Archive for Monday, April 18, 2011


Lawrence residents react to furor over Abercrombie Kids push-up bikini

April 18, 2011


With summer just around the corner, the stores are lining their shelves with sandals, sundresses and swimwear. One option for parents this year is a swimsuit from abercrombie kids, the spin off version of Abercrombie and Fitch and geared for consumers aged 7-14. Originally called the “ashley push up triangle,” parents could, for $24.50, purchase this padded string bikini top for their 7- and 8-year-old daughters.

“What are they supposed to push up?” asks Lawrence resident Adrienne Karam. “I mean, it’s disgusting and so unfortunate on every level, this objectifying and sexualizing of children.”

Sociology professor Lisa Wade blogged about the bikini on her website, Sociological Images. The March 19 post then caught the eye of ABC News and CNN, among other major media outlets, leading to a public uproar which forced abercrombie to re-categorize the top. As of this writing, their website offers the “Lindsey lightly lined triangle” and the “alexis ruffle triangle,” although the products are still padded.

This is not the first time the company has been criticized for its merchandise. In 2002, the retailer was widely denounced for its T-shirts that many considered racist. Also that year they came out with thong underwear in children’s sizes with “eye candy” and “wink wink” printed on them.

This is also not the first time that a company has gotten into trouble for marketing a padded bikini top for young girls. Last year, British clothing chain Primar ended up pulling its line of padded swimwear geared for young girls.

Overt sexual messages that this kind of clothing sends can be very harmful to children, according to child psychologist Michael Bradley, who was interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when the controversy was swirling around the news cycle. Bradley believes that these clothing styles shape girls’ beliefs about themselves — that their looks are their only value to society and that their bodies are not good enough unless they are enhanced somehow.

The padded swim suit tops are especially disturbing to Lawrence psychologist Barrie Arachtingi.

“Who exactly were the designers trying to get these 8-year-old girls noticed by?” she asks. “Because it certainly isn’t 8-year-old boys.

“A child often doesn’t know how to integrate his or her sexual feelings,” she adds. “Girls at this age are very shy about getting noticed. The idea of boys creates a real discomfort for 7- and 8-year-old [girls]. The naked body is met with curiosity and disgust, and girls at this age are mortified at the thought that a guy is looking at them,” she says.

“Only later [around the onset of puberty] does it begin to be okay for a girl to be noticed by a boy,” Arachtingi says.

The psychologist worries about what children are being exposed to and the kind of attention that the swimwear brings.

“There is a purity to being a kid, and once sexuality comes into play, everything gets amped up. Young girls aren’t ready for this type of attention,” she says.

The children’s clothing industry has changed over the years as designers have pushed the limit as to what is acceptable for children, according to Kristine Bailey, owner of children’s clothing store Blue Dandelion in downtown Lawrence.

“When I go to market in Dallas I see a lot of the more grown-up and super-glitzy stuff,” she says.

Bailey says that apparel would not go over very well in this community.

“My experience is that mothers in Lawrence would not be the least bit interested in that [padded] swimsuit!” she says. “I have a hard time selling two-piece swimming suits in my store. Period. My customers definitely don’t like styles that make their kids more grown up than they are.”

Bailey describes her customers in Lawrence as more conservative when it comes to clothing style for their children. “My customers like a little edgy, but not towards the sexual nature.

“I think if you talk to someone in Kansas City you might get a much different perspective on children’s styles,” she says. “And if my store was in southern Overland Park, then I would sell different stuff to a larger audience.”

Just as Bailey’s clientele differs from other parents, families also have different rules for what is appropriate and acceptable when it comes to clothing and styles for their daughters.

“I never got to wear a two-piece swimsuit when I was young,” says Lawrence resident Julie Embrey.

Now the mother to three children: 14-year-old Olivia, 12-year-old Christian and 10-year-old Elizabeth, Embrey does allow her daughters to wear two-piece swimsuits, mainly because of their functionality. “They are so much easier for my girls to take off when they have to use the restroom,” she says.

As for allowing Elizabeth to wear the padded variety? “Never!” Embrey says.

Choosing clothes and swimwear for her girls, however, can be difficult.

“It’s hard because what is appropriate for Olivia is not appropriate for Elizabeth, yet it seems that the clothes that are marketed for children are more appropriate for teenagers, and the ones marketed for teenagers are more appropriate for adults,” she says.

So what is a parent to do if a child is expressing interest in clothing that the parent finds objectionable?

Most professionals suggest that conversations are the most useful method of handling issues such as this that come between parent and child. Parents should talk about the messages that the clothes send.

“If your daughter is asking for [a padded bikini] then ask where this is coming from,” Arachtingi says. “What is she being exposed to? Other kids? Teenagers? The media?

Conversations take time and energy, she says, but they are a critical aspect of parenting today.

“Parents have to think and understand child development,” Arachtingi says, “but ultimately, they have to be OK with saying, ‘No.’”


Soap 7 years, 1 month ago

Kansans are conservative.. Stop the presses!!

LoveThsLife 7 years, 1 month ago

How is this a conservative thing? I know a few liberal feminists that are probably breathing fire over this....

Gene Wallace 7 years, 1 month ago

Hello! The "padding" isn't for figure enhancement People! It's for Hiding a young girl's nipples from view. You know, cold water and thin cotton creates an embarrassing condition for young girls. I well remember two young boys comments I overheard about my little Sister at a local pool. I made sure my Mother found out about the problem. Get real, look at the product advertised. Those are Not "push-up" pads in the tops..

Kyle Reed 7 years, 1 month ago

Only one problem with your theory "Gene-ious"...the original name for the product was "ashley push up triangle". Why do you suppose they called it that if what you claim was what the product was intended for? Sounds like you need to get real.

pagan_idolator 7 years, 1 month ago

And what was the purpose of the little girl thongs? Sickening.

compmd 7 years, 1 month ago

If you buy a push up bikini top for your 8 year old daughter, you have failed as a parent.

evilpenguin 7 years, 1 month ago

Also, just a small point, the British clothing chain is "Primark", not "Primar".

sallyone 7 years, 1 month ago

I think that people are making to much out of this, my 10 year old daugther has something similar and I don't see it as being inappropriate.

Jimo 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm sure there's a middle aged male creep down the block who doesn't see anything inappropriate with your dressing a 10 year old girl as a sex-object either.

Kontum1972 7 years, 1 month ago

duct tape or a cute t-shirt....u choose...or buy a kid pool...

LoveThsLife 7 years, 1 month ago

Took a look at their website and all of their bathing suits for kids look like something better suited for the college set.

In fact, none of their clothes looked like something I would purchase for my kid. The dresses looked too short with very little fabric on top. Again, something I could see a college student wearing but not a little girl.

Soap 7 years, 1 month ago

Women being objectified is nothing new.. Parents dressing more conservative than their children is nothing new.. Obviously parents somewhere are buying these, or else they wouldn't sell them.. In fact, abercrombie started selling these last year and nobody even noticed or cared..

LoveThsLife 7 years, 1 month ago

Just because it is "nothing new" doesn't mean it isn't a problem.

been_there 7 years, 1 month ago

Remember talking to a mom from Johnson County that said she needed to get her daughters to Victoria Secrets for new underwear. We are talking about a 10 and 12 yr old. Claimed she always took them there for underwear.

Armored_One 7 years, 1 month ago

Instead of creating a scene over them, how about you just not buy them. The attention that they are garnering is most likely exactly what they are wanting.

"If they are selling this kind of a thing, then what else could they be selling that I might be offended by? Oh look, that's cute. I think I'll buy it while I keep looking for a reason to be insulted."

You could put a kid in a parka and a ghille suit and lock them in a box and you will probably find some pervert getting their jollies from it, so to speak. Heck, amybe literally, I don't know. But as a parent on a young girl, I have no intentions on wasting money on something this moronic. I'm just not going to make a big scene of it is all. I know it is a lot to ask, but whatever happened to acting with a touch of maturity and dignity when dealing with something offensive?

LoveThsLife 7 years, 1 month ago

I don't think the problem is just that they are being sold. There is a larger problem here and that is marketing things to children that sexualize them and are developmentally inappropriate. Parents, psychologist and other professionals that work with children have every right to voice concern when they feel like something has crossed the line. Of course they should be mature about it, but as adults if we don't express concern over something we see as potentially harmful who will?

Armored_One 7 years, 1 month ago

Never said to let it slide. Just said stop acting like a bunch of five year olds squabbling over a slice of pie...

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