Friday, December 9, 2011

Controversy Couture

Finals are finally almost over, and I can now resume my normal schedule of blogging (almost) everyday! These past few days I've had some time to think about my blog and the direction that I want to take it, and I realized that once and a while I'd like to bring a more academic edge to my posts. I am graduating soon, and I can't pretend that my education hasn't shaped a huge part of my life and the person that I am today. I'm proud of the critical thinker I've become over the past 4 (and 1/2) years, so why not exercise the ol' neurons and synapses from time to time--that's what my Controversy Couture posts will aim to do. 

Last week I gave a brief presentation in one of my English classes regarding the role of children in fashion advertisements, and particularly how they are either made to look younger than they are and sexy, or older than they are and still sexy. I find both of these tactics quite disturbing. Various ads have come out recently portraying children as adults and as objects of desire, which really seems to blur the line between what is appropriate and inappropriate regarding the portrayal of children in the media.

One particularly disturbing ad by Marc Jacobs was recently banned in the UK due to "sexualizing a child" and really jumped out at me because of its obvious reference to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I think the concept of a "Lolita" has really altered since the book was released into quite a disturbing ideal. The story of Lolita has become so romanticized, when realistically it was a story about a 12 year old girl being sexually abused and taken advantage of by a middle aged man. In the book, for those who have not read it, Humbert Humbert, the pedophile, kidnaps Lolita after her mom dies, drugs her and sexually abuses her.  In an article regarding the ad, Marc Jacobs is quoted as wanting to portray Dakota Fanning as a "contemporary Lolita...seductive, yet sweet." This quote really struck an odd chord with me because I remember reading the novel and finding it very disturbing, so it seems so strange to me that anyone would want to romanticize this story. Why as a culture do we idealize youth to the point that fashion ads have become borderline pedophilic?

I mean it's so obviously sexual in nature, yet it also promotes this idea that children I can totally understand why something like this would be banned in Britain.

More recently, I read this article on regarding a line of French lingerie for children. Um, what?? For what purpose do children need lingerie, right?? Here we see the same problem that we see in many recent fashion ads from the odd Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau photos to the beyond-her-years Hailee Steinfeld Miu Miu ads. To quote from the article, "despite being more age-appropriate, even the photographs for the “femme” collection are unsettling. The way the young-looking model is posed with that sunglasses-wearing teddy bear–she’s made to look like a child, while the actual children are made to look like adults." 

Some people are saying that Americans have a "prudish" attitude towards this line, but I don't really think that's what it is. If kids are running around in bathing suits that's one thing, but to deliberately make them look younger or older in an attempt to sexualize them?? I just feel like this youth thing in our nation is going a little too far. Some claim that such advertising is meant to be satirical, but as points out, "regardless of the intention for the...photographs, children are still being used to convey it. And even if the intended message is sympathetic to these child models, we’re nevertheless seeing these girls with a projected adult sexuality — we’re still being asked to view them in an adult way." It seems this misguided romanticized "Lolita" idea has pervaded the fashion world in more ways than one, and I'm inclined to agree that it reflects poorly on the industry as a whole. What do you think? Do these types of ads have a place in our society? Or are they just exploiting children and sexualizing them? 

Can you tell I've been writing essays all week? Haha. Well, hopefully this inspired you to think a bit about some aspects of fashion from a more critical stand point. Tomorrow, something a little more fun, I promise! 

Ciao for now xx 


  1. It's so scary that they are sexualizing young girls like this. I remember the controversy the french lingerie for kids thing was here in Australia. I don't understand what's wrong with letting kids be kids. When I was younger I loved clothes but it wasn't things like kids wear now. all the mini skirts and low cut tops. I miss gorgeous kids fashion that shows the fun and beauty of just being a normal kid. A lot of kids these days want to be older like their singing etc idols and thus they dress and act like them. All these ads with like the one you have above with the girl looking like a beauty queen. I think its crazy. I understand why they do it but I dont good post Laura haha!besos!! x

  2. i agree with your post! and well written at that! wish i could've heard the presentation. as for my 2 cents;the idea of the ultra-skinny models that are used in for example jcrew advertising to Project Runway also promote this undeveloped preteen boy-body image that feels un-natural and disturbing at times to it only a minority offended by this? if so, what does that say about our culture?