Girls Gone Wild 

It easily could have been a Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog. There were sexy schoolgirl skirts and naughty nurse costumes, belly-dancing bras and harem pants, halter-tops and micro-minis.
It easily could have been a Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog. There were sexy schoolgirl skirts and naughty nurse costumes, belly-dancing bras and harem pants, halter-tops and micro-minis. What made my stomach churn as I leafed through its pages was that many of the models were little girls—and I was supposed to be choosing a costume from the book for my stepdaughters’ upcoming dance recital.

“I think this off-the-shoulder thing going on here is real cute,” said a mom beside me, pointing to a skin-tight, crotch-length dress modeled by a pouting tween.

“No, no,” another mom countered. “The song they’re dancing to has cake in it. They should be wearing that waitress costume on page 47.” She was referring to a short, slitted dress with coordinating white fishnets that would’ve violated the Health Department code in 48 states.

As they argued back and forth, I frantically paged through the other costume catalogs that came my way, searching for something, anything, that Paris Hilton wouldn’t be caught dead in. Finally, I found it: a trendy, comparatively modest take-off on the newsboy look. Cautiously, I stood up.

“May I have everyone’s attention?” I ventured.

I began what must’ve been the most heartfelt speech of my life; after all, my stepdaughters’ virtue was at stake. Finally, exhausted and brought nearly to tears by the sheer magnificence of the stunning newspaper-delivery couture I had described, my voice cracked with emotion and I could say no more. It was time for a vote. “What are you picking?” I whispered to a sympathetic-looking mom seated across from me.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I really liked the go-go halter set with the thigh-high boots.”

“Let’s see a show of hands for the newsboy costume,” the dance teacher shouted. Five hands shot up. “Go-go halter set.” 15 hands raised. Sighing, I lowered my head in defeat. My stepdaughters would be dolled up like pint-sized Carmen Electras and I had a bunch of mothers to thank for it.

That was four years ago. When my own daughter was born a year later, I resolved never to let her set foot in that studio, but today I’m learning that it’s going to be harder to keep the kid de-hoochied than I had thought.

“Oooh, sexy, sexy!”

I overheard those words a few days ago as a mom cooed over her young daughter and her friends while my toddler and I strolled through the aisles of Club Libby Lu. Located inside the Cool Springs Galleria Parisian, the Disney-endorsed girls’ boutique uses makeup, hair extensions and body-hugging costumes to transform little girls into so-called rock princesses and dance divas.

The “sexy” girls in question looked to be about 9 years old. They wore identical belly-baring tops, skintight black pants and wigs of long, platinum-blond hair. Before their makeover party was over, they would learn a dance routine and perform with fake microphones at the Club Libby Lu entrance for parents and curious passersby.

On one level, it seemed like harmless fun. But as I watched the girls lip-synch to a Hannah Montana song they all knew by heart (“You get the limo out front, have the styles, every shoe, every color”), something felt wrong. When I was a child, dressing up involved my mother’s lipstick and one of her old fancy nightgowns. But these girls looked like they’d raided Madonna’s closet during the “Vogue” years—and their parents were footing the bill.

In a culture that tracks every move of hard-partying, bed-hopping young celebutantes and then rewards their bad behavior with record deals and movie roles, it was only a matter of time before little girls found their new idols and marketers began trying to capitalize on their superstar dreams. As a mom, I can take a stand and say no to pop-tart birthday parties, MTV-style dance recitals and slutty Bling Bling Barbies, but I worry I’ll end up being viewed by my daughter and her friends as the modern-day equivalent of the mother in Carrie.

While these thoughts ran through my mind, the bewigged rock divas left to change back into their street clothes and another group of 5- and 6-year-old girls approached, led by a mom carefully balancing a birthday cake. They clustered around one of the stylists, shaking their hips to the dance music that was blasting overhead. Gone were the pinafores and overalls that filled my closet when I was five; these girls were dressed in child-sized mini skirts, designer T-shirts and tight jeans. They wore hairstyles straight from the pages of teen fashion magazines.

“I already know what look I want and so do my friends,” the birthday girl said dismissively when the stylist began to list their options. “We’ve been thinking about this for ages.”

Hearing this, I snatched a Hannah Montana makeup kit from my daughter’s hands and took her off to ride the mall carousel. By the looks of things, she had about one good year of girlhood left. And dammit, I was going to make the most of it.

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