‘Toddlers and Tiaras” scandal highlights that dressing up children can go too far

Just a week after the mother of “Toddlers and Tiaras” contestant Maddy Jackson was condemned for dressing her daughter in fake breasts and a padded bottom, Irish department stores are being accused of doing the same, in sexualizing children as young as three-years-old, through their range of underwear on sale.

A report in the Irish Independent highlighted the problem in Ireland stating that despite concern voiced by children’s rights groups, department stores such as Dunnes and Penney’s continue to sell bra sets for girls as young as three-years-old.

Last week Maddy Jackson from Tennessee was featured on the TLC show “Toddlers and Tiaras”. Her mother had dressed her up as Dolly Parton including imitation C-cup breasts and bottom padding.

Within days the Facebook group 'Take "Toddlers And Tiaras" off the Air!' had 1,108 members and other pages and groups had popped up.

This week another child’s dress up on the show has been deemed inappropriate. Three-year-old Wendy Dickey, from Georgia, was dressed up as the character of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” and actual prostitute.

These stories of dressing up children in inappropriate clothing which have become international news highlight’s Barnardos plea to stop the sale of these bra and knickers sets for children and stop the “sexualization” of children.

The Irish Independent found that Dunnes Stores sold bra and knickers sets for three-to-four years old and five-to-six-year-olds while Penney’s sells padded bra for nine-year-olds with “Superstar” written across the front.

They also sell pants for seven-year-olds with “And your problem is?”, "I don't ask for much, just my own way!" and "Whatever!"

Norah Gibbons, Barnardos director of advocacy said The availability of these items of clothing for children as young as three and four is adding to the early sexualization of children. It is undesirable to encourage young girls to dress as adults - it is denying them the right just to be children, and it could give solace to those who seek out children inappropriately."

Similarly Suanne O’Connor, childcare worker in Limerick, was shocked to see the stock in Penney’s. She said “I have worked with young people in crisis and believe me the last thing that's needed is to encourage girls to dress up like adults younger and younger. Can we just bring back the teddy bears please. The fact they're calling them crop tops is just a total copout, anyone looking at these would call them bras."

Penney’s responded by saying the “their bras were labelled by chest size with no reference to age and were lined for comfort and modesty and were not designed to provide enhancement.” Dunnes did not respond.