French Lingerie for Children: Is it Really That Different than American Clothing?

Family Matters on 08.18.11
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Screen Shot Credit: Jours Apres Lunes

Yesterday, I saw a headline about a French company making adult style lacy lingerie for children ages four to twelve years old, and like most parents I wondered what kind of company would do such a thing. How far must these companies go? I had to investigate so I found the web site and looked for these dreadful items. To my own shock, I wasn't all that horrified. I know I'm taking a stance drastically different than most of the world so just hear me out before you start to freak out and think that I'm supportive of racy lingerie for little girls.

Jours Apres Lunes
Photo Credit: Jours Apres Lunes

The first thought that came to mind was are they wearing bathing suits or underwear? Sure, there was some frilliness on the edges of the pieces, but we weren't talking sheer lacy see-through lingerie here like the headline implied. And if you've ever spent any time around little girls, you know that they love anything frilly so having a little ruffle on the edge of their underwear doesn't seem that outrageous. Just look at the gazillions of dollars Disney has been making off of frilliness with their princess collections. Even my friends who swore they'd never let their kids get into that stuff, are into it up to their necks now. I had been thinking about writing a post on the topic, but I wasn't sure I could really come up with enough to say about it considering my lack of utter shock.

But when I was getting dressed this morning, I was tuned into the Today Show who was discussing the topic with advertising heavyweight Donny Deutsch (a father of two girls) and another expert. They were mortified by the pictures and how they were turning these girls into sexual objects and the inevitabilty that their French ways would soon invade America, and I felt like they were being over-reactive considering the clothes I see on a lot of American children. The photos on the French web site do show the models jumping on beds and lounging on chaises with big sunglasses, pearls around their necks and big bouffant hair-dos. It's certainly not the most innocent way the photos could have been shot, but there isn't a "come hither" look in their eyes either. I see girls in bathing suits portrayed the same way in the U.S. This is the second time in recent weeks that the French have come under fire for the way they portray young girls in fashion. I don't really think they are trying to sexualize the kids so much as they look at the photos as art without the intention of them being sexual.

Claesens Kids
Photo Credit: Claesens USA

I find the above photo from another European underwear company to be much more inappropriate than any of the photos on the French site as it appears these two young children are a couple. That being said, they make amazing under garments for men, women, and children and I wouldn't not buy them because of the photo. In America there are pageants in which little girls dress up in bikinis and high heels and load make-up onto their faces. I'm sure Europeans are horrified by this aspect of our culture. In France, they shoot fashion photography regardless of age. We must also remember that the Europeans are much more comfortable with their bodies than Americans. Their beaches are topless and it's not about ogling over boobs. That's just the norm in their culture. And honestly, my kids like to play dress up with jewelry and high heels and it usually happens in the morning when we are trying to get everyone dressed and they are in their underwear, but there is nothing sexual about it. The company is trying to sell underwear, and it only really becomes sexual when someone chooses to look at it that way. Perhaps there should be a law that children can't model underwear at all.

Kate Mack Frilly Bikini

Photo Credit: Kate Mack/A Child's Closet

VS.

 Jours Apres Panty

Photo Credit: Jours Apres Lunes

But besides the photos, I think that the under garments they are trying to sell aren't any worse, maybe actually even better, than what I see on American shelves. To me a full coverage panty with a little ruffle on the edges is much better than a skimpy low rise bikini from The Gap. My two-year old does not need a low rise anything. Why is a polka dot bikini swimsuit with ruffle edging considered adorable (which I agree with and I know a lot of you do too) in the U.S. but a ruffle edge panty is considered sexualization? And they're wearing the bathing suit in public for everyone to see. The camisoles and bra-lets they are selling are no different than the ones I see on the store shelves around here. Maybe the difference is that everyone's calling it lingerie and not underwear.

The real kicker for me was the next story I caught on the Today Show this morning which was about back-to-school outfits. When host Natalie Morales asks about the trends for this season, expert Bobbi Thomas responds, "I'm so excited about this segment. Fashion knows no age. There is so much available that you can literally layer your child to look exactly like you!"

Seriously? Wasn't the outrage over the lingerie segment about making children look like adults? But now let's tell you how to dress your child like an adult. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I think it's important that we take a close look at how we really dress our own children before we start criticizing others.

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