It is no surprise that immodest clothing intended as daywear for women is pervasively marketed in Western cultures. However, a new study released by Kenyon College researchers documents the trend of pushing elements of this type of styling into the category of girls' clothing. The study examined pre-adolescent clothing that is marketed online in the United States and found that around 30% of items had some type of sexualizing characteristic that would traditionally be considered inappropriate for daytime wear, especially for a girl whose figure had not yet matured. An online abstract of the article which is published by Springer in its journal Sex Roles states, "In [the researchers'] view, this has serious implications for how girls evaluate themselves according to a sexualized model of feminine physical attractiveness." Springer has provided us with a full text of the article which contains other scientific observations about elements of clothing for females, so look for more reports on the Fashion Belle site in the future that will expand upon this content.
Several other online sources, including a LiveScience article, report additional results from the same researchers in a yet unpublished study who asked adult volunteers to rate fifth-grade girls dressed in different outfits. "Adult volunteers viewed the sexualized version of the girl as less competent, less intelligent, less moral and less self-respecting." These studies reinforce what many of us already know, that clothing has a powerful effect upon public perception, even toward young girls.
Listen to lead researcher Dr. Sarah Murnen on the Kenyon College News Room explaining how women and girls are being defined by marketers as objects of the male gaze rather than as women worthy of respect.
How do we counteract the trend? We suggest choosing to dress yourself and your daughters modestly, whether on the street, at work or in a school classroom. With that choice, you and your girls will generally be treated as more competent, intelligent, moral and self-respecting than your immodestly-dressed peers.