Guidelines for age-appropriate children's clothes


MODESTY AND fun will be the essential elements of children’s wardrobes under new childrenswear guidelines published by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.

Drawn up by Retail Ireland, the voluntary guidelines set out what kind of clothing can be acceptably marketed for children, particularly girls, under the age of 12.

Following many years of criticism about the selling of clothes for children such as padded bras, micro-mini-skirts, tops with plunging neck lines and thong-type knickers by some retailers, the representative body has moved to set out what is and is not appropriate.

Retail Ireland director Stephen Lynham said all responsible retailers recognised their duty in this area to “protect childhood and safeguard the interests of children”.

Ten of the main sellers of children’s clothes have signed up to the guidelines: Arnotts, Brown Thomas, Clerys, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer, Next, Penneys, Tesco and TK Maxx. All are members of Retail Ireland.

“It is hoped more stores will follow, and there is an open invitation now to others,” Mr Lynham said.

The guidelines cover the styling, sizing, labelling and marketing of clothes, footwear and accessories for children. Among the directions are that fabric and cuts should provide for modesty, slogans and images should be age-appropriate, there should be no enhancement or underwiring in first bras and that bras should be labelled according to chest size, not age.

Ms Fitzgerald said Irish childhood had changed and continued to change, mostly for the better. However, there were potential negatives to some of the positive changes, particularly children’s increased access to information, new media and diverse cultural experiences.

“Some things are not the same for adults and children, never have been, never will be. Clothes with suggestive slogans, overtly sexual cuts and styles, unreal or unbalanced portrayals of an ‘ideal’ body image are all not the same for adults and kids.”

She was happy the code was voluntary, describing it as “the right way to go in this area”.

Mr Lynham said the effectiveness of the guidelines would be reviewed next year and an annual report would be submitted to the Minister, the first by mid-2013.

Lynn Walker, buying controller for children’s clothes with Penneys, showed how the guidelines were being applied across the Penneys and, internationally, Primark brands. “We strive to keep the look of garments very childlike, so we take trends and offer them in a young and age-appropriate way.”

Among the trends, she said, were animal prints in pale pinks and lilacs on T-shirts.

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Fabric and cut should provide for modesty;

Slogans and images should be age-appropriate;

Styles may need adjustment to ensure age-appropriateness;

Underwear should be differentiated from adult ranges and provide for modesty;

No need for structural support in vests and crop-tops;

First bras to provide comfort, modesty and support but no enhancement or under-wire;

Swimwear should provide for modesty, including when wet;

Footwear should be supportive without excessive heel height.