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Abercrombie bows to pushback on kiddie push-up bikini


In the face of impossible-to-ignore outrage, clothing maker Abercrombie and Fitch has quickly moved to reframe one of its tween offerings in a less-sexy manner. Last week, news that a push-up bikini top was being marketing to girls as young as 7 spread like wildfire across the Internet.

Now, the company has removed not the item, but the word "push-up" from its online catalogue. The top is now merely a "triangle" top.

Some observers say that the misstep is almost predictable for the risque retailer.

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"While the company may be ducking fire for its latest questionably marketed clothing, over-sexualizing tweens is not new ground for Abercrombie, which stirred up controversy when it started selling thongs to pint-sized customers in 2002," the Daily News points out.

Another company, the British retailer Primark, faced a similar backlash last year and eventually pulled its padded tops after politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, voiced concerns over the swimsuits, the Daily News reports.

Other powerful consumer backlashes come to mind, from the frivolous to the nausea-inducing. There was Sun Chips' ill-fated new bag. The Gap's ill-fated new logo was not long for this world. And then there was also the case of the odious pedophile handbook that Amazon finally removed from its site.

But might this push-up bikini saga have broader implications about gender issues? Might tween make-up at Walmart, ubiquitous Disney princesses, high heels for toddlers and, now, sexy swimsuits for seven-year-olds, be finally pushing the envelope too far? Is this a vision of girlhood that parents never actually meant to sign off on?

It's certainly one that is making some parents' heads explode, including Cinderella Ate My Daughter author Peggy Orenstein, who pondered the meaning of "push-up" on her blog.

Watch for more churn this week, as the Today Show and others are set to follow the story, according to blogger Rebecca Odes, who was one of the earliest people to the topic. Ms. Odes sees the capitulation as a positive development.

"I'm personally pleased that they changed the name as I think the way the product is framed is as much a part of the problem as the product itself," she writes.

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Does removing the word "push-up" make a difference, or is it just semantics? Is there any chance girlhood can get a reprieve from sexiness?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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