The latest in the how-can-they-market-this flaps on the Internet has to do with Victoria’s Secret—and its PINK line marketing come hither panties to very young, as in ‘tween girls.
Do you want examples of come hither? Try, “I dare you,” or “Let’s make out” emblazoned across the panty’s crotch. I am guessing most of the people who read this post will agree that a 12- or 14-year-old girl does not require this message on her underwear. Or lingerie—I’m not sure when the message is so… come hither whether you can just say underwear.
Indeed, the notion the marketers have come up with, that these articles of clothing conjure up a female college student all middle school girls secretly want to become says that to invite attention via messages where the sun doesn’t shine is a common ‘tween and teen aspiration.
Even though the minute there’s a hint of springtime in New England, a surprising (to old, cold me) number of that cohort in my little town sheds down jackets for tank tops and miniskirts, I do think there’s a difference between an under-dressed (to old, cold me) girl and lewd (to old, uptight me) messages on panties’ crotches.
As some have pointed out, whereas girls may have played with provocative edges for eons, the Internet makes things like a picture you might later regret different, because your imprint is virtually indelible.
I won’t belabor that point. I won’t disagree with it, either.
But what I’ll take special issue with here isn’t the evergreen nature of provocation and teens. I can’t really disagree with that, either. Many of us experimented with some version of spaghetti straps or strappy shoes and too-cold weather, right? Marketing “sexy” for teens isn’t new, either (remember Brooke Shields and her Calvins?). FYI: that commercial campaign occurred in 1980.
The PINK line—and these messages that are so wildly beyond what a young teen needs to broadcast — reminds me of a onesie that came in a hand-me-down torrent of mostly pink clothing when my daughter arrived. The Old Navy item—sized three months—had a message in the form of a want ad, “Wanted, Around the Crib” that concluded “Potty Trained Preferred.”
Pretty obviously, I couldn’t fathom this as a piece of clothing—even as an undergarment—for my tiny infant. It wasn’t remotely funny. I can’t see assumptions—that girls, either infants or ‘tweens or teens—just want to reel in males like this as either humorous or what the girls really think and feel. The onesie had me so dumbstruck I held onto it with the hopes that one day I’d know what to say about it. I think I finally do: like the come hither panties, it’s not that I really think I can stop the company (or in a way, even want to) from selling such an item; I just want to chime in that a better world for my daughter—and probably yours, too—is one where adults of the designer and marketer variety know better. What’s that line? No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
Frankly, sometimes, that nugget of folkloric-style truth is just a big old shame.