We love lingerie, and buying pretty things is one of the cool things about being an adult. But we are definitely are not down with 4-year-old girls feeling like they need to wear bras to fit in with their friends. As weird as it sounds, bras are being made in extremely tiny sizes these days, and little 4- and 5-year-old girls apparently want them very much.
In the New York Times, children’s book author Stephanie Sorkin said her 5-year-old daughter ran home from summer camp and demanded a bra, because all her friends were wearing them.
“She came home from camp and said, ‘Why am I the only one not wearing a bra?’ I was like, ‘If you don’t call it a bra, I’ll go to the store and see what you’re talking about, but a 5-year-old doesn’t wear a bra.’”
The bras Sorkin’s daughter was talking about are sometimes called “bralettes,” according to the Times, and they actually look pretty innocent. They resemble the top part of an undershirt with spaghetti straps. They’re made for kids aged 4-13, and they’ve apparently become a very popular item of apparel. In some cases, we can see where they’d be useful. Kids mature at different rates, and there are plenty of 8-year-old girls who are ready for kid-friendly bras.
There are fewer 4-year-olds who are ready for bras, but companies are making and marketing these for them, too.
One buyer told the Times that they’re basically undershirts.
“They serve the same purpose,” she said.
They might serve the same purpose and look a bit like a short undershirt, but what bothers us is that Sorkin’s 5-year-old didn’t run home demanding an undershirt. She wanted a bra, and she wanted one because the other kids had them. This combination of proto-lingerie and peer pressure makes us want to cuddle some stuffed animals and watch Dora the Explorer until the world starts letting little kids stay little kids until they’re at least 8 years old. There’s plenty of time for peer pressure and worrying about lingerie and breast size in the whole rest of our lives.
We definitely understand there’s a market for these kids’ bras. When we were small, all we wanted to be was older. We longed for bras and bikinis, envied girls who possessed slinky satin nightgowns, and toddled about in our grandma’s high heels and insisted against all evidence that they almost fit. But just because kids want something doesn’t mean they should get it.
Lori Evans, a clinical assistant professor in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University Langone Child Study Center, told the Times she did not much like the mini-bras either:
“My problem with bralettes as opposed to other things that kids might want is what it does to a girl’s image. Does it say to a 5-year-old that there’s something wrong with her, that she needs breasts or that there’s an expectation?””
But still, she says, that’s not necessarily what’s going on, even when a 5-year-old shows up and wants a “bra” like all the other kids are wearing.
“I wouldn’t be so horrified by it. If they start stuffing their little bralettes, then that’s a different thing.”
We would definitely have been stuffing our little bralettes at that age.