Friday, March 18, 2011

Stilettos and Pacifiers?

While we're on the topic of children dressing like grown-ups...Raise your hand if you haven't seen Tom Ford's December shoot for Vogue Paris! The 12-page spread featured girls ages 7 and younger playing dress up...not in old glitzy dance costumes...but rather, in Versace, Lanvin, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent! When the issue was released, outrage ensued. Tom Ford was accused of inappropriately exploiting young girls.

There's no doubt that Tom Ford used the shoot in order to make a statement about the fashion industry's desire to hold on tightly to its youth and...quite unnaturally... never let it go. This article does a particularly nice job, in my opinion, of discussing the whole issue. Click Here to view the rest of the photos.

Although I'd seen/read about the shoot months ago, after having started this project, I can't help but look at the whole issue in an entirely new light. Until as late as the 20th century, children were dressed like mini-adults solely because there was no alternative. Kids 'R Us and Osh Kosh B'Gosh just weren't a thing yet. Kids-wear, as we know it today, arguably* didn't truly exist until after the early 1900's.

Until then, silk was a staple textile in a kid's wardrobe; yet interestingly enough, it seems absurd for Tom Ford to have dressed these 6-year-olds in silk ball gowns.

Why is it not disturbing to see the young Infanta Margarita (see previous post: Las Meninas) dressed as a spitting image of her adult counterparts, yet just over 300 years later, dressing these girls (who are the same age as our beloved Infanta) like the adults of our time causes an international outrage? In the era of Las Meninas, kids dressed in glittering silk ball gowns were a symbol of royalty and riches (and certainly not considered inappropriate). So the question becomes....when did these extravagant, shiny, and glorious get-ups become the height of all kitsch? I'm still working on coming up with an answer...but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the point when silk and taffeta turned into spandex and sequins...aka...the 80's.

*I said arguably because, in fact, with the rise of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, cotton goods became relatively cheap and were often used to make less stiff, washable clothes for children. However, not long after, enter the Romantic Era....and children...again...look like mini-adults.

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