Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

ELIZA Magazine

Spaghetti straps for preschoolers, ultra miniskirts for toddlers, halter-tops for tweens, that’s what you can find in the children’s section these days. The push to keep kids trendy has girls’ clothing getting skimpier, younger.
Such were the introductory lines of a video report/interview on Fox News today about younger children wearing adult fashions. Being the mother of a conservative young lady who doesn’t want to show off more than is proper and who could improve her clothing style just a bit (as could her mother), I clicked in to hear what Summer Bellessa, the interviewee, had to say. What I discovered was ELIZA Magazine, a new publication that features stylish, modest attire for young women.

According to Ms. Bellessa (and just about every mother I know), the fashion market for young girls currently has two categories: “modest and frumpy” and “hip and skimpy.” Actually, Ms. Bellessa used the word “skanky” to describe the latter grouping, but I think I will stick with “skimpy.” Anyway, the founder of ELIZA Magazine says that she would like to propose a third category for girls’ clothing: “hip and modest.” These would be styles that are current, yet more classic, more wearable, and showing less skin.

So, with the clothing market for girls ages 7-12 running near $179 billion annually, why hasn’t some smart retailer “gone modest” before now? Well, according to Ms. Bellessa, the explanation lies in simple economics: a market for “hip and skimpy” exists. If it didn’t, the “skanky” clothing would not sell. To quote Ms. Bellessa:
Consumers need to put their money where their mouth is. Only shop at places that offer tween clothes that are appropriate.
That used to be easier a few years ago than it is today. If I couldn’t find something for Katherine the Great at the local mall, I would turn to those tried and true catalog companies like L.L. Bean and Land’s End. No such safety net these days. Even they have jumped on the “trendy” bandwagon, doing things like re-cutting their jeans so that a person who is 5’4” in height must now purchase TALL pants in order for the rise to actually come anywhere near their waist, but I digress…

What is the solution? How do we help Ms. Bellessa in her effort to create a market for “hip and modest” clothing? She had two suggestions, both for older women:

1) set a better example by dressing more appropriately
2) encourage young adult women to dress more appropriately.

As much as I agree with these suggestions (which really boil down to one, that of being an effective role model), I think another idea should also be brought to the table: rethink the idea that if an individual isn’t allowed to dress any way they want, anytime, anywhere, it is an infringement on their freedom of expression; no, it is actually called good manners and deportment. I think American society could use a little more of that these days, don’t you?

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