids. The mother of my step daughter wore black and always dressed her daughter in black. We’d get her for the weekend and she had nothing with color.


April 8th, 2011
12:22 pm

I read this article this morning. That picture of the Madonna bandeau top (NOT a bathing suit)…GRRRRR. There is NO way DD will wear any of that mess for a LONG time.

I don’t think bikinis are necessarily bad – you can get a full coverage bottom with a non-’cleavage’-bearing top (think sporty) or a tankini and that’s not bad. Maybe I’m the only one, but PADDING for crying out loud? *Thoroughly disgusted*

Paranoid Prude

April 8th, 2011
12:26 pm

I would NEVER let my boys wear bikini bottoms no matter what the fashion is…You never know who’s looking at our kids in public, maybe even taking cell pics for later ….Ewwww there are some weirdo’s out there and don’t pretend they aren’t where ever it is you go cause they are!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 8th, 2011
12:51 pm

There was this little boy at the pool last week whose surf shorts were too big and his crack was hanging out the whole time he was playing. The mom bought big so they could make it through the summer but I don’t think it was working for him. they need to be comfortable to play.


April 8th, 2011
1:02 pm

@ TWG… the mom should have put a safety pin on both sides of the shorts. My 4 y.o. shorts are a little to big and it worked for us. I don’t ‘want to see crack’s nor nipples at the beach.


April 8th, 2011
1:04 pm

I didn’t really let my daughter wear bikinis even when she was younger because I didn’t want to end up with the ‘why did you let me wear one last year and not let me wear one this year’ discussion. I wouldn’t mind a tankini but we still opt for a one piece (and it is what she currently says she prefers).

That is pretty much my take on all of the ’sexy’ clothes for young kids. It might look ‘cute’ on a tiny toddler but then there comes a point where its not cute anymore. Then you have to explain why they can’t wear something similar this year or someone might get ‘guilted’ into letting them wear it. Just not worth it to me. I’d rather keep consistent standards all along.


April 8th, 2011
1:04 pm

My sister has 2 girls (age 7 & 9) and she only allows them to wear one-pieces. Her theory is that she wants them to “have somewhere to go” with the issue when they get older. In other words, if they’re wearing a bikini now, will they be fighting over a thong at 14?

Unfortunately, I don’t get a vote in my daughter’s bathing suit unless she is with me.


April 8th, 2011
1:10 pm

@penguinmom and Jeff – That’s a good point, thanks! DD is 3, so we still do 1-pieces, but based on this, I think I’ll keep there for as long as possible instead of maybe going for the sporty tankinis too soon :o)

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 8th, 2011
1:14 pm

Isn’t it a pain to go to the bathroom in the 1 piece — I hate pulling down wet suits and then back up — ugg —- or do you just pull the bottom part over to pee out of it — i’m not sure kids are coordinated enough to do that.


April 8th, 2011
1:18 pm

It’s called “Lolita” because it’s been around for a LONG time — the book is as old as I am (mid-50s) and the movie was from early 1960’s. The problem isn’t the fashions — the problem is the parents who have lost all cognizance of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate, and lack the cajones to just say NO. I don’t know about you guys, but my mother had NO problem telling me “Are you kidding? NO WAY a daughter of mine is going to appear in public in THAT!” It wasn’t a question of ’self-esteem’ or her being afraid that I wouldn’t be fashionable, etc. It was a clear and uncompromising view on what was appropriate and what wasn’t. If I didn’t like it, too bad — I could just do without :-)

These fashions appear more and more because they are PURCHASED. If they weren’t being bought, they wouldn’t make them. My daughter wore a one-piece or a tankini until she was a teenager, because it was practical and it could be played in without her tuggiing at it constantly. As she got older, she knew that if she brought home a bathing suit that didn’t cover her boobs or her butt, she wouldn’t be wearing it. She tended to be somewhat inherently conservative, anyway, so we didn’t have much problem with it — she knew what the rules were. The same with shorts too short, tops too thin, etc.

I didn’t think you could return a bathing suit, tags or not, because it’s considered intimate wear?

Funny story: My daughter and a friend were at the beach one summer — they were 12. They were wearing shorts over their one-piece bathing suits, and walking along the pier, watching the boats and checking out the crab catches other people had..Some slightly older boys started following them, unaware that the friend’s father was also following along at a discreet distance (far enough for “freedom”, close enough to keep an eye on things.) He was behind the boys, and the boys, being boys, started making crude comments about my daughter and her friend. The father let it go for a while, but when the boys started trying to out-do each other on sexual suggestions as to what they’d like to do, he came up behind two of them, clapped his hands on their shoulders, and said, very casually, “You’re talking about MY daughter, son. You want to say that to my face?” It helped that he was 6′2″ and 240 lbs. :-) The boys turned white and immediately slunk away.

Paranoid Prude

April 8th, 2011
1:30 pm

Well Said DB…..I agree girls they can be fun and fashionable but conservative. Besides we all know the boys are looking at the less dressed girls in a different way than the “nice girls”

Also to the parents who have sons with no butt to hold up their shorts….invest in a swim shirt it will help their self esteem….I promise just say no to crack

DJ Sniper

April 8th, 2011
1:36 pm

DB, that is a great story! I love to hear fathers step up to check these little boys.

As a father myself, I’m so grateful that me and my wife are on the same page when it comes to children’s clothing. Our daughter is only 17 months, so we have a while before we have to deal with this, but we both agree that she will not be wearing some of the stuff we see on sale at the stores. Also, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that a lot of parents don’t seem to see anything wrong with this. Whenever I go to the mall on the weekends, I see these teen and pre-teen girls walking around with these itty bitty shorts and I’m like, “really?” Not cool at all.


April 8th, 2011
1:48 pm

It is really overwhelming with the way the fashions have gone for little girls. I have tons of trouble finding age appropriate dresses, shorts and swimsuits for my 8 yr old. All of the clothes look like they are shrunken versions of the clothing for adult women. It makes for a quite a challenge teaching about modesty and age appropriateness when the stores are filled to the rafters with this crap.

Traffic Headache

April 8th, 2011
1:58 pm

My sister always gauged my niece quite carefully during her formative years. While she let slide on short skirts, she definitely put the kibosh on thong underwear. My niece would choose flashy without trashy usually on her own. She knew where to draw the line.


April 8th, 2011
2:09 pm

Sorry, but the part about peeing out of a one-piece is TMI!

Kids Should Be Kids

April 8th, 2011
3:21 pm

I really hate that our society is so bent on taking childhood away from our kids! It really makes our jobs as parents that much harder. Just a month ago I had the conversation with my 5th grader about why we would NOT be buying any clothing from A&F. Up until now she has been pretty compliant on whatever I had brought home clothing-wise. I think she realized that some kids at school had these “cool” A&F shirts and wanted one too. Once I explained how they were selling and image that was inappropriate for anyone, much less young people, she was ok. I am constantly feeling like a prude for trying to protect my kid’s childhood!!


April 8th, 2011
4:04 pm

I don’t get bikinis on little bitty girls either. My kids go to the beach wearing swim shorts and swim shirts. I don’t want them getting that much sun and they sit in the sand, which isn’t exactly comfortable wearing little swim bottoms. Now when they get older, I certainly won’t be having them wearing swimsuits that were clearly designed for a woman’s body, when they aren’t!!

Brown Eyed Girl!

April 8th, 2011
4:32 pm

This might be a dumb question, but what would be the purpose of a little girl wearing a bikini? I have always wondered that because as an adult that has worn one a few times, I honestly wanted others to see what I had worked hard on (my body). If we are honest about the reason for bikinis, I think we would think twice about having little girls wear them. By the way, I have two boys, but I also have three niece who’s mothers made them wear nothing but one piece until they were in their teens.


April 8th, 2011
4:40 pm

I’m SO glad that I have a little boy so I won’t have to deal with this. I had to get my Dad’s approval on EVERY bathing suit I wore until I left for college.


April 8th, 2011
4:43 pm

I remember when, to be “wild”, girls would sneak off and put on LIP GLOSS!


April 8th, 2011
4:56 pm

I remember going to Parisian when my daughter was 9 to find a pretty dress for the Christmas holidays. Usually, Parisian always had lovely, traditional clothes for children – but that was the year I walked into the girls department and literally stopped with my mouth open. All the shiny, slinky crap, sequin-ey, lame’ JUNK was all over the place. The sales clerk came up and pleasantly asked if she could help me, and I turned, waved my hand, and asked, “What happened? Where did all the pretty clothes go?” The saleswoman sighed, rolled her eyes and said, “I know, I know — the buyers gave us this stuff, and everyone has the same reaction you have.” That was the last time I went to Parisian.


April 8th, 2011
5:44 pm

catlady…I got in trouble for wearing lip gloss when I was twelve…haha!

We are not a bikini wearing family. My son did look darling in a striped speedo, when he was two but that was a LONG time ago. My daughter has never been inclined to wear one, even though she has a great figure.

I am about 1 hour from Canada and still see snow…I am ready to go home and get by neighborhood pool!

Have a great weekend all!


April 8th, 2011
7:18 pm

@MJG: Snow? Ick., I will be thinking of you as I laze around Sandestin this weekend! Right now, it’s 81 degrees and I do believe I might have a touch a sunburn . . :-)


April 8th, 2011
8:14 pm

We have two girls with the oldest being 12 (turning 13 this fall). Clothes are always being discussed. Thankfully both my girls are modest in their choices. That being said, the bikini issue was raised yet again by the oldest. Her father and I have both told her no. Part of the issue is that she is in between sizes; too large for most things in the girl’s department but too small for the junior department. The juniors swims suits are all padded, and/or teeny tiny which makes her uncomfortable. The girl’s suits are too “young”. Thankfully we’ve found a couple of one-piece suits. Done with that. As for day to day clothing, we reject plenty of retailers and items that don’t fit our needs. Most days my daughters and I are on the same page. I miss the days when little girls looked like little girls. I see too many girls in our school (elementary) who look like they’re headed to a club. Our principal addressed it directly to the students and in writing in our school’s newsletter. Until parents are willing to parent; reject retailers, reject trashy, over-mature merchandise, and stop trying to be a friend/playmate the issue will continue. Children are not mini-adults.


April 9th, 2011
10:36 am

MJg–I was at my son’s last Saturday and as I drove up there was fresh show on the mountains toward Cataloochee. Then he called me (Tuesday I think) to tell me it was snowing at his house!

diedre,have you seen any snow lately?


April 9th, 2011
4:08 pm

We just went swimsuit shopping for the girls. The 12 year old is pushing for a bikini, but Dad FIRMLY says HELL NO! :o) She was allowed to wear one years prior, but she has developed too much now for him to be comfortable. So we settled on a tankini. The 8 year old I just direct to the tankinis and let her pick one; she’s not fussy. I agree it is just too yucky to have to use the restroom in a 1 piece, so this is a good compromise. A halter-kini would have been acceptable too.

I just refuse to dress my kids like little sluts, and can’t believe the parents who think it is fine!


April 9th, 2011
7:03 pm

MJG, am just back from San Francisco last night visiting my sis & niece; we took a side trip up to Reno and saw PLENTY of snow up in the mountains…skiing still going strong up in Squaw Valley


April 9th, 2011
9:28 pm

Love San Fransisco…I have not been in years. I need to get back out that way!

I went to Target today and saw a girl in flip flops and shorts…it is 41 out. I guess that is warm, when most of the winter is below zero!


April 10th, 2011
10:33 am

I LOVED a ruffly bikini on my toddler! Her little pot-belly stuck out and was adorable. Now that she’s thinning out, not so much. I won’t buy from Target because as soon as you go from babies’ to girls’ sizes, they all “vee” in the front (triangles.) Land’s End makes cute tankinis. All of these shops like Limited Too, etc. are gross and make little girls look like teenagers. Still love Hanna Andersson!


April 10th, 2011
11:56 am

My daughter wore bikini’s as a kid and I had no problem with them. Today as a teen she prefers a bikini top with swim shorts. This is about parents choosing the appropriate bathing suit for their kid. She never looked grown, just like a kid wearing a two piece.


April 10th, 2011
12:11 pm

I saw this story a couple of weeks ago. The reason there are padded bras and bikinis is so that WOMEN can enhance what they’ve got. When I was younger, I wore one-piece suits and lived in them as we were from south Florida. I have a 10-year-old son, so I don’t really have to worry about clothing.
I do see young girls in shorts so short that the pocket lining is longer than the actual short and I think it’s kind of skanky. Or the skirts in the little girls section at Target couild double as a halter top they’re so short and shirts so tight that they look hard to breathe in.
I’ve told my son never to bring home a girl that looks like she’s wearing clothes from the Toddler department. I’m not saying all girls should wear turtlenecks and ankle-length skirts, but looking like a little tramp is pretty tacky and doesn’t say much for parenting skills.


April 10th, 2011
1:45 pm

I think it’s all about the style of the bathing suit for me. Last year I had a hard time finding a one piece for my 5yo that was not one shouldered. There is no need for a child’s bathing suit to only have one shoulder and I thought it was kind of tart-y. She does have a couple of tankinis, which are very modest and age appropriate, and that’s what we’ll stick to until she’s 30 or so. LOL

the watch dog

April 10th, 2011
1:55 pm

That is a great question. I really like it.I am a great believer in parents setting the example. If momma wears one, then it is already for the daughter. Children learn by example. If parents agonize over something as trivial as a bikini, what are they going to do with a real problem? I wear a 1 piece suit myself and all my friends do also, most of the girls do also at at the Y. I just came back from a great swim, 1 mile and before that 10 miles on the bike, I feel absolutely wonderful. Every day is a perfect gem.
Tomorrow, my personal trainer is taking me for a walk, it will be grand.


April 10th, 2011
2:13 pm

I grew up with a family that had a pool and the dad insisted the girls and his wife wear bikinis. Always was jealous of their tall, thin build and blonde hair and tan. Nobody ever thought back in the 1980s this was sexy or inappropriate. My daughter is 13; 5 foot 7, 115lbs, long blonde hair and fair skin. She wears a 5/6 long in jeans and a size medium top. She won’t wear white shirts (cause it will show her bra) and we have only found one pair of shorts that are not daisy-dukes.
But one-piece bathing suits are not made for her…she is too tall, yet skinny, small-chested (athletic build). And tanikis don’t work either because the top hits her still too short. We choose bikinis so we can get the right size bottom (M or L at aeropostle) and right size top (M). The only place she goes is a friends pool or the beach in another state – we will never see those people ever again. Even at Lake Lanier waterpark, she will wear a tank top so she doesn’t burn. For church trips, she wears a tank top over her one piece top (no bikinis allowed on church trip).
She is beautiful and not sexy. She’s 13 (even though she looks older due to height). But she wears a uniform to school each day and this is our freedom in the summertime. All her friends wear bikinis and I betcha due to the low inventory at the mall that more kids do than parents will admit on this blog. Bikinis have been around a long time; parents making a big deal out of it will just make them want them and sneak them on more when you’re not around (think school: i’m a middle school teacher and they change clothes EVERYDAY and put on makeup on the bus and before school and carry around make up wipes to wash their faces at end of day: true story). I’d rather pick a decent bikini for my daughter and make her aware on the best way to pick a suit than scream NO over this. Pick your battles.
And FYI: No piercings, no colored hair, lip gloss and light mascara only, no tight pants, no low cut shirts at my house. We are decent and respectful. And I know at her school with their strict uniforms that she’s not wearing disguting stuff either like my 7th graders.
I’m raising her to make good choices; not control her.


April 11th, 2011
3:20 pm

@TWG – as far as bathroom, I am fortunate to have children with large bladders and we don’t spend whole long days at the pool. They go before swimming then again when changing back into regular clothes. On the rare occasions a trip is required during swimming, it is a bit of a pain to pull the one piece down but really not the end of the world. If you dry off a little before hand it’s really not that bad. To some extent, it’s just the price we pay for covering up some.