These images, which supposedly reflect the changing styles of teenage girls, are making waves online. (Photo: KHOP/Facebook)
A meme making the rounds on the Internet is calling attention to the increasingly revealing outfit choices of teenage girls these days.
The image, which first hit Twitter in early June but is still making waves on social media, shows a splitscreen image: on one side, a girl in a T-shirt and baggy jeans, on the other, two young girls wearing tight jeans and exposing their midriffs. The text above the image reads: “How I dressed when I was 14 vs how 14-year-old girls dress now.” One of the girls in the “now” side of the photo is wearing a tight crop top, the other is in a looser tank top that reveals her bra.
The image was posted Sunday night on California radio station KHOP’s Facebook page, and quickly struck a chord. In less than 24 hours it received more than 105,000 likes and was shared by more than 5,800 people. Comments poured in, some admonishing teenage girls—and their parents—for the revealing outfits, others disputing the idea that a change in fashion sense has happened at all. Writes Julie Miller, “What’s really sad is girls feel they need to dress like that. We’re failing at instilling confidence in themselves, their brains and values.” But Rosa Vasquez said, “My daughter does not dress like this, she doesn’t like to. Second of all it has nothing to do with the times. There [have] been revealing clothes always.”
Child development specialist and body image expert Dr. Robyn Silverman says that while teenage fashions have indeed evolved, it’s not due to a change in kids or in parenting styles, but rather it’s a result of endless media messages regarding sex appeal. “The way girls dress today is not based on a new kind of girl but rather the intense media and societal pressure for girls to present themselves as sexy objects,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “Media messages happen 24/7 in today’s world, as opposed to decades ago when drips of pressure happened only periodically in fashion magazines that came to the house, through passing billboards on the street or in certain movies.”
Adults who want to encourage girls to dress based on personal style rather than societal pressure should be clear with that message, Silverman says. “People close to our girls can either reflect or deflect [media] messages by being vocal about their values, media literacy and positive examples of strong women who don’t objectify themselves,” she says.
Which is not to say that all girls should be wearing baggy T-shirts. Expressing your own unique style is a form of creativity, and clothes can be a tool of empowerment, as long as they are chosen for the right reason, according to Silverman. “Fashion can be fun without falling into objectification and specialization,” she says. “It can be a wonderful form of self expression rather than a reflection of societal and media pressure.”