Adult-style bikini top for kids stirs controversy
Bartholomew Klick Copy Editor
Aubrey Poindexter learned about the swimwear in her women’s studies class, and says this prompted her to post about it on Facebook.
“Perverted?” she asked her friends via Facebook. “Or a great marketing ploy to the tween market?”
Several PSU students replied to the post, mostly saying that the swimwear was perverted.
“Teen Mom (a television series) is gonna have a lot more applicants,” wrote Jordan Milliken, a psychology student who studied substance abuse counseling at PSU.
Abercrombie & Fitch, an “apparel and lifestyle brand” that landed itself on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s list of worst companies, sold a cologne that inadvertently lowered the sperm count of its users, and marketed a line of racially insensitive shirts with messages such as “Wok n Bowl” and “Wong Brothers,” has released a line of push-up bikinis designed for children ages 8 to 14.
The swimwear, which is sold under the Abercrombie Kids line, looks similar to adult bikinis and has padding on the top piece. This has prompted demands from parents to remove the line of swimwear. So far, Abercrombie & Fitch is still selling the swimsuits, although the company modified the name, removing the words “push-up” from the description. The bikini tops, now called “lightly lined triangles” on the Abercrombie Kids website, cost about $20.
Lauren Williams, junior in fashion merchandising and president of PSU’s Fashion Merchandising Association, says she isn’t sure why Abercrombie & Fitch sells the bikini tops.
“Abercrombie markets to older teens and young adults,” Williams said. “For them to have this line is completely random.”
Williams says that even though it’s a strange direction for the Abercrombie label, it fits the company’s image and history.
“The way they’re marketing it is not any different from their products,” Williams said. “It’s already a risqué brand. I think it’s right for Abercrombie, but I don’t think its right for the U.S.”
Williams says that it’s fairly common for fashion merchandising students to face moral dilemmas.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Williams said. “If we didn’t deal with it, people wouldn’t wear clothes. It’s my job as a fashion designer to know what is appropriate for certain areas and for certain stores.”
Williams says the line is creating a social problem, and that young girls shouldn’t be encouraged to wear padded tops.
“There’s a way to expand into a new target market and still keep it age appropriate,” Williams said. “There are ways to style the suits to keep them current with trends without adding padding.”
Despite the controversy, Williams says the swimsuits are selling; otherwise Abercrombie would discontinue them.
“A little girl isn’t going to buy a $40 swimsuit,” Williams said. “It’s the parents.”
Poindexter says that she doesn’t blame parents more than Abercrombie.
“In my (women’s studies) class, we talk about how society constructs people,” Poindexter said. “These kids are learning through the media and through fashion. For them to be in the mall and see a swimsuit top that can’t fit over someone’s big toe—and it’s padded!—that’s ridiculous.”
Poindexter says that she would refuse to sell swimwear like this, because she abides by the adage “Good ethics is good business.”