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Women's Bodies

Target: Dressing Our Baby Girls Like Hootchie Mamas

So I went shopping for clothes for my 7-year old daughter, Maggie.  It's always been bad, but never in my 30 years of raising daughters have the clothes marketed for little girls been as unapologetically, in-your-face revolting and disturbing and sexualized as they are right now. 

Now available for purchase at your local Target store  (you know, that bastion of family values which has defended its pharmacists when they've refused to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills):

  • A little girls' black lace cami.  Doesn't every 7-year-old need at least one?


  • Pair it with some low-slung hip-rider jeans with sparklies:

  • Maybe an "A" for "Attitude" shirt?  Imagine, a girl who may just answer back!  But no worries, the shirt is pink, black satin bows on the shoulders, she's just teasing you.

  • For baby sister (this  in toddler sizes only), we've got a Harley Davidson shorts and tank top number:

  • How about some Bratz wear! 

  • Bratz clothes will help your girl to really feel her Bratz baby:

Note the belly shirt, thong diapie, designer bottle and stud earrings.

  • And what little girl wouldn't want a sexy nightie with sheer overlay!

  • This toddler T isn't from Target, but I thought it deserved an honorable mention:

  • Same with this faux fur toddler mini:

  • Don't forget the matching fun fur vest!


What kind of culture sells clothes like this for little girls barely past infancy?  Who designs these clothes?  Who buys them?  Where are the protests, the boycotts? Does anyone but me see a connection between this phenomena and the recent child molestation on demand sting in which 28 people were arrested for molesting babies as young as 18 months old live, on the internet?  What does it mean when a culture sells clothes like this for little girls, then says rape victims were asking for it by wearing whatever it was they wore?  And then won't sell them a morning-after pill if they need one?




15 thoughts on “Target: Dressing Our Baby Girls Like Hootchie Mamas

  1. As a mother of two boys, I am so amazed that mothers of girls would put them in the situation of making them overt sexual objects. Recently there was this thing at the high school about dress. Mothers of girls were in full support of their daughters being allowed to express themselves in their sexy clothes. I asked my son about it and the the boys whom he is associated with just regarded them as sluts and had nothing to do with them. They were not interested in them at all.I just found it quite sad. His female friends were those who expressed their individuality and had a common interest with his group whether it was certain role playing games or discussing things that concerned them. Of course they were regarded as the geeks. When I see teenage girls dressing like sluts, I just feel they have a very stupid mother who has not figured out her own sexuality, a mother who does not care, or a mother who wants her kid to get the top male in the school and this is the way to do it. When you have sons and you try to bring them up respecting themselves and other people, and then you find mothers dressing their girls like the they have to appeal to sex and not anything else, it is very disheartening. I am not saying that one should cover up like a victorian lady, but surely the expression of sensousness and life does not have to take the form that looks like total availability which I think is the message. Those boys who have not been taught to think or question the obvious message are the ones that take advantage of this sexuality, claiming she ashed for it because she dressed that way. It just perpetuates the patriarchy’s values. My opinion for what it is worth.

    Posted by rhondda | March 30, 2006, 9:27 pm
  2. Yeah, Carson Pirie Scott is the same way and has been for at least 3 years now, with Wal-mart not much better this year at all. I finally resorted to the boy’s department for my 8 year old daughter. Plain ole elastic waist cargo pants, in tan and in green, and a pair of black sweat pants. Tops are usually o.k. yet, from what I’ve seen. I can usually find solid-colored long and short sleeved plain tops in the girl’s department for her.

    I’m sure I’ll end up back in the boy’s department for shorts here in a few weeks though. But what about a bathing suit??!! Egads!

    Posted by LearningOne | March 30, 2006, 10:07 pm
  3. Finding tasteful unseductive clothing for my 4 daughters has always been a problem for me, especially when my girls were at the adolescent stage. It seems all the clothes for prepubescent girls are tight, slinky, revealing, and especially trying to find anything for them to wear to more dressy occasions has been a challenge. I’ve always sewn clothes for them myself for that reason.

    Another concern I’ve had has been dance recital costumes . I had 2 daughters in a dance class that offered jazz and modern dance as well as some ballet and tap, when they were 5 years old, basically only for the ballet…this was 18-20 years ago. The costumes for the other classes got more revealing and seductive every year, and at the recital my mother said to me, “I’m wondering how many grown men are out in this audience oggling at these little girls.” That was just the light I needed turned on as a young mom, just common sense. I knew I’d been feeling really weird seeing these little girls dressing and performing like strippers. I was just surrounded by moms who seemed to find it adorable. I later found a classical ballet academy with very appropriate costuming for their recitals.

    Moms just go with the flow and think it’s all so cute and harmless. I wonder how they’d react if they knew the thoughts going through some men’s minds toward their daughters…the really awful thing would be how many moms would be flattered…:shiver:

    Posted by NewDay | March 31, 2006, 3:21 pm
  4. That’s interesting what your mom said, New Day. Isn’t it funny (not ha-ha) how we tend not to just speak up and say, “Hey, the men are probably ogling the ballet dancers and they are 7 years old! Gah!” I’ve thought that all through my life in various situations with my daughters, when they were in dance classes or whatever. It’s like we are all supposed to pretend that what we know is happening, isn’t happening, and that’s what most women do, just pretend that our daughters are not being objectified.

    I hear whoever mentioned swim suits, I think you, Learning One. WHY are all of the swim suits for even *tiny* girls made with that French cut on the legs?

    As to teenage girls dressing hootchie, I don’t know. I hate to see it for all the reasons you list, Rhondda, but I also feel for the girls and for their moms. Once a girl goes that direction, it’s hard to convince her otherwise, so your choice is to come down hard and authoritarian, which I think is wrong headed from a feminist perspective and all sorts of perspectives, or to just try to keep talking, keep connecting, keep having good conversation about what girls and women are made to be “for” in the world.

    One of my daughters was a high school cheerleader for a year — UGH. Not only the costumes but the dancing! Instead of the sort of, oh, calisthenic-like stuff we had years ago, it’s all of this bumping and grinding.

    It’s just so clear the way the entire culture has been “raunched”, all the way into the schools and preschools for that matter.


    Posted by Heart | March 31, 2006, 4:52 pm
  5. Heart, I hear you. I did not mean to condemn the mothers who are trying to support their daughters in this society. I am sorry if you thought that. I know it is very hard for mothers of girls in this day and age. I was referring to the mothers that I knew who were supporting their girls as if they had the right to do whatever they wanted without consequences, well because… It is very important to be there for your kids no matter what. It is also important that they hear what they look like to the opposite sex.
    My son now has a girlfriend who defied her very religious family to go her own way. I find her incredible brave. She is wary of me and that is okay since I know her own mother disowed her, so why should she trust me. She did at her young age something I was to chickenshit to do at the same age. I think what I was trying to convey is that I would rather have my son with this brave young girl than with one who thought her clothes defined her and was a bubble head. I do not get that impression from you that you have bubble head kids.

    Posted by rhondda | March 31, 2006, 11:28 pm
  6. Yeah, I hear you, Rhondadd. There’s so freaking much mother-blaming that goes on, even among feminists, that I always want to make really sure nobody gets the idea that’s okay. I didn’t really think you were blaming moms, I totally got what you were saying. So don’t get me wrong! All sorts of banana peels in here. 🙂

    And go your son’s girlfriend.


    Posted by womensspace | March 31, 2006, 11:33 pm
  7. The neat thing about blogs is that one has to really define what one means and says. Rereading my first post, I saw how it could be interpreted. I am glad you called me on it. It is like a conversation in slow motion. blessings.

    Posted by rhondda | March 31, 2006, 11:46 pm
  8. What kills me is that little girls will always want this as long as their entertainment features this kind of clothing. I mean, it looks innocent as cartoon characters, but otherwise fun and interesting characters are dressed pretty sexually. Off the top of my head, Kim Possible, a Disney cartoon, has an exposed midriff.

    The girls aren’t thinking about anything other than imitation here. And so they beg their parents for this clothing, which leads to more pop culture using this clothing, and more little girls wanting it.

    One of my friends did a rant on this in comic book characters that might interest you —

    Posted by Ragnell | April 4, 2006, 12:13 am
  9. Thanks for addressing this topic — the pictures really added a lot. It’s one thing when a few moms get together and sigh over the awful clothing choices; it’s another when it gets out there on the blogosphere.

    My daughter is now 18. I thought things were awful all through her teens, in terms of there being almost no clothes she was willing to wear, but it has gotten far worse in those few short years. There used to be cute and practical girl clothes for the under-12 ages, but now the raunch is widespread there as well, just as you so eloquently described.

    My daughter is a petite young woman. If she wanted to send a message of “I’m available to guys and I’m all about their pleasure” message, she could go into any store and buy lots of clothes. However, since she has no interest in sending that message, she doesn’t have a lot of choices, especially in our area. She fits into petite women’s sizes but most of those clothes available around here are “little old lady” styles. We get almost besides ourselves with excitement when we find something that is cute, comfortable, suitable and doesn’t cost a lot — our choices are that limited most of the time.

    NewDay, I completely hear you about the dance recital thing. A few years ago, my daughter and I went to a recital and were completely shocked at how seductive and revealing the costumes and dances were for even the little girls. I ended up feeling so sad about what I was seeing that it made it difficult to enjoy how talented these girls and young women were. I’ve seen so many young women who were dancers become, in my opinion, overly focused on their bodies and their appearance in unhealthy ways.

    It is not easy raising girls today. It’s also not easy raising boys, for the same reasons Rhondda mentions.

    Posted by Rebecca | April 4, 2006, 2:51 pm
  10. Hey, Ragnell, thanks for those links! How bizarre, the bare midriff on “Kim Possible”! Yet another reason for me to despise Disney, gah. The rant about cartoon characters was so great, too. I really appreciated the insight about the bare midriff being an aid to envisioning teenagers (and younger :::rage:::) naked. I always thought the bare midriff thing had to do with the bellybutton piercing fad; what’s the point of piercing your belly button if nobody can see, you know? But very true that kids want to look like what the cartoon characters look like, which is why I wish we could have woman cartoon characters who mostly looked strong, powerful, not in the body-building way though, that gets us back to the bare midriff and the six packs. Argh.

    Rebecca, it IS frustrating having to try to find suitable clothes and feeling thrilled when you manage to find something. :/ When I was at Target I felt so sorry for a woman looking for clothes– she was really short and kind of round and kept vexing and sighing. Finally she said to me, “Where are the clothes for short round people? If it fits around, it is too short, if it’s the right length, it doesn’t go around.” Which is a different problem but related. We’re so regulated and disciplined that way, by what is available to us. I always feel enraged when I think about the fact that until very recently, there just plain were no clothes for large women. I remember a friend of my mom’s when I was growing up– she was really, really big and if she didn’t make her own clothes, there just weren’t any clothes. All that is is the surrounding culture saying, “You WILL look like this or else.” Same thing with these kids’ clothes, really– unless you are really stubborn and diligent, you end up buying some stuff you don’t really like just because there’s nothing else to buy.


    Posted by womensspace | April 4, 2006, 6:32 pm
  11. Right with you on the sexualized clothing. My daughter, at age 8, is a size 14 (’cause she’s tall for her age). I’ve been fighting the “appropriate wear for her age” battle since she was 4 and a size 7. I have even written to several retail chains to complain about it, and one has (sort of) responded, by having several different smocked dresses available in size 14. I’ve been haunting the used clothing stores in the hopes of finding “vintage” high-rise jeans, with some limited success. I’ve also written to friends in Europe, who are sometimes able to send me stuff. Oh, and what’s the deal with the sexualized underwear? I was looking for cotton briefs recently, and finally found some not-thong, not-bikini ones – why on earth should 8-year olds wear thongs?
    But right now the majority of her wardrobe is boys’ sweats, some jeans, tourist T-shirts, some skorts, some crop pants, and some dresses. I’m dreading having to shop for summer clothes. BTW, I usually get her a Speedo one-piece T-back to swim in.

    Posted by Lee | April 10, 2006, 6:07 pm
  12. As a clothing designer, having designed for girls clothes, I must start this off by saying -somebody’s buying it.

    I never wanted to design little girls clothes because it’s boring to me; however, having designed, in my past, for both Target and Walmart girls, I can say the pushy sales people and the pushy buyers (who work for these stores and buy the clothes to put on the floor) are very specific as to what they want. The bottom line is that they want money. People purchasing these things, brings in money. As disgusting as it is, I found (mostly males) those in charge -the brand managers, company owners, merchandisers, vice presidents, etc. and anybody else who felt the need to put their 2 cents into the design process constantly saying to me and the other designers- make it edgier, make it (and I quote) “sluttier” – that’s what people want! That’s what sells. I personally, don’t think half the clothes you showed up there were that bad. A sheer overlay, is just that an overlay – laid over something that is not sheer. Meaning you can’t see anything. A fur vest is not offensive to me. The skirt on the other hand was just tacky. And the jeans with the “sparkles” on them? Why on earth is that offensive? Girls like sparkly things. Trust me, it is far worse than this. I say this, if people weren’t buying it, it would not be there. I don’t support it, I think it’s tacky, if nothing else; but the designs reflect what the stores are asking for. The stores want to make money. This, apparently, is what people are spending their money on. All I’m saying is if you don’t want it, don’t buy it. Stores cater to the customer. The industry is driven by money. Period. If people stop supporting it, it will dwindle.

    Keep in mind, though, that girls are gonna be girls, kids are gonna be kids, teens are gonna be teens, and if you keep the reigns to tight, it’s gonna backfire. Watchout, your girls, compared to the other so called “sluts” as you say (and you calling other girls sluts is just as bad as teaching your boys who grow into men, that it’s okay to refer to girls “sluts”) might be the same ones that sneak clothes and make up into bags out of the house and change once they’re out of your sight. We done lots of field research. The kids with the most strict parents are usually the worst ones. Those quickest to say, “Oh no, but not my kids,” are generally the ones that need to be disillusioned the most.

    Posted by A designer | April 24, 2006, 3:13 pm
  13. I couldn’t believe it when I came across this blog. I have so many friends who think it is cute to dress their baby girls like sexy women. I believe teaching girls to be strong and independent will allow them to be sexy at the appropriate age and in the right situation. I found out I was having a girl in 2002 after 2 sons. I was shocked and saddened when I started looking around at the clothing choices for girls. I decided then that I would not dress my beautiful, lovely gil like that. I wanted to do something that gave girls a choice so I started my own t-shirt company. Just wanted to let like minded moms out there know that there is an alternative. You can see my shirts at and buy them for any Fearless girls you know. We need to turn the tide.

    Posted by Kathy Kelley | July 6, 2006, 10:18 pm
  14. I could say a lot on this subject, but I do think it is pretty sick, the way some mothers really tart up their children. I could rant, but there are already rants. A great read, thanks a lot.

    Posted by Insectstore | January 7, 2007, 10:25 pm
  15. I REALLY appreciate this article, and I love the whole website, btw. Anyhow, I thought I would mention that I wrote an article a few months ago on this very subject for my senior portfolio (highschool). It was about child beauty pageants. I pointed out the evils of dressing children in such ways, and I thought that this post of yours really corroborated what I said, which made me feel a lot better. For a while I thought I was the only one who noticed this grotesque exposure of children in our society, but fortunately I see that I am not. There definitely DO need to be boycotts of these kinds of clothing, and there also need to be people in the media speaking out against this trash! Are parents asleep? They need to wake up and see that their children are being made merchandise for pedophiles!

    Posted by Katherine Smith | March 17, 2007, 12:19 am

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