How young is too young?
By Will Jackson
TINY bras designed to suit six year-old-girls are a new low in the continuing sexualisation of children, says Clunes mother Karuna Fielden. Karuna, who is also manager of the Lismore and District Women's Health Centre, believes it's a bad idea to let pre-pubescent girls dress like young women. "It all sets up unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of how they should behave," she said. Bras in size 6-8 with clasps on the back and padded cups are now commonly available in Northern Rivers retail stores alongside other clothing designed for primary school girls. The bras have come on the market as a generation of girls are being influenced by pop stars who regularly forget to wear underwear in public, toy dolls like the Bratz who make Barbie look conservative, and overtly sexual themes on soapies. Karuna said she couldn't understand why bras were being produced for such young girls. "There's no physical reason for it," she said. "Of course children like to wear nice clothing but there's a difference between nightwear and lingerie. "There's also a difference between playing dress-ups and everyday wear." She also objected to the term 'tween' which she said was a marketing strategy to legitimate selling inappropriate clothing to children. Odette Gage, owner of Lismore store Jeanettes, specialises in underwear and bras -- for women and girls who actually need them. "Bras aren't just another fashion item," she said. "They're associated with womanhood and it's not appropriate for little girls to wear them." Odette said most girls came in to get their first bras when they were starting high school and in their early teens, but some girls did develop breasts earlier than others. She was firm in the belief that girls shouldn't start wearing bras until they needed them, with the exception of girls who might develop later than their friends and want a bra to 'fit in'. However, her shop assistant Alex Parkes, 18, disagreed. She said bras were just another piece of clothing little girls would want to wear. "It doesn't affect the way they act," she said. "It is just a fashion thing."