Millie Bobby Brown is the cover star for So It Goes magazine, and The Telegraph‘s Victoria Moss isn’t too keen on it. The 12-year-old Stranger Things actress is slowly becoming a media darling and for good reason – not only is she supremely talented and part of a hit Netflix show, but she’s adorable and charming to boot. But Moss’ problem isn’t with Millie, it’s more with magazines and brands who have an adult audience, propping up a child as a fashion plate. Moss takes issue most of all with the thought of a young girl modeling clothes worth thousands of dollars.
“At no point did anyone raise the issue of whether a twelve-year-old child should be modelling a £4000 Chloé dress. Let alone, whether that makes you actually want to buy one in the first place. That’s what she’s wearing on the front cover of So It Goes.” The dress in question is laden with frills, which she wears with a pair of combat boots, grey t-shirt, and a bomber jacket. “Fashion has always been a contrary, opinion dividing beast, but where do we draw the line? Perhaps in separating it away from fiction. Do I want Millie Bobby Brown back as Eleven in series two? Hell yes. Do I want to see a twelve-year-old in a fashion shoot, or read an interview with one? Erm. Not really. Yes, she’s cute. But hyped up fawning over the ‘look’ of a minor is creepy at best.”
As Moss points out, the fashion industry has a long tradition of presenting young kids as fashion icons, usually in clothing many adults can’t even afford. Dakota and Elle Fanning are two such former child stars who come to mind. As a 13-year-old, Dakota starred in a Marc by Marc Jacobs ad. When she was 17, Marc Jacobs cast her to appear in the label’s Oh Lola! fragrance campaign, an ad which was later banned in the UK for being too provocative. “We noted that the model was holding up the perfume bottle which rested in her lap between her legs and we considered that its position was sexually provocative. We understood the model was 17 years old but we considered she looked under the age of 16,” the ASA explained to the Telegraph at the time. We considered that the length of her dress, her leg and position of the perfume bottle drew attention to her sexuality. Because of that, along with her appearance, we considered the ad could be seen to sexualise a child.”
Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka is only 16, but regularly rocks Dior, and is featured on the cover of W magazine’s April 2016 issue, along with Willow Smith (15) and Zendaya (20). Willow Smith is a brand ambassador for Chanel along with 17-year-old Lily-Rose Depp. Hailee Steinfeld posed for a 2011 Miu Miu campaign, which was banned when the ASA ruled that the ad “was irresponsible and in breach of the code in showing a child in a hazardous or dangerous situation.”
We can all agree that having a child in a sexually provocative ad or situation is a no-no, but is seeing non-adults modeling expensive clothing marketed to grown men and women a problem for impressionable kids?
According to parenting expert Michele Borba Ed.D., it is. “The concern is that if she is an idol for tweens, it does become problematic. As a society, we have become one that values brands and what’s on the outside, as opposed to the inside as what counts,” she told Yahoo Style over the phone. “It’s a very difficult age anyway for tweens because they’re forming their identity, and a lot of times they do that by looking to others they admire.”
Tabloids and fashion websites (including this one) also fawn over the pricey wardrobes of celebrity kids. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter has made more than a few headlines for her pricey kiddie closet. Victoria Beckham’s daughter Harper wore Chloé tights before she even knew the value of such hosiery. Blue Ivy Carter made it very clear to Rihanna at the 2015 Grammys that she was wearing Dior. North West has a wardrobe of designer duds that would make a fashion-obsessed grown woman envious.
Borba says the obsession over celebrity kids’ clothing adds to the problem. “Here’s what we need to realize. It impacts [kids,] not only their self-esteem and identity, but it impacts what they want to be when they grow up. 15 years ago, when we asked our kids what they wanted to be, it was, ‘a leader, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher.’ Now? it’s ‘rich’ or ‘famous’ The dollar signs begin to make a dent because it’s flaunted, it’s front page of a cover, and it’s talked about. It’s now about notoriety and what we need to do is temper that down.”
But Borba thinks there’s hope. “People are finally wising up and waking up that we are fast forwarding childhood too soon. It becomes this question of ‘why are we doing that to a kid,’ when a childhood is a terrible thing to waste.”