Bikini onesie: Really? Baby girl clothes that go too far

Bikini onesie? Parents say a bikini onesie for sale at Gordman's department store goes too far. But it's hardly the only example of baby girl clothes that leave parents shaking their heads.

Courtesy of Disney Consumer Products
OK, so this is "Sully" from Monster's Inc. But there's a perilous genre of the “funny onesie,” and the latest is a bikini onesie being sold at Mississippi department store Gordman's. There a big array of cotton baby bodysuits labeled with clever sayings, jokes, references and other innuendos that can leave parents shaking their heads.

We just couldn’t let this bikini onesie news item go by without commenting: Parents of Southaven, Miss., were outraged this week, according to news reports, to find a baby onesie printed with a woman’s curvy midsection covered by a skimpy red polka doted bikini for sale at their Gordman’s department store.

Inappropriate, many parents said. Disgusting, others agreed. Why would you want someone to look at your 18-month-old daughter and think sex object? 

Of course others wondered, “What’s the big deal? It’s a cheeky onesie.”  (There will be no universal opinion about these matters in parent land, I can assure you that.)  

The clothing item in question is part of the Wild Child brand of the Bon Bébé clothing line, which also includes onesies with sayings like “What happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s” and “No dating allowed.” 

This, you know if you have children or have ever looked for a baby present, is part of the wide and perilous genre of the “funny onesie,” a mind-boggling array of (often expensive) cotton bodysuits labeled with clever sayings, jokes, references and other innuendos. 

(And a tip for the baby gift buyers here: You can go really, really wrong with these sorts of onesies. One person’s funny is another’s inappropriate. And a lot of people don’t have a great sense of humor when it comes to slapping labels on their kids. So that “Daddy and I like boobies” shirt? Give it a pass.)

Now, there are some important issues surrounding the bikini onesie controversy of this week. Sexualization of children’s clothing is a problem, as witnessed by the regular incidents of “OMG, did I just see that?” in parent shopping land.

Think of the French company Jour Apres Lunes’s “loungerie” line for girls 3 months and up, complete with photo spread of little girls in heavy makeup.  Or the padded bras for 7-year-old. Or the – I promise I am not making this up - crotchless panties for the elementary school set. (At least one store were these were sold, called Kids N Teen, removed the undergarments after parents complained. Um, yeah.)

The fact that these items even exist – and, according to retailers, often sell well – is a sign of how unmoored we’ve become about kids and sexuality, and what “sexy” means to children. (In large part, it means more purchasing. "Sexy," advertisers have learned, sells well – even to tots too young to understand its adult meaning.)

But also at issue with the bikini onesie is something a bit more mundane, but also important.

What a lot of parents find distasteful about the bikini onesie – and a number of the other “funny” ones out there – is that you’re basically using your kid as the butt of a joke.  They don’t know what they’re wearing, or why people are laughing at them. They’re a prop. And to a lot of parents, that just doesn’t seem so kind.

Especially when it involves a bikini.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.