June 14, 2012

Mommy, am I too fat for Abercrombie & Fitch?

Yes, these eight words actually came out of my 5th grader’s mouth recently. My jaw hit the floor – just look at her, she could not get any prettier in my eyes. I could not believe that my beautiful little girl is already experiencing self esteem issues this young. But once I thought about it – this should not surprise any of us. Look at the advertising strategies of children’s clothing lines, movies, youtube vidoes. It’s all around them, all at the convenience of one little click or push on their smart device. Girls quickly determine that being skinny = being beautiful. The new media is the devil.

5th grade was the first year that my daughter remotely cared about brands. She is at a uniform school, so when the kids started expressing themselves in what they wore, they really chatted brands and AF Kids was top of the list. I was ok with it at first, the flower printed skirts last summer were super cute, albeit WAY too short, but with leggings, totally doable. We also tried to embrace the classic oxford shirts, but it seemed really difficult to find the right fit. My child is a healthy, normal, beautiful girl – she is not a bean pole, she is muscular like her mama. I found that every shirt, tee shirt, oxford, tank – everything was insanely slim. So I thought, well, this just isn’t a brand that works for her body type. Move on. Totally fine, there are a zillion cute brands out there, this just isn’t working. Until she asked for AFK clothes only for Christmas. Hmmm, how do I respond to this without scarring her for life?

I thought I found the solution – sweatpants! They sell sweatpants, that should work. NOT. I cannot accurately describe how narrow their sweatpants were in all ALL sizes, even moving up to the ladies. That’s when I started to do some digging. I decided to test my super slim and petite 8-year-old on the AFK brand. She is equivalent to a size 6 in regular kids clothes, and she’s almost 9 years old. I bought her an S in the oxford shirt – I was told this is close to a normal size 7/8. Umm, no, this is not even near what a size 7/8 is. It was TIGHT on my slim jim, who wears a size 6. What is wrong with these people?

My problem with AFK is not that it is a brand that fits really slim children, because they need clothes too. My problem is the branding image that this company spends a fortune on – from the half nude cute boy on their bags (that I’m assuming is meant to entice 7-13 year-olds, really??) to the super model skinny tweens featured in their clothes. This brand is socially irresponsible. They are the ONLY major kids brand that doesn’t have a slim/regular/plus sizing option. You know what they have? “Skinny”, “Super Skinny” and “Regular” describe their sizing model. So what kind of message does this send to our beautiful girls who sometimes grow wider than tall at certain times in their lives? It results in this question: Mommy, am I too fat for Abercrombie and Fitch?

Let’s revisit Wendy’s blog this week – My Inner Mean Girl. I vow not to have my girls grow up with a lifetime of dieting and not feeling pretty enough. Beauty is only skin deep. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. I’ve walked in my 5th grader’s shoes, she has her mama’s genes 100%! I grew wider than tall in the middle school years and then I grew into a muscular and athletic woman. But I never stopped thinking that I was too fat. Not until I turned 40 and just decided to throw all of that out the window. Life is too short to constantly try to get a size smaller. I will not allow brands like AFK to muddy my child’s self esteem. She is the most beautiful person I have ever seen, inside and out (aside from her super cute siblings of course:-).

So I’m kicking AFK to the curb, we’re done with that hot mess of a trend. We’re sticking with pink & green happy places, like Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines, that actually make you feel good, no matter what your size is.

This One Direction video is first on our birthday playlist – so fitting, she has no idea how beautiful she is and will become. LOVE One Direction:-)

32 Responses

  1. Cheryl Perry Cheryl Perry says:

    Great post, Jen! It breaks my heart that your sweet girl said this!!! We aren’t there yet with A&F (thank goodness!) – this is my warning ha! And it’s still so amazing to me that trends hit kids so young – even my kindergartener asks for certain name-brand shoes! But I remember being the same way (Forenza anyone?) so that’s nothin’ new. Have they gotten rid of the term “Husky” yet in sizing? Terrible!

  2. Jennifer Voorhees Jen V. says:

    Very good post. We are hit in the face with it as adults all the time and it’s sad that it’s now in our kids’ faces, when they are the most impressionable. Kudos to you, Jen, for being a responsible parent and talking up your daughter’s beauty. That positive reinforcement is the message she needs to hear and see, not AFK’s.

  3. Tina Hicks Tina Hicks says:

    Wonderful post. I received my degree, many moons ago, in Child and Family. I can still remember the lecture on children being presented as “sex objects” for ads. (These ads were NOTHING like the AFK ads today even. They maybe had make up and fake eyelashes.) That lecture has lived with me and I am conscious on what my girls wear and how they feel. Confidence comes from inside and being a positive role model for them is so important. I don’t always feel “super skinny, sexy, beautiful, etc. but I will never let my girls hear me complain about my “thunder thighs” because they WILL carry that until they are a mom. P.S. We have never been in AFK to shop either! :)

  4. Jen says:

    My 10 year old son went from S to XL in one year at AF Kids – I asked if they adjusted their sizing recently. One girl did say that everything has gone down a size – so an XL that used to be a 16 is really 12/14 and the XS that was an 8 is now 6/7 (but actually looks more like 4/5). Also, I thought I was in the kids AF when I mistakenly walked into the adult store because the clothes looked so tiny.

  5. Jennifer says:

    This is a really great post. Luckily we still have a few more years before my daughter learns about AF (at least I hope so). Your daughter is beautiful.

    • Jen Plym Jen Plym says:

      Thank you, Jennifer:-) She has no idea. And unfortunately, I think she’s going to struggle through the next few years with self confidence in her weight. She’s just not a bean pole while many are at her age. It’s just how God makes us:-)

  6. Christine says:

    Until people actually STOP BUYING the products that companies like AFK carry, then they have no incentive to stop making and marketing clothes this way. I have never liked AF or its marketing methods, but the last straw was the padded, triangle- top bikini geared to 7 year olds. I can honestly say we have never bought ANYTHING from AF and AFK. We, as parents of girls, talk a big game when it comes to the sexualization of our children, but unless you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and STOP SHOPPING at these places, they will never change.

  7. Michelle Icard Michelle says:

    I couldn’t agree more! My girl had the same response to that store. Everything is structured like a tube sock – long and tight. Blech. We much prefer American Eagle.

  8. Jessica says:

    Hey Jen! Haven’t seen A in forever! She is really so beautiful! And, I feel you when you share what you did in this blog. Cami is 5 1/2 and has hair to die for…golden curls that stop people in their tracks just to say something to her whenever we are out and about. And, what is she saying these days? I wish my hair was straight! WOW…she is 5 1/2…where does it come from? We have a long road ahead of us…please keep writing blogs like this to help us be strong when the world wants to promote the wrong message to our children! Love, Jessica

  9. Cat says:

    Beautiful post! I spent most of my life feeling chubby and in college wound up with an eating dissorder. Even at 95 lbs, I still had wide hips and despaired that I couldn’t fit into size 0 jeans (despite being able to count every single one of my ribs). Now that I’m older I’m determined that my daughter won’t go through what I went through. Size doesn’t matter. Health matters. And since Daddy refuses to let the kids wear “trendy” clothes (he has something against clothes that come pre-worn-out hehe), we’re just going to stick with the brands that fit their body types. (Although, I’m having the opposite problem at the moment – my preschool age boys are twigs and I can’t find pants thin enough for them). Thank you so much for this great heads-up post. Lets all support the brands that promote healthy body image!

  10. Stephanie says:

    Well the link I followed was very misleading – I certainly wouldn’t call having to buy BIGGER sizes vanity sizing.

    I’m sorry that your daughter is dealing with these issues. I was on the large side as a kid (still am) and the self esteem issues that girls can face are awful.

    However, having said that – now I’m off to see if they have boys clothes b/c my almost 8 year old is just over 40 lbs and needs a 6/7 in length but can easily fit into 3t’s and 4t’s around.

    I have absolutely given up on there being any common ground in sizing in the clothing industry. I bought 5/6’s in basketball and knit shorts from one store that could fall off my child if I didn’t tie them so tight, so I got a 4 in swim trunks from the same store, thinking the water would end up pulling them off. Hah! The trunks are almost too tight! It’s very frustrating!

  11. Jessie says:

    This post makes me so mad! My daughter is only 19 mos old now so I’m nowhere near this struggle, thanfully but it’s appaling that brands are subjecting our children to this nonsense! It’s bad enough they do it to adults, children should be off limits especially at that young of an age. BTW, your daughter looks like she could be a model – she’s gorgeous. Not that that’s the point – it’s not because even if she wasn’t, she’d still be valuable but it’s amazing that she is made to feel anything less than beautiful. Good for you, I’m boycotting them with you – the whole brand. They have a laundry list of appaling practices and this just adds to it.

  12. Sonya says:

    Your daughter is absolutely stunning and perfect as she is! We kicked AFK to the curb after about 2 years. My daughter was super slender, but the pants were so low rise that she could not bend over. I don’t know many pre-teens, or teens who will make sure to pull their top down before they bend over to cover the back side. Speaking of the tops, they are so low cut and the girls have their goods stacked up and hanging out more than Pamela Anderson! AFK is not the look I want my young children wearing around young boys and perverted old men!

  13. cathy says:

    Totally agree! A&F markets to the super tiny people. According to their CEO ( an incredibly pompus man) they don’t want “large” or “ugly” people wearing their brand – so they make it impossible for 90% of the population to wear. Not only that – they charge an arm and a leg for doll clothes!
    My almost 10 year old , is their demographic. But I refuse to buy her anything there! No hoochie, crotch riding shorts for her!

  14. Colleen says:

    Jen – your daughter is beautiful – and could be a model herself. You’re doing a great job teaching her what’s really important, so keep up the great work. My daughter is only 1, but AKF can officially kiss this consumer good-bye. There’s no way I even want to subject my daughter to that. Tell your daughter she looks smashing in those Lilly & VV pinks anyways :) Thanks for shedding light!

  15. JJG says:

    I agree, your daughter is beautiful. I’ve never liked AKF and we will not be shopping there when the time comes. Keep up the good work of setting a good example when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. I’ll never forget an eating disorder class I took in college. The professor said something about fathers influence on body image and comments made by fathers are some of the first young girls remember, even if it’s a joking comment. I know my father never meant any harm but a light bulb when off when he said this because I’ll never forget when my dad jokingly said, “a moment on the lips, an eternity on the hips.” I think I can finally admit that I struggled at times with an eating disorder. I also think I am finally getting to an age that I’m comfortable and confident in my own skin. Thanks for bringing such an important topic to smarty pants.

  16. Grace says:

    Just because our daughter’s CAN wear certain clothes doesn’t mean they should. What a good way to teach them about modesty whether they are skinny or big-boned. Teaching our children (boys too!) to have self-respect, confidence, and recognizing inner beauty of every person is invaluable.

  17. love this post jen (kind of think you should send it to AKF). And LOVE the pic of your beauty! She is such a treasure.

  18. Amy Volk says:

    wow…great article. I am sad that your daughter had to even ask this question. I am so through with this brand. yuck.

  19. This is a great post, because it speaks so well to an overwhelming problem we have in our culture about what messages we are sending to our girls. And there is no way that the message being sent by A&F is anything except wrong and practically dangerous. Girls will struggle. We know that. But brands like these certainly shouldn’t be helping the process.
    Great work here Jen.

  20. Happy says:

    I’m sorry I love Abercrombie, but the clothing is meant for skinner individuals, just like Lane Bryant is for larger people. And their clothing is meant to fit tight.

  21. Natalie says:

    I agree with this, but then I don’t. People think it’s socially irresponsible to showcase skinny people, but being skinny is healthier! I’m not calling your daughter Fat( Heavens no! She is Beautiful) but being 9 or 10 and not fitting into a 7/8 shouldn’t be that big of a shocker! Just like they have plus sized stores, they also should have stores for skinnier people!

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  23. Emla says:

    It’s too bad that your daughter felt this way. As adults we should be modeling and practicing daily exercise and healthy food choices and then being too heavy won’ be an issue.

  24. LUNABAR says:

    Your daughter is beautiful. She is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t believe she doesn’t know it! My daughter is actually very very skinny and is about her age and too tall for regular jeans so AFK was the place to go, BUT it’s clothing was still actually kind of tight on her!!! She is

  25. Kimber says:

    The only thing that I will note – is that I am SO THANKFUL that Abercrombie kids exists. I was always the skinny beanpole kid … i struggled with finding things to fit MY ENTIRE LIFE. I will never forget the first time I ever tried on a pair of Abercrombie kids jeans.. It was 8th grade.. and THEY FIT. I didn’t need a belt.. I didn’t need to have my mom sew darts in the back.. THEY JUST FIT. (I had to buy the “slims” because the regular were still too large) Although the branding is strange (especially for children), I am now 27 years old – and this is still the ONLY place that I can buy pants! ps. I am 5ft and 75lbs – although I have been told my entire life that I am “too skinny” – I have been recently told by a doctor “some people are just meant to be tiny!” I generally fit a size 8/10 at other kids stores.. but the pants will always be wayyyy too short. At abercrombie I can buy the 12 slims and they fit perfectly!

  26. Marisa says:

    Im sorry to hear your daughter thinks she is overweight as a child, I was in the same category, stocky but never fat. However, shopping for my daughter now is why I believe abercrombie should exist. She is 5′ and 55lbs, and cannot fit anything anywhere except there, and is in the 5th grade. Even though they dont cater to larger children, there is literally no other brand that caters to extremely thin children while I can name several that sell plus sizes. She isnt unhealthy, just very petite, she eats more than me!! I know this post is older so im sure your daughter has found better brands but ive always loved american eagle and aeropostale

  27. cordell says:

    total bull. while your daughter is a cutie, i was her age once too. im 24 now. i was a size 8 womens at her age and was grossly over weight. now im 5’4 and a size 0-2 . i learned to exercise vigoroulsy and control my diet in order to fit the high fashion luxury brands i liked as well as AKF (which fits me ideal bc they work great work work clothes) Just get her tween or womens’s sizes if she cant make it in the kids. A size 0 in Hollister skirts might fit her well if shes under a 25′ waist. some styles run smaller or larger or to size so id have her try on a number of designs rather than say ” all AKF designs are slim fit” because really, they are not.

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