East Texans react to padded bikini bra for pre-teens

BEAUMONT, TX (News Release) - It's a bikini top that in one word is,"stiff." That's how SFA fashion design lecturer Michelle Jones described it to her students.

The padded bra presents the illusion of breasts where there are none. Abercrombie Kids wants your little girl to wear one.

"That's ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous," said Stephanie Baker, the mother of two girls. Her three year old daughter, Evie, has a few years to grow before becoming a target customer.

"I know my niece used to shop there when she was in fifth grade," said Jones.

The outrage over the padded bikinis is a ready made lesson for future designers. "Do we have a responsibility as a designer, as a merchandiser, to what type of products we're offering?," asked Jones of her students.

Yes, is the overwhelming answer. "They (fashion industry) really don't care about 'em (customers) much anymore as they used to back in the day, I guess, and they just really want their money," expressed Caitlin Garner, a fashion design student.

"While we have to fit what's good for other customers, we also have to fit what's good for the brand. And that's why, I think, Abercrombie and Fitch (says) all our other stuff is more sexy and more revealing, so why not push it for the little (children)," said Reid, giving merchandisers somewhat of a break.

And what are the little boys thinking? "They're thinking,'oh those are nice boobs or those are really nice legs," said Sara Rose, the mother of a nine year old boy. She would rather her son grow up some before being presented such thoughts.

This isn't the first time parents have been angry over child merchandising. Yolanda Menefee, a sales associate for a local retailer says parents frequently complain that dresses, even underware, are too revealing for their children. "They want the little girls to look like little girls and they're looking at grownups," said Menefee as she stocked the clothing racks. Over the last three years, she's noticed that junior styles and reflected in little girl styles.

Fortunately, the vast majority of children's swimsuits have a light lining in the top. After all, "You have your whole life to have breasts," said student, Mallory Marshall.

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