Emily Yoffe talks with readers about trampy 'tween styles.

Emily Yoffe talks with readers about trampy 'tween styles.

Emily Yoffe talks with readers about trampy 'tween styles.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Aug. 30 2007 7:21 PM

Dressed Down

Emily Yoffe talks with readers about trampy 'tween styles and modest back-to-school alternatives.

Slate writer Emily Yoffe was online Thursday, Aug. 30, to take readers' questions about inappropriate back-to-school clothes for 'tweens. An unedited transcript of the chat follows.

Emily Yoffe: Hello, I'm Emily Yoffe from Slate.com. I recently did a story about the trampy fashions I found while back to school shopping with my daughter, an experience many of you have had.

_______________________

Advertisement

From the intro: "While not forcing your daughter to dress as a Harriet Miers Jr." Fie! Ms. Miers, while not exactly fashion-forward, was dressed no worse than the average D.C.-area professional. I think you meant to say Janet Reno, whose personal style inexplicably has been adopted by many stores catering to tall women. Now there's a crime for you.

Emily Yoffe: One year I went as Harriet Miers for Halloween (the eye liner, the oversize, sad suit), so she has stuck in my daughter's mind. Robin Givhan actually did a piece praising Janet Reno's sticking with her total lack of style.

_______________________

Decatur, Ga.: I have an almost 10 year old who has been eyeing those push-up bras. Somehow the matching bra/undie and panties set will no longer do in her mind. I have caught her in the mirror squeezing her "buds" together commenting that they are growing. We are definitely in scary territory.

Advertisement

Emily Yoffe: Every little girl who is developing is going to have excited/scared/thrilled reactions to what's happening. My objection is when the stores say, "Here's a push-up wonderbra for those breast buds of yours!"

_______________________

Russellville, Ark.: I just wanted to say how great it was to finally see there are still good parents out there. I am 25 years old and I feel that I dress my age. When I see 11 year old girls dressing the same way I do (high heels, make-up, the works), it's shocking. When I was 11, I looked 11. I feel that nowadays parents try to be friends to their children instead of being parents, and that's one reason these children do not look like children anymore. It was refreshing to see some parents still value their children's youth, even if the children do not anymore.

Emily Yoffe: Thank you. I do wonder about who is buying the trampy clothes for the kids. Is it mothers who can't stand the fights in the dressing room and just give up? Or do mothers enjoy seeing these girls look sexy?

Advertisement

_______________________

Wisconsin: What is the right age to let my daughter start wearing thongs? She wants them now and she's 13. Does anyone else have this problem?

Emily Yoffe: Why would a 13 year old want a thong? Does she want it to be seen in her low-rise jeans? I don't know what the right age for thongs is, but I'd say 13 isn't it.

_______________________

Advertisement

Chester, Va.: Why did you suggest in your article, Lolita's closet, that the Baby Phat Logo implied something inappropriate? The logo is actually a memorial to Kimora's cat, Max, who has passed away. The line, though every piece is not appropriate for a pre-pubescent girl, suggests confidence, appeal and sensuality. I suppose the cat is very sleek, and most cats are symbolic of womanhood, if that is your meaning, but I certainly did not think it was sleazy.

Emily Yoffe: I had a lot of people criticize my criticism of the Baby Phat logo. As you yourself say in its defense, it suggests "appeal and sensuality." I don't want my 11 year old to project that. "Phat" means many things, but one of its primary meanings is a fine looking woman. The cat logo is no "Hello Kitty"—to me it looks like something that could go on a cat house. I wouldn't want to see their tee shirt on a girl—but many people disagree with me.

_______________________

Austin, Texas: I agree 'tween clothing is hard to find, but the question I have is this: With obesity being a big issue in our children, where do you find clothes that fit these obese children? My child is overweight and we have tried everything to get her to lose some weight and have not had any luck; then we go to buy school clothes this year and the only place we can find plus size is JC Penneys, and the styles are just not very good and the stores do not carry much. I am confused --if there are so many obese children, where are their parents shopping?

Advertisement

Emily Yoffe: I don't know where to shop for large size kids. Any readers have suggestions?

_______________________

New York: I would like to agree with you, and offer another layer to this. Wait until she's in her early twenties and starting her first real job, because (as a 25-year-old myself and working in my first corporate job) I have found extreme difficulty in finding appropriate clothing for my age while maintaining office appropriateness. Only a few labels seem to cater to the body types typical of women my age while also providing corporate wear that doesn't make us look like matronly older women or embarassingly immature and trashy. Those that do are generally very expensive. It's a fine line to walk at any age, I suppose.

Emily Yoffe: I heard from many women your age who have the same complaint—where are the stylish, reasonably-priced clothes that present an appropriate office image? Manufacturers, there's a lot of money to be made on this!

_______________________

Austin, Texas: I just bought the hideous Old Navy top. I think it is cute over jeans with ballet slippers or Converse. My mom thinks it's adorable too!

Emily Yoffe: This is the mud-colored top I said was the worst looking thing I saw on our outing. I thought it looked like a lavatory attendant smock. But on the right person, anything can look good!

_______________________

Weymouth, Mass.: Comment: Regarding 'tween fashions, you might do well to check out The Children's Place, a Disney-owned store that sells sensible, attractive children's wear up through the 'tween set. Reasonable prices and great deals on sale merchandise.

Emily Yoffe: I have shopped there and found nice things at good prices. But my daughter has just outgrown it. Didn't know it was owned by Disney—I guess that explains the "High School Musical" wear.

_______________________

Harrisburg, Pa.: In reference to the article titled "Lolita's closet" I have to say that I hate it when the word "lolita" is used in a bad, trashy way. In Japan, lolita is a really cute and popular style. Take this picture for example. This is an example of gothic lolita. Not trashy at all. And then this: sweet lolita. How can you complain?

Emily Yoffe: I think everyone understands the Lolita reference is to the Nabokov book about a pedophile. Don't know if the Japanese are getting that reference. (And the sweet Lolita is horrible!)

_______________________

Washington: I think whoever invented the write-something-across-the-caboose for pants and shorts (in particular) owes us all an apology.

Emily Yoffe: I'll say!

_______________________

Martin, Tenn.: How can you convince a 13-year-old that ultra-low-rise and low-rise jeans look trashy when they are literally the only jeans in the juniors department at every single store you go in? She knows that her rear shows when she bends over "just like all the girls" so she picks long shirts "just like all the girls," but it's so the norm we can't find anything else. It's ridiculous. The only place mid-rise jeans can be found is in the "old ladies' department."

Emily Yoffe: This is what makes finding decent clothing so hard—you have to really search for it and it's not what the other girls are wearing. I heard from one grandmother who said she remembered shopping for her daughter's clothes for back to school in a single afternoon at the local department store. Now taking her granddaughter shopping is a multi-day event across many stores.

_______________________

Americus, Ga.: Schools in Americus, Ga. and Sumter County have gone to school uniforms this year.

Emily Yoffe: I can see the appeal of the school uniforms. Although it would be just as good if it was expected that kids simply looked like they were dressed appropriately for school. Oh, I have become such an old fogey!

_______________________

Kansas City, Mo.: As a middle school assistant principal, agree 110 percent with this article—I can't believe what some parents will let their children come to school in. Some look like street walkers—it's no wonder some of our boys have so much trouble concentrating!

Emily Yoffe: So do school administrators send kids home? Do they send out notices saying what's appropriate? And you raise a good point about the boys. Don't parents realize the damage they're doing to both sexes by letting their little girls run around like streetwalkers?

_______________________

Hartford, Wis.: Your views on clothing brands such as "baby phat," and your daughter's for that matter, are completely out of whack. I don't see any way possible for her to look at that shirt and say "disgusting." Oh my God, i think your style has no sense at all. You're far too protective, and psychotic, about clothing choices for your daughter, and obviously it's starting to rub off on her. We don't need any more of you crazy mothers running around in the world. Please blog about something more relevent to today's culture.

Emily Yoffe: People have asked who are the mothers who let their children wear provocative clothes and what are they thinking. This is what they're thinking.

_______________________

Takoma Park, Md.: Emily—I love your columns. You're a hoot. Alas, I thought the era of prosti-tots would end quickly. How do these kids make it past dress code at school? Please tell me they still have dress codes!

Emily Yoffe: Thanks. I know my daughter's school does have a dress code—the shorts or shirts have to be as long as the arms, and no skimpy tops.

I was told by a friend whose kids go to a celebrity-filled private school in LA that the administration sent out a letter asking the mothers to come to school events dressed more appropriately!

_______________________

Anonymous: Limited Too is part of 'tween Brands, Inc., which recently launched a new "concept" store called " Justice" (cutesy play on "just us") that is way more toned-down in the sex department. My 12-year-old loves the clothes and she is very self-conscious, not vampy/trampy and is way stylin' in their stuff. They are going into suburban "strip malls" so as not to compete with their main mall-counterpart, Limited Too. Only 400 or so in the U.S. at the moment, but big plans for more. Of course, here in Colorado we are a suburban strip mall so there are four already within 30 minutes of my house. Clothes are very reasonably priced, for the most part (below $20 for most items). My 15-year-old would wear their stuff if she wasn't so bloody brand-conscious. ... Bad side of the store is that it sells make-up parties, accessories-ad-nauseum and candy in the store. Loved the Harriet Miers line! Funny kid!

Emily Yoffe: A couple of people have mentioned the Justice line as being more decent looking. I'll have to check it out. As far as make up and candy—that's when you just have to repeat, "No, you're not getting that."

_______________________

Worcester, N.Y.: Oh my god, I think you and I hit all the same stores ... fortunately, my 11-year-old is pretty modest. She won't even buy those sweat pants with the sayings across the butt ... we managed to find one pair at Penney's that only had something down the leg in the front. Actually, we got pretty lucky at Penney's of all places ... normal jeans, normal shirts ... we even found skirts that came down to the top of her knees (her preferred length)...

She does like a few sparkly items on her shirts, but not too much, and Penney's seemed to have just the right mix. Funniest thing, she liked a dress at Old Navy that turned out to be an official "school uniform." I guess I have a future Supreme court Justice type on my hands ... actually she's a NASA wannabe—talk about frumpy, they wear "jumpsuits" for god's sake. But, hey I'm not complaining ... she's modest and I love that about her. Loved your article, I thought I was the only mother who was appalled at what was out there. Take care.

Emily Yoffe: Thank you. Yes, if you don't want your daughter to wear "Juicy" et. al. it really helps if you don't have to go through dressing room melt-downs when you say no. Bravo for modest girls.

_______________________

Selah, Wash.: u r such a deiscarise [ed: disgrace?] to girls maybe some girls like push up bras and want to grow up faster so y dont u get a life

Emily Yoffe: Another mother who buys this stuff for her daughter.

_______________________

Fairfax, Va.: Thanks for writing your sensible article! I really hate the trashy clothes sold to and (sadly) worn by young girls. The sexy underwear for little girls is especially appalling. I can't figure out why their mothers allow these choices. Like your daughter, my own child (age 19) wants to dress decently but not like Harriet Miers or a burqa-clad Muslim. She is a modest person who dislikes tight fitting or otherwise revealing clothing. She likes stores which cater to athletes (REI and Title Nine, for example) because they respect women. Their casual clothing is stylish without being sexually provocative.

Emily Yoffe: That's a good tip. But I have some questions from young women wondering where to buy decent, but stylish office wear. Anybody have any suggestions?

_______________________

San Diego: School shopping with my 15-year-old at the mall, we went into Forever 21, and they were blasting a song with the repeated lyrics "gotta get in those pants" and had T-shirts for sale with slogans like "Got Beer?" ... we left.

Emily Yoffe: I have gone into stores that we just run from. Maybe it's worth it to talk to the manager and tell them why you won't spend your money there...but probably not. "Got Beer" for a kid, amazing!

_______________________

New York: I don't quite understand why companies are marketing these low rise jeans to girls in the 'tween set ... anyone who reads any fashion magazine has seen high rise jeans skyrocket into popularity again. Do they just want these girls to be slutty and unfashionable?

Emily Yoffe: Please, please tell me high rise jeans are making a return. I can't be soon enough.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: For the mid-20s professionals: New York & Company, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor (I think Ann Taylor Loft is geared toward a slightly older demographic). They can be pricy still, but if you're lucky you can catch things on clearance or end-of-season sales.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks for the advice. Good tips.

_______________________

Sydney, Australia: To be honest we don't have this problem as much over here—all public schools in Australia have a school uniform. Now, I don't mean a button-down shirt and tie or anything so formal, but a comfortable very casual uniform, like a polo shirt and pants for the boys and much the same for the girls. Sure, the kids have a bit of a heart attack about it all, but it certainly solved the problems of what kids were wearing to school everyday. Of course there is still the weekend, but this issue does not seem as big here.

Emily Yoffe: It actually sounds very appealing.

_______________________

Davis, Calif.: What about boys and their baggy pants? They try to look like thugs because it's the fashion. It's disgusting.

Emily Yoffe: I have heard from some mothers of boys who say they have to fight against tee shirts that say such things as "I'm an Idiot" or "Try and Make Me." Overall, though, boys clothes aren't as objectionable—they just look like a sea of blue and green to me.

_______________________

Long Island, N.Y.: Welcome to the world of an 11-year-old. I had the same problem. I solved the problem by taking my daughter shopping for one or two outfits at a time. We used the whole two months of summer to enjoy each other's company. Lowering the expectation and stress of quantity, you help lower the stress level. The other advantage is that you and your daughter have more quality time, and she learns where to get what she likes. My daughter was having a hard enough time with her changing body, she didn't need me to rub it in. Take time to read the list of rules from the school and then bring them with you for these short shopping trips. I have also found that doing this job well in advance also helps with the buyer's remorse. I try to give my daughter a budget. After a few trips, she wanted more clothes than her budget would allow. She then went back to the store with a very expensive pair of jeans and returned them herself without me asking her. She picked out two pairs of cheaper jeans and had $40 left over for more clothes. We only have one more week until school. All our shopping was done during the summer before the big rush, and now she is giving advice to her classmates about bargin shopping!

Emily Yoffe: Sounds like a great solution. There is something stressful about the "big shopping trip." We often reach a point that I think of as When Clothes Attack, when the clothes end up in a pile on the floor and there are tears (usually from me).

_______________________

Early 20s office worker: I bought some nice office clothes off of oldnavy.com The online shop seems to have (or at least had when I was shopping) many more office seperates then the actual brick-and-mortar stores do.

Emily Yoffe: More advice for the young cubicle dweller. Thanks.

_______________________

Killeen, Texas: I have an 11-year-old daughter, and I agree completely with your article. Finally somebody who spoke out. Let the kids be kids as long as they can. Weren't we told that the people we attract depends on what we wear? We complain about predators and sexual offenders, but on the other hand the clothing companies only offer skimpy outfits? What message does that deliver? I wish that all mother of young girls would boycott buying those clothes. Hurray for you and thanks again.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks so much. Yes, if no one bought this stuff, they wouldn't keep making it. It's been interesting to hear from some mothers who think I'm way off base.

_______________________

Washington: I'm going to go out on a limb and agree with you on the cat shirt. It's ... a euphamism. And it looks like a euphamism. I did a double-take when I saw it in your article! But maybe my mind is just in the gutter permanently from too many John Waters movies...?

Emily Yoffe: This is a reference to the stylized pink cat on the Baby Phat logo. I agree that it's not meant to evoke innocence.

_______________________

Washington: Decent but stylish office wear: Try consignment shops and thrift stores. Also, if you're short, look for miniskirts and capris: On me (five feet tall), they are the perfect length.

Emily Yoffe: Another good suggestion on grown-up wear.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Old Navy has different cuts of jeans this year, including "The Sweetheart," which is high-rise ... so they might be coming back in style.

Emily Yoffe: I can't wait. And yes, high rise eventually had to come back into style.

_______________________

Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone for your prespectives and suggestions for shopping for a 'tween—and for your own professional looking clothes. Happy back to school!