Inside the Mix

Age-appropriate marketing toward teenage girls another positive step for 'real women'

Age-appropriate marketing toward teenage girls another positive step for 'real women'

Much has been written - this column included - about the better-late-than-never phenomenon of "real women," showing that beauty exists in every shape, color, and age.

Much has been written - this column included - about the better-late-than-never phenomenon of "real women," showing that beauty exists in every shape, color, and age.

A group of my girlfriends had a discussion last week about whether we'd ever have plastic surgery, and all of us 30-somethings agreed that we were aging rather tastily, thank you very much, and would much rather continue treating ourselves to luxurious lotions and make do with what we have than go under the knife. (My ladies did agree, however, to an amnesty on dying our gray hair out.)

Put simply, women are allowed to be women; they are not being told that looking like a girl is better. And while I was considering the notion of age-appropriateness, I really noticed how young girls currently are acting - and, more telling, dressing - in a way that befits their junior years.

A Good Morning America segment the week before last showed fall fashion trends for young teenage girls. As the third model walked in, Charles Gibson commented on the outfits' modesty. Atoosa Rubenstein, the editor of Seventeen who copresented the segment, noted that the overtly sexy Britney era was soooo over.

Emerging fashion designer Ellis Dixon confirms that the widespread trend of long tunics, layering, and higher waistbands is appealing to women and girls of all ages. And unlike most other trends of the past five or so years, it is one that is genuinely appropriate for all of these age groups.

This trend has plenty in common with the values-based campaign that the Republicans ran for the 2004 election and even reflects historical patterns of hemlines rising and falling with the economy and/or the national spirit. A hard-fought war in Iraq, it seems, has had a trickle-down effect on your daughter's waistband.

This trend has been traced for a couple of years now. An article in City Journal last spring charted the influences of the "sex doesn't sell" mood and suggested that our kids are the best medium through which to check the pulse of our culture. What's interesting about this is that most experts agree that kids are shaped most by the age group directly above them. Trone PR's David Mullen handles the account for clothing company Healthtex, which actively promotes age-appropriate clothes for kids. He notes that the trend for modesty started out on college campuses (which makes sense, given students' traditional political awareness) and trickled down to high schoolers. Mullen says it hasn't completely trickled down to the youngest age group yet, partly because it can be a slow process getting clothes from the drawing board to the retail store.

So for now, it does seem as though marketing to young teenage girls as young teenage girls, rather than mini-adults, is an effective strategy, and, indeed, current teen role models (Lindsay Lohan being a notable exception) are notably cleaner than in recent years. It's hard to say whether this new conservatism is due to social values affecting our kids or whether it's simply part of the fashion cycle. But if these girls are dressing age-appropriately during this pivotal part of their lives, there is hope that the "real women" movement will continue apace once they become adult women, with the spending influence that they pack.

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