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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.