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Teen Health 411

Fashion Bullies in Middle School

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The Wall Street Journal recently included an article about fashion bullies by Vanessa O'Connell that I really enjoyed, in a sick, kind of irritated beyond belief kind of way. The article talked about the fact that adolescent girls have long used fashion as a social weapon, but today some professionals say that fashion bullying has reached a new level of intensity as more designers launch collections targeted at kids. Girls in places where this is a problem are expected to wear not just any designer brands, but the "right" brands, and the better (read more expensive) the brand, the higher the level in the social pecking order.

Ms. O'Connel also discussed some of the ways school and community programs focused on girl-on-girl bullying are addressing peer pressure and the role of clothing plays in girls' identify. It seems there might be a connection between fashion bullying and the proliferation of designer brands and the labels of ads. Retailers, too are helping this phenomenon with boutiques for children and tweens. The greater focus on fashion in teen magazines and on TV has increased girls' awareness of designer labels. Kids today follow what celebrities wear on the show and off the show, and can even follow the style of celebrity's children.

If having access to designer clothes affords some kids the opportunity to become popular, which protects and gives youth social power, my vote is that schools make labels "contraband" and that young girls wanting to fight the pressure to conform remove the labels from the inside of their clothes as well! Maybe it will be a new fad hat will also empower young girls - label removing - and we can make buttons that say "please do not judge me by what is on the outside."

PLEASE!! Isn't it enough that kids are worried about their futures, the future of the planet and their safety? Now they have to worry about fashion, too? Young girls do not have to suffer and parents can help - talk about the fact that what we wear is not who we are and become label-blind. Do not feed the madness!

Photo credit: clownfish

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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