By Cindy Tank-Murphy
Tween & Sexy are not synonymous words, yet too many clothing companies think the two should co-exist. For as long as I can recall, there has always been a bias toward pink, glittery apparel for girls and sporty designs for boys, but more disturbing then the gender stereotyping is what some retailers think is appropriate to put on a girl’s t-shirt.
First there are the slogans like “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me,” to the also inappropriate, “Allergic to Algebra,” slogan which stereotypes all girls as math haters. Then there’s the more sexually overt tween clothing, from Halloween costumes to the words “Sexy” or “Eye Candy” emblazoned on the back of girl’s underwear.
The apparel industry helps perpetuate self-absorbed narcissism over intelligence and ambition. It’s no wonder there is such a gap between the self-confidence levels of girls between the ages of 8-14 than their male counterparts. Take a look at their wardrobes… Are girls being told they need to give up critical thinking in order to be liked and appreciated?
The apparel industry doesn’t seem to understand that girls are much more multi-faceted. And just when you think retailers would start to wise-up after customer backlash and criticism, last week, Forever 21, once again took an offensive slogan to a disturbing new level. This time, maybe the creepiest of them all, on men’s shirts depicting what appears to be a rape-reference, “Don’t Say Maybe If You Want To Say No.” Forever 21 apologized for offending anyone and said they would remove the shirts, but it’s amazing this stuff ends up on store shelves and websites in the first place.
With the lack of options for girls, it’s no wonder they choose the crop tops and short shorts and parents are left wondering what, if anything, they can do about it? As a parent, you have two choices. You can either shopping in the girl’s department with stereotypical “glittery kittens, rainbows & unicorns” or you’re in a sensory overloaded store causing your head to thump and your daughter to look like she’s dressing for a night out “clubbing.” What is wrong with this picture? There is definitely a lack of tween apparel that can make girls feel empowered and beautiful for who they are on the inside.
Clever Belle offers a line of apparel that doesn’t shout “I’m 12 going on 20,” but instead defines beauty as the passions women and girls hold dear to them. Clever Belle’s positive images on shirts help girls define who they are and who they want to become. The designs are also images parents can appreciate.
Clever Belle is the brain child of four siblings originally from Iowa. After having personal experience seeing the stereotypes in children’s clothing and raising daughters who weren’t into pink and frilly styles, this family decided to take it upon themselves to set a higher standard for girls. “Be who you want to be and not what typical clothing companies think you should be,” stated co-founder Jenny Tank. It’s obvious that during the tween years, girls feel pressures about appearance.
“98% of girls feel there is an immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way,” says the ‘Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem’ from Dove in 2008.
Clever Belle’s goal is to give girls and women (Yes, the shirts come in women’s sizes too!) choices in apparel that depict who they are and who they want to become and to embrace their inner beauty rather than defining themselves by their appearance. Clever Belle wants girls to express the things that create passion in their lives and drive them to learn, explore, build and create.
Girls and boys have similar dreams and aspirations when they are young. In fact, studies show girls have the exact same aspirations as boys at the age of six or seven, but then something happens soon after. Around the ages of 8 – 12, girls actually start to lose self-esteem and withdraw from those activities that once gave them enjoyment.
Clever Belle believes this time is critical to the emotional well-being of girls. By keeping girls engaged in their favorite activities and focusing on their passions, parents can help empower them and keep their self-esteem intact through the transition from child to adolescent.
Clever Belle designs artwork around five themes and one continually rotating design.
- Education– Emphasizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
- Nature & the Environment
- Art & Music
- Women of Influence– Highlighting influential females and including educational materials, showing girls what amazing things women have accomplished throughout history.
Check out Clever Belle’s inspirational designs at cleverbelle.com and follow them on social media for positive messages and stories that encourage and uplift the female spirit.
Cindy Tank-Murphy is the mother of two daughters in Jr. High. Having first-hand experience of watching the transformation from child to adolescent and discouraged by the mixed messages being sent to tween & teen girls about body image, she felt a strong desire to help empower girls of all ages. Cindy is married and resides in Naperville, IL.
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