Debates on ‘adult’ fashion for children reveal growing concern for ‘lost’ childhood
Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities, Housing
University of Leicester sociologist to highlight children’s own mixed reactions to controversial clothing styles
A podcast is available here: https://soundcloud.com/university-of-leicester/dr-jane-pilcher-clothing
Revealing ‘adult’ styles of clothing have been criticised for sexualising children at an early age, but a University of Leicester sociologist is to argue that children have mixed feelings about them – and will question whether this fact is acknowledged in public debates.
Research at the University has also shown that worries over trends in girls' fashion are part of more general concerns in many countries around the world about the changing nature of childhood.
Dr Jane Pilcher, of the University of Leicester Department of Sociology, will present her findings at an academic seminar entitled 'Clothing Altercations: the Politics of Children's Clothing' on Wednesday 20 March.
Dr Pilcher will talk about how children's clothing's fashions have become a big issue of public and political concern in the US, Europe, and Australia - and in the UK, where a government-backed report on the sexualization and commercialization of childhood was published in 2011.
As well as looking at this public politics of children's clothing, Dr Pilcher will also look at how this issue is handled on the ground, by families with girls aged under 12 years old. In the seminar paper, Dr Pilcher will draw on data showing how mother and daughter pairs deal with issue of 'inappropriate' clothing styles in terms of what gets bought, worn and where, and what the girls themselves feel about controversial, revealing clothing styles - including those worn by celebrities like Beyoncé.
Dr Pilcher will argue that girls display highly ambivalent feelings about 'revealing' styles of clothing – something that is rarely acknowledged in the public and political debates which have placed girls themselves under such close scrutiny.
Dr Pilcher said: "The controversies, campaigns, enquiries and policy initiatives around girls’ fashion have quite rightly involved big questions being asked in several countries about childhood, parenting, sexual morality and consumerist values.
“But, all too often, the voices of children themselves go unheard. This is especially true of girls, whose clothing fashions have come to seen as a sign of the over-sexualisation of the cultural landscape, and the decline of parental authority in families.”
Dr Pilcher adds: “Children's clothing may be small in size, but worries about links with sexualisation show that it raises big issues about childhood in contemporary society.”
Dr Pilcher's work on the politics of children's clothing continues her interest in childhood and families, evident in her studies of children and health education, and of women's family surname choices.
The seminar takes place on Wednesday 20 March, and is open to University staff and students only.