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25-10-2007
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As more Designers Target Kids - Fashion Bullies Attack --In Middle School
Fashion Bullies Attack -- In Middle School

As More Designers Target Kids,
Label-Consciousness Grows;
The Snarky 'Nice Clothes'

By VANESSA O'CONNELL
October 25, 2007; Page D1

Aryana McPike, a sixth-grader from Springfield, Ill., has a closet full of designer clothes from Dolce & Gabbana, Juicy Couture, True Religion and Seven For All Mankind. But her wardrobe, carefully selected by a fashion-conscious mother, hasn't won her friends at school.
Kids in her class recently instructed her that she was wearing the wrong brands. She should wear Apple Bottoms jeans by the rapper Nelly, they told her, and designer sneakers, such as Air Force 1 by Nike. She came home complaining to her mother that "all the girls want to know if I will ever come to school without being so dressed up."
Teen and adolescent girls have long used fashion as a social weapon. In 1944, Eleanor Estes wrote "The Hundred Dresses," a book about a Polish girl who is made fun of for wearing the same shabby dress to school each day. The film "Mean Girls" in 2004 focused on fashion-conscious cliques among high-school teens. But today, guidance counselors and psychologists say, fashion bullying is reaching a new level of intensity as more designers launch collections targeted at kids.
As a result, an increasing number of school and community programs focused on girl-on-girl bullying are addressing peer pressure and the sizable role clothing plays in girls' identity. In Pennsylvania, California, Maryland and several other states, for instance, community groups and some schools have started Club or Camp Ophelia, a pair of programs developed by Penn State professor and author Cheryl Dellasega that teach girls relationship skills. A "Bully Quiz" the girls take asks, "Have you stopped being friends with someone because she wore clothes you didn't like?"
Dorothy Espelage, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who has studied teenage behavior for 14 years, says she has seen an increase in "bullying related to clothes." She attributes that to the proliferation of designer brands and the display of labels in ads. In the more than 20 states where she has studied teens, she has been surprised by how kids revere those they perceive to have the best clothes. Having access to designer clothing affords some kids "the opportunity to become popular -- and that protects you and gives you social power and leverage over others," she says.
Over the past three years, numerous designers have targeted the lucrative children's and teens' markets. Little Marc, the kids' clothing label by New York designer Marc Jacobs, expanded its line this winter and dropped its price, making it more accessible to a greater number of shoppers. The French luxury label Chloé, Milan-based Missoni and Italian designer Alberta Ferretti are launching new kids' labels for spring or summer next year. Other designer kids' lines include Dolce & Gabbana, Armani and Burberry, while Michael Kors, Coach, Dooney & Bourke and Dior have been targeting teens or kids with accessories.
Retailers, too, have rushed to cash in, opening offshoots of their boutiques specifically for children. Cantaloup and Scoop, which sell designer clothing for women in New York, now have Cantaloup Kids and Scoop Kids boutiques that carry a similar selection of designers for their customers' daughters and sons.
The greater focus on fashion in teen magazines and on TV has increased girls' awareness of designer labels. "The market has become more sophisticated," says Fiona Coleman, children's trends editor for WGSN, a fashion-consulting service. Kids today follow not only what celebrities wear, but also what their children wear, she says. Brooklyn Beckham, the son of soccer star David Beckham, was photographed wearing Junior Dolce & Gabbana in magazines as a toddler, propelling the brand into the limelight. Madonna's daughter Lourdes Leon, who has her own stylist, has appeared in magazines wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits.
School guidance counselor Angie Dooley sees the love of labels at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield, Maine, where some girls wear the same few brand-name items they own again and again. "They don't want anyone to know that's all they have," Ms. Dooley says.
In one study, more than one-third of middle-school students responded "yes" when asked whether they are bullied because of the clothes they wear. Susan M. Swearer, associate professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, surveyed a total of more than 1,000 students at five Midwestern middle schools from 1999 to 2004, with about 56% of the sample female. While the prevalence of fashion bullies was greater in wealthy cities and towns, where more designer clothing is available, she found the problem is significant in poorer communities, too.
Teens and adolescents are expected to wear not just any designer brands but the "right" ones. "The better brands you wear, the more popular you are," says Becky Gilker, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from Sherwood Park in the Canadian province of Alberta. "If you don't wear those things you get criticized." In many schools, the most expensive designer goods, such as those by Chanel or Louis Vuitton, have the highest social ranking among girls. But popular teen brands such as American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale are also important. Miss Gilker says Hollister and Roxy are big logos at her school.
But even the wrong color can bring put-downs, Miss Gilker notes. When she wears pink, she says, "I get the snarky 'Nice clothes!' when people walk by in the halls." Her mom, Karin Gilker, who is 44, says she has tried to explain to her daughter that she should ignore such comments and wear what she likes. She also has tried explaining that "pink looks wonderful on her -- she's a blonde -- and she looks really good in it."
Several new programs are trying to help parents, teachers and girls cope with bullying. In Maine, a nonprofit called Hardy Girls Healthy Women has developed a curriculum that has caught on at a number of junior high schools and is being adopted in after-school programs in Florida, Ohio, New York and other states. The program encourages young girls to build coalitions and gets them to look more closely at the messages they get from the media, including those about fashion and clothing.
In June, a national conference on "Relational Aggression, Mean Girls and Other Forms of Bullying" in Las Vegas drew more than 800 teachers, educators and counselors. Many of the sessions focused on the role the media plays in putting social pressure on girls regarding fashion and appearance.
Susan Bowman, vice president of Developmental Resources, a Chapin, S.C., educational consulting firm that put on the conference, told the audience that for many girls, the answer to the question "What do I wear?" seems to define who they are. In 2005, Developmental Resources began holding a series of "Mean Girls" workshops for educators around the country. The workshops, she says, explore why fashion is such an important part of a girl's identity, and how that, in turn, "creates even more social pressure on the 'have nots.' "
Some psychologists believe that fashion bullying is happening at younger and younger ages. Megan Flynn, director of children's services at Westchester Jewish Community Services, says she has recently begun using an anti-bullying program with girls in the fifth and sixth grades, as well as with older students. The program, she says, provides "a process where they can take a closer look at the messages they get" in the media.
Aryana's mom, Ava McPike, feels it is important that Aryana not be pressured to conform to the dressed-down standard at her school. She believes that generally other people favor those who "look good -- the cute kids," says Ms. McPike, who drives to Neiman Marcus in St. Louis, Mo., with her daughter to help pick out clothes. But Ms. McPike does give in every now and then. She recently bought two Ralph Lauren dresses, in pink and green, and her daughter rejected them, because, her mom suspects, they wouldn't pass muster with her classmates.
story and images from the wall street journal

Aryana McPike and her Mom

Designers clothes for kids from Missoni

a kid wearing a chloe outfit

7 for all mankind clothing for kids

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25-10-2007
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Interesting article, lucy92. I'm never thought that I would say such a thing, but looking back on my school years, I am glad we wore uniforms. I never had to think about things like this and I never experienced any 'clothing criticism' in school because we all dressed the same during class hours. And makeup was never permitted. I think we got a lot more out of our schooling because we were always concentrating on the work we were doing, with lots of team work and group creations where everyone received equal credit.

When I was travelling in Europe for many months last year, I had little more than the clothes on my back. A friend came to travel with me for several weeks and I was stunned at her attitude about attire. She wouldn't take me with her when she went to visit extended family because she said I wasn't 'presentable'. It ended our friendship of seven years. Very sad.

There are no clothes that can disguise bigotry.

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25-10-2007
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That's such a weird relationship, SomethingElse Seems like in the article, it's also the parents making the problem

Someone from France told me a 10 year old got beat up because he didn't wear brand name sneakers

Hear hear for uniforms It's actually less of a hassle anyway and cheaper, environmentally friendly in the long run

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25-10-2007
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that chloe outfit is very cute (no pedo)

but seriously kids shouldnt take no BS over clothes they wearing.

imma teach my kids to say "anyone who don't like it can eat 100000 weewees and die"

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25-10-2007
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as senior in high school i can say that 'clothing class' is really prevalent. especially because in my school we have a lot of upper middle class kids and a lot of inner city kids. i remember being bullied in middle school by multiple people for weeks because i wore the same pair of jeans almost everyday.

i do think it's weird though they told about a child who was bullied because her clothes were to nice/expensive. the mother in this article seems positively ridiculous, my parents would dress me in the same brown dress everyday if they could.

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25-10-2007
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It's so sad that many people are believing that the clothes make the person. I do believe that clothing reflects who you are as a person because I do not want you to wear your PJs to school nor a juice stained T-shirt that you picked up off of the floor. That would just tell me you were too lazy to get ready. Of course, there are plenty of excuses.

I don't think it's wrong to create a line for kids from designers, but it's disturbing to see little children on the runway. Will young minds have to endure at an early age the whole "skinny/tall" deal even as kids? (Little kids aren't tall but if a little girl at 6 years of age has to be told she wasn't pretty enough to be in a show is sending her the message that the world judges by apperances). I saw a clip like this on 20/20 where they asked kids if expensive clothes were better. One girl said, "Yes, they are very better." (I think that little girls' quote proves a point or two...)

It's perfectly fine for a mother to pick out nice clothes for her children to wear to school, but even my mother will go to second hand stores and pick out quality clothes that will last her for years to come and they won't have a designer label. Some clothes are almost just as good if not better than a designer's in some instances. The mother can spend her money as she pleases, but there's nothing wrong for a mother to want what's best. This is not the mother's fault. All kids, as they grow up, go through a phase where teasing other kids will make them feel better about themselves and appear popular. It's an unavoidable phase of life we all have to go through.

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25-10-2007
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This isn't very new news ... there was lots of fashion commentary when I was in junior high (and that's been awhile :p). There was also label (and trend) consciousness then, they were just different labels. I took a lot of flak back then because my parents' odd religious beliefs dictated that I dress a certain way that was quite far out of the mainstream. So today I don't look to anyone else for cues about what to wear, I just do my own thing. The odd thing is that I see the people around me at work changing what they wear (and not just to work) based on what I'm doing Not my intention, but it's amazing the effect just one person coming in and dressing a different way can have.

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25-10-2007
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the brand thing has defintiely been around for a while...i think it's a remnant of 80s brand consciousness.

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^ SomethingElse, sounds like a rather insecure friend who doesn't feel loved by those relatives I remember many years ago now a friend of mine showed up to go shopping at Neimans with me in sweats with actual holes in them. She was about to drive home from college and she had some plan that involved throwing away the clothes she was wearing at the end of the day I didn't let it bother me, and the interesting thing was, we got great service in Neiman's that day.

I remember another occasion when a date showed up dressed inappropriately for the restaurant I had chosen (in a ragged out t-shirt with a vulgar saying). I switched to Plan B, a different restaurant where anything goes ...

But I have always believed that how someone else is dressed is not a reflection on me.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by aybaybay View Post
the brand thing has defintiely been around for a while...i think it's a remnant of 80s brand consciousness.
That would be the era I'm talking about

I think what's happening in the situation the article is talking about is, the other girls are trying to protect the status quo they're invested in (literally). They don't want the other girl influencing what's cool, so they're tearing her down. IOW, it's all about fear.

But I also think it's silly of the mom to put her kid in those kinds of labels.

If I'd had a choice, I would've been more low key at that age ... but I think it's to my advantage now that I never had that option.

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25-10-2007
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How nouveau.

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25-10-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SiennaInLondon View Post
How nouveau.
jesus christ...really?

really?

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25-10-2007
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This was going on 25 years ago when I was in elementary/junior high school and I was teased mercilessly for not wearing labels at all. God help you if anyone finds out you got your sneakers from KMart or your jeans from JC Penney.

Parents treat their kids like accessories, dressing them up like show poodles, and making them believe their entire self worth is tied up in having designer clothes. And it's not just rich people who do this either. Parents do it to assert their status and allieviate their guilt over divorce or working or spending too much time at the spa or whatever.

I agree the solution to this sort of thing is school uniforms. Or homeschooling.

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25-10-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SiennaInLondon View Post
How nouveau.
i think it is in the noveaux riche way... its all about showing how much money that you own.

Its always been a status symbol (not so much respected by those in higher income bracket, but expected, to put their kids in say ralph lauren or calvin klein) that if you have money you can dress your kids in expensive clothes.

in my day (god i sound like im 80) the brands were as simple as GAP and Abercrombie and Fitch in america, and Sportsgirl, surfbrands etc when i was living in australia. i think it is the same as it has always been, wear this and you are automatically pigeon holed as a person in that little microcosm that is school. nowdays i think because designers are capatalising on one area of the market there are more kids clothes available, for higher prices.

the average family can afford to put their kids in A&E, A&F and Sportsgirl, but not so many can afford Marc diffusion for everyday wear, or in Australia BIG by Fiona Scanlan. i think it is then highlighting who has what, how much money you have and so putting a bigger divide and financial strain on the parents on what clothes you can afford to wear.

jeez just clothe the little buggers in either hessian sacks or uniforms (those who have had to wear uniforms will know that there is a marginal difference) and be done with it... i suppose there would be no stopping it through. we'd be seeing luxury hessian and Marc hessian by the end of the season

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Quote:
Originally Posted by papa_levante View Post
It's so sad that many people are believing that the clothes make the person. I do believe that clothing reflects who you are as a person because I do not want you to wear your PJs to school nor a juice stained T-shirt that you picked up off of the floor. That would just tell me you were too lazy to get ready. Of course, there are plenty of excuses.

I don't think it's wrong to create a line for kids from designers, but it's disturbing to see little children on the runway. Will young minds have to endure at an early age the whole "skinny/tall" deal even as kids? (Little kids aren't tall but if a little girl at 6 years of age has to be told she wasn't pretty enough to be in a show is sending her the message that the world judges by apperances). I saw a clip like this on 20/20 where they asked kids if expensive clothes were better. One girl said, "Yes, they are very better." (I think that little girls' quote proves a point or two...)

It's perfectly fine for a mother to pick out nice clothes for her children to wear to school, but even my mother will go to second hand stores and pick out quality clothes that will last her for years to come and they won't have a designer label. Some clothes are almost just as good if not better than a designer's in some instances. The mother can spend her money as she pleases, but there's nothing wrong for a mother to want what's best. This is not the mother's fault. All kids, as they grow up, go through a phase where teasing other kids will make them feel better about themselves and appear popular. It's an unavoidable phase of life we all have to go through.
unfortunatley there are only thin models on stage because thats what society deems beautiful at the moment. i think wether you are a kid in designer duds, a child model, or a kid living on a farm in budapest, you will think you will need to be thin to be beautiful unfortunaltly.

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