Friday, 21 April 2006

Too much, too young

I went to my local Primark the other day (the Hammersmith branch is one of the best in London, apparently; I maintain that our TK Maxx is one of the best too, but so far I’ve failed to persuade those stubborn people who insist on going there on a Saturday; you know who you are) to see what was on offer that day (no two days are the same in that store. Blink and you’ve missed it – the thing you noticed yesterday but were silly and didn't buy there and then).

Upstairs, in the lingerie department (I dream of hearing that word – lingerie – pronounced correctly once by a Brit), I suddenly came face to face with a display of brassieres (did you know that in French the word brassière means an infant’s vest?) for very young girls. They were tiny; they were cute, they were padded and they were half-cups. I was shocked (although not as shocked as the time when I absent-mindedly touched a gel-filled bra in some other store). Apparently, Primark reflects current trends and always offers its customers what they want, which means that there is market for 28AA sexy bras. What sort of message are they giving? Why do mothers allow their daughters to be sexualized so young, in such a way? No wonder 16-year-old girls want to have surgical breast enlargement? It’s preposterous. How big-breasted should a 12-year-old be? How much cleavage should a young teenager show?

Of course, girls can’t wait to look womanly. I remember pestering my mother for a Teenform bra I’d seen in a magazine ad, around, er, 196… I had hardly anything to put in it, but, wow!, it felt great. Later, in the mid-’70s, like all good feminists, I burned my bra. Actually, I got rid of it for another reason: I was travelling between Paris and Nice a lot. You couldn’t undress on the train and wearing a bra while lying down on a hard berth was rather uncomfortable. So I didn’t on those nights and soon stopped wearing it completely. Nowadays, of course, I don’t need one, and I don’t miss it.

But ‘revenons à nos moutons’ (more French for you, folks!): this is a blah blah I found on a website dedicated to the garment in question:
Trying to find a bra for a teenager can be a daunting thing to do, I know that myself from trying to find bras for my daughter. The "Tiny Whitey" style of bras are almost gone and teenagers are wanting something more stylish and sexy but parents can't really spend too much as the bra may only be worn for a few months, then another size is needed!! Plus there's the fact that most mothers don't want their teenage daughter wearing a £40 see-through La Perla!!

We've put together a list of stylish and affordable bras for teenagers. Some of the bras below are cleavage enhancing which can be an important thing for teenagers; you may not want your daughter wearing a bra like this, just use your discretion.
Wise words, but if those sexy bras weren’t produced there wouldn't be any problem, would there? Sad.



  1. That is pretty sick. As a child protection atty I see how early sexualization plays out in abuse cases. What I don't understand is this: I hear that people and teens and children are all becoming increasingly obese. So why do they all need falsies? I don't know about others, but a few extra pounds on me means an extra cup size. Yes, I realize my comment misses the point of your post. But think about it. Strange isn't it?
    Next all of our chubbiness will be buying bustles for our big bums, too!

  2. One thing with the moderation, commenters don't know if they're first. Hmm. I wonder.

    All I wanted to say was what a thrill buying the first bra was for me. On a day out in Worcester if memory doesn't trick me, a real moment of bonding between mother and me. Something I've remembered through the years.

    I can't have that moment with my daughters, however, because all the infant underwear they've been in since forever, is already mildly sexualised and bra-esque. I hasten to add I didn't purchase them: that's generous and well meaning relatives who frequent Primark for you!

    Yes I'm annoyed. Yes I could go on and on and on about the destruction of childhood, but I'd probably just sound like an out-of-touch fuddy duddy whose opinions are worth nothing. Instead I just wash the garments and refuse to get involved.

    No half cup cleavage enhancement though. I think, I hope, I'd draw the line before we got near to there.

  3. I've got an idea. Let's all grow up as fast as we want to (and are pushed to), then, at about age 40 when we realise we get to be a woman for a REALLY, REALLY long time compared to being a child, we should be able to have 5 years or so of childhood back again then, when we can properly appreciate it.

    Seriously, though, my main worry would be not the kids prancing about to Britney Spears among themselves, but that out in the adult world the dress-up and behaviour may get them into situations they are not emotionally mature enough to handle. At school I was fat and wore National Health specs. (At 12 I had 34C breasts, but no one wanted to do anything much with them, luckily.) By 14 (well, this was 30 years ago) about a quarter of the girls at my school had boyfriends. By 16 I was looking like a freak for not even having had a slow dance at the school disco. So at 17 I went on a trip with 30 other sixth-formers from across the country and I acquired a holiday romance who happened to live near me and so we carried on going out. But although I liked him, and his friends, and it made a change having boys around, I used to get annoyed and impatient when he wanted to interrupt the chatting and laughing with kissing. When he set off for uni five momths later I realised I had to tell him he wasn't the one, and he was really upset and I messed up his first term for him, which you can never get back. All because I rushed into 'having a boyfriend' to fit in. Two years later I met someone I really liked and by 19 was properly ready to deal with the emotional mess of that, LOL. I still regret the first one. He was a nice lad.

  4. Oh my. Glad I have a son & not a daughter, although I'll have issues of my own soon enough won't I?

    And so glad, J, that you can't hear me pronounce lingerie. Or anything else in French, for that matter!

  5. This worries me too. I can just see some disgusting defense attorney arguing that "she was wearing very suggestive undergarments" in a molestation case.

    My first bra was a joke. It supported nothing because I had nothing to support. It was composed of two flat triangles of the thinnest nylon held together with 1/2" elastic all around. The inside edges of each triangle were trimmed with lace. I guess bra makers feel the need to make training bras look like real adult bras (maybe because that's what young girls want), but mine wasn't the "push-up" type. That's carrying it a little far.

  6. Things have changed soooo much...
    What happened to training bras!?! I clearly remember returning from Summer break in order to begin the seventh grade and all of the little girls were wearing trainers and I had on an undershirt! Ahahahaha.
    Traumatized and a bit dramatic, I went straight home and cried...I can't go back to school until you gt me bra, I just can't. The next day I was back in school...still wearing an undershirt!
    I have nothing to put in a bra NOW, well enough then...*sigh*

  7. CS, you’re well placed to see what all this is doing to the kids and society in general. It’s very depressing.

    Even if those young girls are obese their boobs are small and maybe look even smaller surrounded by so much flesh. Perhaps the padding serves to restore some kind of proportion. (I’m playing devil’s advocate here; I don’t believe a word of what I’ve just written. LOL!)

    JvS, I hope my note on the main page has allayed your fears: I publish comments as they drop into my Inbox. :-)

    That moment is supposed to be thrilling, isn’t it? The fun for me was that until then there hadn’t been any bras for young teenagers in France. Teenform were the very first to export their creations to my country. (Like, you won’t believe this, but I did use cotton washable sanitary towels for about a year; there weren’t any disposable ones at the time. OMG, I feel so old now. However, I don’t think I am a fuddy-duddy: I call it having common sense.)

    That’s a grand idea, L! It seems that, as we live longer, childhood is getting shorter. Which makes it even worse. Can I have my five years of childhood now? (Oh, all right, mine was long enough.)

    I was shapeless for many many years so, luckily, I never had your problems.

    R, I don’t know from raising boys. (I don’t know anything about raising young girls either, but at least I used to be one.)

    ‘Lingerie’ is a very tricky word. I’m sure you have some redeeming qualities. LOL!

    Indeed, V! :-)

    That’s what I’m thinking too, WW. But what do you do if a little girl is wearing a padded half-cup bra and tiny high-heeled shoes (I’ve seen those too)? Can one still carry on saying that she isn’t dressed provocatively? I’m not sure. If those garments weren’t known to arouse men, would grown-up women wear them? We say we wear perfume for ourselves, don’t we? Do we wear push-up bras and stilettos for ourselves too?

    My beloved Teenform bra was made of very soft material: the cups were completely flat but they stretched as one grew. It was nice and full of ‘possibilities’. :-)

    SL, I’ve come full circle like you. Ironic, isn’t it?

  8. Can someone tell me the reason a training bra is called a training bra? What's it training? The breasts to grow straight out from the body and not downwards? The girl to put up with an uncomfortable ridge of elastic around her ribcage, soon to be followed by underwiring? The father to start realising his daughter is growing up and prepare himself mentally for her first boyfriend?

  9. I've been thnking about Winterwheat's comment. As a feminist I want to say women can wear what they want and have a right to freedom from annoyance by men, and as a realist I feel society is the way it is and you have to take account of that. After 2 hours of pondering my conclusion is that yes, you can wear what you want, but you have to be prepared/taught/confident enough to be able to fend off any unwanted approaches that are a consequence of how you dress (and know that it is your right to do so). The problem with young girls dressing 'provocatively' is that they haven't got the experience or preparation and don't even expect the dangers or understand the warning signs.

  10. Oh, ick. Really horrible. I fought the early sexualization of my daughters like a mother lion on steroids.
    You can accommodate the excitement of a preteen at her transformation into a young woman without degrading and cheapening her, her body and the whole process of growing up.
    I say slap these bra makers where it hurts.

  11. When my daughter was young, I was always frustrated with the "grown up" styles available. She felt that, if it came in her size, she should be allowed to wear it. Problem is, clothing manufacturers make the same style in girls' sizes 7-14 - and what you might allow a 14-y.o. to wear is completely inappropriate on a 7-y.o.! They make it very difficult for even the most discerning parents to steer their girls through the minefield of loaded clothing choices.

    BTW, an interesting side note - check out this BBC story:
    Do Victoria's Secret have a Beijing outlet yet?

  12. Hee hee, L!

    I’m not sure you should be saying things like that: people might think you want to stop women from ‘having fun’. LOL! You’re taking your life in your hands by saying you’re a feminist.

    Laura, it must be very difficult to be the mother of daughters: one knows all the dangers firsthand. I know you have succeeded beautifully. :-)

    D, I’m glad, for my mother’s sake, there was no choice at all when I was growing up. One remained a child for a very long time. Who wants to be a child for eight short years and an adult for 75 long ones?

    And I know your daughter is a lovely young woman too. :-)

  13. Very sad and I wonder how much of this has to do with the Idolization of the twit like Superstars that are in Music/Entertainment today.

    Sex will always sell, but it has never been aimed at a group SO young. I really hope mothers are teaching their daughters that they ARE more then their breasts and bodies. Their brains, their hearts, their abilities-You know, the whole picture.

    Sad post. Good, well deserved slap.

  14. I'm not terribly au fait with the current pop music scene, but don't a lot of sexy female pop singers have a following of very young girls? All kids dream of being celebrities these days.

    Hmmm... mothers... I've come to realize lately that there are some very bad examples indeed out there.

  15. I'm 15 so not to long ago I wore a bra such as the one your talking about, the 22AA. I have never had sex and don't plan to for a long time. I just thought when I wore one that it was cute and because when your breasts are developing it hurts the padding actually helped because I often hit my chest on my desk b/c I was so short or someone might have bumped me. Now I hold up my old bras and laugh because I just find them so cute and the fact that now I only wear bra's with enough padding so you cannot see nips through my shirt. This is because teenage boys often point that out for fun. I think you are definatly reading to much into this whole thing. Basically all my friends and I wore them just to boost our self confidence and now that we actually have breasts we joke about how we wore those and how silly it was, but hey it made us feel better in a time that is really confusing to go through, the dreaded puberty, so I really don't see the harm.

  16. You're a 15-year-old girl?! That's how 15-year-olds write?! Yeah, right! Pull the other one. You're a dirty old man who knows too much about girls' bosoms. Go away before I track down your IP address (which I can do, through my counter) and send it to the police.



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