Goodbye training bras, hello lingerie: Retailers target tween girls

Goodbye training bras, hello lingerie: Retailers target tween girls

I just found out from Businessweek that I am totally lame, because I purchase my  daughter's training bras at Target, my retail mecca. Apparently, I'm woefully behind in the times, both in what I buy my daughter and where I buy it. Lots of girls are going straight for bras, not the little-girl-let's-ease-into-this-slowly kind,  and from a variety of retail stores that are far sexier than my neighborhood Target.

How sad is it that I find out from BUSINESSWEEK of all publications that I'm behind the times?

ID-100126876In the article "Forget Training Bras. Girls Are Buying Lingerie," Businessweek specifically reported that training bras bought at Target are not the way of the world. Retailers are targeting tweens when it comes to sales of lingerie, and specifically girls bras. Apparently there's big business in those little (or not so little) breasts. Sales of lingerie for younger women are a $1.5 billion-a-year business for Victoria’s Secret’s Pink line, which also woos girls.

Victoria's Secret had tween/teen idol Justin Bieber perform at their fashion show featuring Pink merchandise, which is supposed to be a collegiate line but increasingly popular among the high school and even middle school set. Urban Outfitters is expanding its lines of intimates and American Eagle has its Aerie line of lingerie. The Businessweek article quoted Jennifer Foyle, Aerie’s senior vice president of global merchandising, as saying, “We really use the word ‘pretty’ more than ‘sexy’—that’s really not the Aerie girl,” she says.zebra-print-sports-bra-justice

Even tween retailer Justice is getting into the act with a wide variety of bras, including a tie-die bra and panty set for $28.90, a zebra print sports bra for $21.90 and red leopard print padded for $22? (And really, matching set? I don't have that many matching sets, and when I do manage to put that combo together, it's probably a special occasion. Very special.)

The idea of my slowly developing sweet baby girl in the red leopard bra makes me curl into the fetal position and rock back and forth.

Once I stopped, I remembered that the article quoted a consultant who said that tween girls are "aiming to imitate the lingerie styles worn by celebrities seen on the Web." And yup, you know you've entered the world of tweens when media habits and underwear preferences intersect and it doesn't involve Disney Princess or Dora panties.

My tween isn't asking for fun, flashy bras, so I'll keep shopping at Target until she asks for something else, and I'll worry about that when I have to, but not now.

I have issues with this on multiple fronts, including both the sexy, adult styles (I know the retailers saying they're not going for sexy, but c''mon) and the cost. Kids aren't cheap, and who the heck wants to spend more than $20 on what is essentially a training bra where "training" means prepping for Victoria's Secret fashion show. I worry that this is a sign of the oversexualization of our girls far sooner than many, myself included, would like. I also think the idea of cute matching sets is maybe setting them up for disappointment when they are adults who are just happy to have clean items and the idea of a matching set is laughable.

Is this part of puberty hitting earlier? I understand that girls want to have fun, that a brightly colored bra does not say anything about the morals of the wearer, that lingerie is more visible in both fashion and media than it used to be and that making it fun can make girls more comfortable or even confident about their changing bodies.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, Good Morning America featured a mom who just LOVES to buy her 9 year-old lingerie from Victoria's Secret. She said, "I even like that fact that they are marketing toward a younger audience. What’s wrong with having fun, bright-colored underwear? Girls change all the time in front of each other — for sports or recreational activities that require it, at slumber parties or camp, for the school play … no one wants to be the girl with the ugly underwear.”"

The blogosphere really jumped all over that, including a dad of a 3 year-old wrote this awesome letter about why it's wrong. I am on the side of the dad who wrote this letter and I could not agree more with his statement: "I want my daughter to know that she is perfect the way she is; I want my daughter to know that no matter what underwear she is wearing it does not define her."

What do you think?

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Filed under: Media, Parenting

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