One Third of Clothing for Young Girls is “Sexy”

A few weeks ago, I wrote about parents’ outrage over a “padded,” “push-up” swimsuit marketed to young girls by Abercrombie and Fitch.  Now, a disturbing study published in the journal Sex Roles reveals that this controversy may be downright unusual, given the immense proliferation of “sexy” clothing designed for young girls.

In the study, researchers examined 5,666 clothing items on the websites for 15 popular U.S.-based stores.  Of these, 69% were found to have “childlike” characteristics.  4% had only sexualized elements, 25% had both sexualizing and childlike characteristics and 4% were neither sexualized nor childlike.

I was a little confused about what “sexualized” and “childlike” meant for these researchers, so I checked out the study, which defines “sexualized” as anything clothing that:

(a) revealed a sexualized body part,

(b) emphasized a sexualized body part,

(c) had characteristics associated with sexiness

(d) had writing on it with sexualizing content

Sexualized body parts included the chest, waist, buttocks, and legs.

Clothing could be coded as having both “sexualized” and “childlike” components, such as a “miniskirt that had zebra print in tie-dye colors.”

The researchers proposed that “clothing can function as an additional way to socialize girls into a sexually objectified role.”  They added that young girls cannot consider the full implications of their buying choices, and that by wearing these “sexualized” or partially “sexualized clothes, they are acting out self-objectification before they are aware of the extent to which they learn to evaluate and criticize their bodies.  Although it’s hard to know at this point whether the girls who wear these clothes have lower self-esteem, spend more time worrying about their bodies, or have different career aspirations, these questions are crucial and should be examined.

While the researchers acknowledged that future research is needed, especially in examining young girls and parents as consumers (for example, is sexualized clothing seen as “cool” or “pretty,” or is it simply the norm?  Do parents limit what their children wear, and do they encounter conflicts with their children over clothing choices?), their findings are disturbing, considering how ubiquitous these “sexy” clothes seem to be.


Photo from Flickr.


Janine H.
Janine H6 years ago

Some days ago i have seen a story in TV about little children (especially girls) who were trained by their own parents for some "miss" votings. Seeing that and knowing that there are a lot more insane people who do this to (their own and others!!!) children is really horrible. Some people should not be able to have children or to "care" for. This is all so sick.

And this is so terrible. Always when i hear about terrible things it makes med sad, and i cannot understand how someone could do something terrible - hurt, rape or kill a person or animal. When i was a child this also happened to me... and surviving this is more terrible than not (parents and other may think different, but a victim?), living with all this pain... living with guilty feelings... full with hate for the own self
No one can understand, because most people cannot imagine this, cannot imagine how much it change. Some of them think, that this would not be so terrible, because all would make some sexual experiences, and so it would not matter if there were some without own interest or wish. This cruel and superficial society makes me sick.

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Keith E.
Keith E6 years ago

As a bloke, I find this (dressing baby girls sex) revolting, only pedophiles and wierds would think otherwise, if parents do dress little girls in sexy cloths, don't blame the wierdos for looking, its your responsibility to protect your child, not draw attention to them, all these baby girl fashion shows should be banned, especially under the age of 10 minimum, at least they might have a voice to protest or agree, personally I think its child abuse.

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

This kind of sexualized clothing is even made for infants--it's revolting and extremely disheartening. I will never dress my children inappropriately. Children should be protected and allowed to be carefree and oblivious to the adult world for as long as possible. Who knows what kind of damage it does to girls to sexualize them before they even understand the concept.

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

It's setting up pre-teen abuse victims of also becoming even MORE sexually victimized by peers and older teens.

Parents need to make sure they keep an eye on things.

Carmen Harris
Carmen Harris6 years ago

Girls and women of today seem to consciously or unconsciously fill a certain stereotype of how they should be. Parents should teach their kids about inappropriate women role models that girls or grown women look up to, and aspire to be. Why must a woman be dressed a certain way to be noticed? Media has a big say in how girls and women should dress as well. Think about all the tv programmes and movies you see: most women and young girls are dressed a certain way. Women and young girls shouldn't be feed all this stereotyped nonsense on how they should dress to be accepted. Women and young girls shouldn't feel that they have to be dressed a certain way or wear make up everywhere they go. I for one am yet to find an appropriate woman role model that doesn't fit the stereotype of how a woman should be or dress. Too many women and young girls are living the 'how women should be and dress' stereotype. I refuse to fit into that stereotype. What's wrong with not wearing make up and wearing baggy t-shirts and baggy jeans?

Tracey Onus
Tracey Onus6 years ago

I think tha designers of childrens clothing should have a working with childrens check. Because i think that a lot of them a child molesters disguised behind designing sexual clothing for children.

Petra Luna
Petra Luna6 years ago

The sexualized clothing is asking for pedophiles to lure at our children and take advantage of them.

Please keep supporting my petition, April's Law, to stiffen penalties on child sex predators on and offline.

Bobbie P.
Bobbie P.6 years ago

I'm 26 now and am ashamed to say that I aspired to dress sexy when I was only 7 or 8 I told my friend I wanted to be a slut when I grew up not knowing what it really meant and no my mom didn't know I was dressing that way because I would change after I left the house and as for other kids I would tend to get negative reactions to my clothing. however back than it would be a tube top and some hand cut shorts I can't believe retailers would purposely objectify children like that especially with the hormones in our food causing them to develop so much earlier than we did and all the things you hear about children experimenting sexually before they are even in there teens.

Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

I'm proud to say that I'm a teen, and while a few people in my school wear provocative clothing, I don't. I prefer comfortable stuff to fashion. :)

colleen prinssen
colleen p6 years ago

i guess expecting 7 year olds to wear clothing that looks like oversized 1 year old cloths from the 40's is "putting them down" and saying they are "little babies"
so giving them cool kid clothing in cooler, older person style gives them more substance, that we don't see them as rolly polly infants.