Little Women

As Kiernan Shipka joined the elder cast members of Mad Men to promote the latest series, she looked every inch the stylish little woman. But it begs the question, at just 12 years old, isn’t she a little young to be touted as a style icon?

Here is a girl barely in sight of her teen years, dressing in clothes that most adult women would give their eye and teeth for. And she isn’t alone. Elle Fanning has been strutting the red carpet and gracing the pages of fashion mags in adult get-ups for several of her 12 years. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Willow Smith is busy rocking outfits that make her look far more knowing than her years could ever allow.

What is the message being sent out to little girls around the world? In an ageing society, where the appearance of youth is an increasingly desirable asset, it feels a little mixed up to see children dolled up like little adults and being lauded for it.

The fashion industry has long since taken very young girls and ordained them as models. But is the last perceivable safety barrier removed for wide-eyed little girls the world over, when it’s not just nameless barely pubescent girls modelling in adult clothing campaigns, but child-stars with full public profiles being quite literally dolled up?

Of course the blogosphere has opened up opportunities for little girls to revel in fashion like never before. Just look at Tavi Gevinson, who started her Style Rookie blog aged 11. But there is a certain charm to Tavi’s early posts that portray the innocence of a girl playing with fashion. I can’t help but wonder if this innocence is because Tavi started her blog off her own bat, no coaxing or coaching from the adults in her life.

Childhood is but a fleeting part of life, it seems such a shame to encourage little girls to race to leave it behind. But, possibly the biggest issue facing girls who dress up in women’s clothes, is the rest of the world treating them as women, when they simply aren’t ready. Dangerous ground? I think so.

By JOURNAL contributor

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