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Attention: Little Girls’ Swimsuit Designers, Manufacturers, and Sellers

Why is it so hard to find modest swimsuits for little girls? Girls of all ages want to feel pretty, but it is not necessary for toddlers, preschoolers, kids, and even tweens and teens to bare their bodies in so called cute swim suits! This mom calls for bathing suit makers to create more modest, appropriate suits for girls.

I take my daughter swimming. A lot.

We swim at least once a week for most of the year. In the summer, we often swim two or three times a week.

My daughter needs to have an assortment of swimming suits (or else I’d have to do laundry every other day, and that’s not happening).

The weather is getting warmer, and my daughter’s swimsuits from last year are not fitting well. We picked up a nice Speedo suit a few weeks ago, but I have been on the lookout for two or three more.

Today, my mom and I were in a big box store (which shall remain nameless, so don’t ask) when we passed through the clothing section.

Grace is really between sizes, fitting nicely into both a 5T or a girls’ 5. We found the girls’ swimsuits first.

I thought we were in the Victoria’s Secret swimsuit section.

I’m not kidding.

There were a total of 10 different styles of girls’ bathing suits.

  • 60% were 2-piece suits, belly-baring bikinis.
  • 40% were 1-piece suits. Every single one had cut outs in the sides. Many also had cut outs in the front and back. For the most part, the 1-piece suits were little more than bikini tops attached to bikini bottoms.

I was shocked and appalled. The more I thought about it, I became furious.

Who decided that sexy bathing suits were appropriate for small children?

Would it be appropriate for little boys to wear revealing bikini suits? Of course not. So why are they being sold for little girls?

Did anyone in the supply chain, from designer to manufacturer to store buyer to store manager pause to think about these bathing suits?

We’re talking about little girls, beginning with size 4. Toddlers. Preschoolers. Elementary school children.

They don’t belong in sexy swimsuits.

We left the girls’ department and headed toward the baby and toddler section. We found 3 traditional, respectable 1-piece suits there, all adorned with commercial characters. (Not my favorite but a huge improvement over what we’d just seen.)

We found bikini styles, a halter-style 1-piece, and a 1-piece with cut outs, similar to the ones we’d seen in girls’. Two of them had cups and strings.

Cups and strings!

For toddlers and babies.

I was under the impression that cups were to provide support for breasts, but apparently I’m wrong.

We did find a wonderful 2-piece suit that will be convenient for potty training – wet bottoms are easier to remove than a wet 1-piece when rushing to the potty. It’s essentially a tankini, and it will provide full coverage of Grace’s little body.

Aside from that one, the pickings were slim.

I was still angry when we left the store.

What’s next? Bikini waxes? Thong bikinis?

Who decided that sexy, body-baring bathing suits were appropriate for small children?

I don’t know whose idea these swimsuits were, but my daughter will not wear such trash as long as I have a say. I don’t care whether she is 2 or 6 or 12, her body will be covered.

Photo credit Svandilari

© 2010 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

57 thoughts on “Attention: Little Girls’ Swimsuit Designers, Manufacturers, and Sellers”

  1. Oh, I’ve ranted about little girls clothes before. I mean boys clothes are boring, but little girls clothes make me ill. I’ve found one piece skirted things for Katie, but it’s hard to do (18 months size). I can make an argument for tankinis easily enough, but I don’t really want her wearing bikinis because, well, that’s a whole body issue thing she doesn’t need while in the single digits.

    You might try things like Hannah Anderssen (which I think I’m butchering).

    When the VS swimsuit catalog came this year, I had to break it to my husband that thanks to my scar, I won’t be wearing anything from them again ;).

  2. Hi Tara –
    I absolutely agree with you. So much so, almost a year ago I launched a girl's apparel company to combat what I saw was the scary sexulization of girlhood. I have a four year old daughter myself, and have many of your same concerns. There is NOTHING sexual about our little girls, and manufacturers and retailers need to be held accountable. I love your post so much I'm going to link it on my business' Facebook page. I've got an army of angry moms behind me, and we're out to Redefine Girly for our girls. You're welcome to guest post (ahem, rant) on our blog anytime (http://blog.pigtailpals.com)

    For this summer, my little girl picked out shark themed boy trunks with a matching tankini. I had to search 12 different retailers before I found this winning combination. It shouldn't be that difficult. Thanks for fighting the fight and not giving in to the mainstream pornification of our children.

    How lucky your girls are to have you for their mom!

    All the best-
    Melissa Wardy
    http://www.pigtailpals.com

  3. I'm there with you and I have a 6mo. Six. Months. Old.

    We put our daughter in a little reusable swim diaper and everyone assumes she's a boy because she's not wearing a bikini. My husband takes her to swimming lessons and he's pretty disgusted by the whole thing.

  4. Could not agree more. The catalogs are even worse. There are some that show the little girls posing in flirtatious poses in these itty bitty two piece bikinis and it is just disgusting. My daughter is only 2! We go with bottoms (love the boy short style when we can find them) and rash guards or tankinis to assist with potty visits. The baby bikini bottoms aren't even big enough to cover a swim diaper!

  5. I agree that little girls don't need the sexy suits, but I have to admit that I seek out 2 pieces for her these days(she's 3) because it's SO much easier when she needs to go potty. BUT I have been very, very satisfied with the swimsuits I got on sale at Land's End. I usually pre-buy at the end of the season for the next year so they aren't that expensive, but you can still get some that aren't terribly expensive right now: http://www.landsend.com/ix/girls-clothing/Girls… It's worth it to me. to have a two piece, but one that covers well. Just my two cents.

  6. My daughter is 8, almost 9, and she refuses to wear bikinis. I'd buy her a decent one (not a “string”) one if she wanted one, but at least she is the one that has some sense. This is utterly rediculous. They are sexualizing our kids younger and younger and younger.

  7. Totally agree with you that these suits are completely inappropriate. Still buying infant so I'm not there yet with Little, but now I dread swim suit shopping with her. I know I was WAY too shy to wear a bikini for YEARS. These poor children and their self-image.

  8. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! My 8 year old daughter thinks I'm the devil for demanding 1 piece suits. It gets worse when we get to the store and THERE AREN'T ANY TO CHOOSE FROM!

    WTH?

    Angie

  9. I'm of two minds on this.

    On the one hand, I think the sexualization of young children is over the top. There is no need for it and there are plenty of reasons why it is wrong wrong wrong.

    On the other hand, I do not think that children's bodies need to be hidden. I'm happy to have my toddler run around naked on the beach if she wants to. When I buy bathing suits, I tend to buy bikinis or tankinis just because I know that they will last longer (she is growing up a lot faster than she grows out and her height is really irrelevant when it comes to the fit of a bikini). I wouldn't buy ones that look like they are trying to sexualize her body, but I don't think that baring skin always has to be dirty, especially when we are talking about a young child.

    • I agree, mostly because both of my children are notorious nudists. I think there is something so sweet and innocent about a child’s body left in a natural state for play. In the privacy of our backyard, my crew goes naked or nearly naked quite a bit. I actually view a child playing/swimming in just a bikini bottom less sexual than a 3 year old or 4 year old wearing what really is an adult-cut bikini like a sexy costume. There is a line somewhere, and the wrong side of that line makes my stomach turn.

  10. I am right there with you. I am completely horrified by the sexy clothing for kids. And I have boys! It's totally inappropriate and unnecessary. And honestly, I think it's a little sick.

  11. Oh you nailed it on the head. I was thinking the same thing at a large dept store today. I was just appaled by what I saw. They were on sale at really good prices, but I just couldn't bring myself to buy one. I want my daughter to look like a little girl… not a hoochie mama. I want her to understand modesty and not think it is common place and acceptable to show her body. I want her to respect herself and treasure the gift of her body and cherish it for as long as possible. We are already overwhelmed with sexual images of teenage girls… I want my daughter to stay pure and modest for as along as possible.

  12. Good point, Annie.

    I won't allow her to wear a bikini now because I don't want to fight the battle in a few years when she has curves. It's partly preemptive at this point. I think it would be hard to explain to a 10-year-old why it was okay to wear a bikini at 3 but isn't okay now.

    • I don’t expect to ban her from wearing bikinis at any age, but I might put my foot down if she wants to wear one that I think is inappropriate.

  13. An ongoing struggle. I have girls 11 (on a swim team, so needs several suits) and 1 and I really have to search. They are out there. Looking for athletic brands helps.

    On a related note, the boys suits on the racks this season have a rash guard shirt. girls, no. Because only boys need to be protected from skin cancer? sigh.

    • I don’t even know why we bother with tops for baby girls at the pool. Mine all wore swim diapers until they were 3ish. the beach, they need coverage to keep off the sun.

  14. I am fine with 2 pieces, at any age provided they are tasteful- and for little girls that means a lot of coverage and no provocative designs. Just the fact that provocative suits are being made is appalling and shows me where stores priorities are.

    Sad.

  15. Tara … I totally agree with you about girls' clothing. Have you looked at Gymboree? I just checked the website there, and they had one pieces, as well as tankinis. There was one that was a one-shoulder deal (I hate those), but I just overlooked it. That's where I get the majority of Rachel's clothes.

    For older girls … keep your eyes open for Pure Fashion, in your area. It's a program designed for ages 13 and up, to teach them to be role models — that they can be attractive and fashionable, while being modest.

  16. Yeah, I have the same problem and I'm an adult! For crying out loud people!
    I have two boys and I'd rather they not see all the skin starting at age 3 either… 🙁

  17. Tara, I am so with you on this one! I stick with one-piece Speedos for my girls. If my daughter had her way, she would be in a string bikini like her friends. 🙁 She is 9. It is tough to teach her to value modesty when she is surrounded by bikinis at the pool every summer, on babies, toddlers, and little girls. Sigh.

  18. When my little girl was 2 – 5yrs (maybe 6) she wore a bikini every summer (no cups were involved 😉 ) Then she, on her own, decided she wanted a tankini, now at 10 she refuses to wear a bikini – a tankini is as close as she'll go but prefers a one piece. I wish that she would wear a bikini – not because I want her to show herself off, but because I want her to feel comfortable enough with her body that she didn't care so much about wearing a bikini.

    I see it like this – when I was a kid I was too embarrassed of my body to wear one then when I wasn't too embarrassed I wasn't “allowed” to because of the church we attended. Now as an adult you wouldn't catch me dead in one. I feel like I totally missed out on the time where I could have gotten away with wearing a bikini (not to get a “boyfriend” or anything like that) but just to feel comfortable in my skin and wearing a bikini and not look like one of those women on the beach that really shouldn't be wearing it. I don't think all bikini bathing suits are bad – I'm not talking string or thong bikinis just normal ones.

    I don't know if allowing her to wear bikinis and letting her choose what bathing suit she gets made a difference but there hasn't been a fight about bathing suits ever in our house – maybe I'm just lucky so far.

  19. One of the many, many reasons I know I've got it easier as a mom of boys! Every time we went to the pool last year I was appalled at the suits these little girls had on, but just from my quick walks past the girls' section on the way to the boys' I know that what I'm seeing is pretty much all that's out there. It makes me sad because how can a parent expect their daughter to dress modestly as a pre-teen and teenager when they're decked out like a mini SI swimsuit model at age 6?

  20. Preach it, Sista! Girls are GIRLS, not sex symbols. There are way too many per.verts out there that would love to oggle at a 3 year old in a skimpy (no matter how innocent) swim suit. I want my daughter to learn modesty, and that it is HER responsibility to keep her body covered, not the responsibility of others to avert their eyes. Living at the beach, this is a constant battle. I like the suggestion of looking for athletic swim suits. We'll definitely be doing that!

  21. Thank you for this post. I too recently wrote post about the inappropriate bathing suits that are being made for our little girls. I have four daughters, so this is an issue! Thank you for taking the time to write this. Keep it up! 🙂

  22. I am so with you on this one. No bikinis. No cutouts. No cups designed to make it look like there is something there that isn't. I hunt long and hard every year for 2-3 suits for my girl that meet my standard of being a solid one-piece without *shudder* sex appeal.

    It appalls me to think that someone thinks I want to dress my small child in a suit that would make me ask a teenager if she really wanted to show everything off. I do not want to suggest with clothing that someone could look at my child as sexy. I don't want to suggest that there are wee breasts to consider – I'd rather a small child go in just bottoms than in a bikini top, really, but around here, we wear suits that cover our tummies. After all, not only am I horrified by the sexualizing of young children, but we also have sunburn to worry about on our fair skin.

    As my best friend says, if it's not for sale, we don't advertise it.

  23. I did also find once at old navy a suit that was full-coverage bottoms plus a surf-style top that was like a T-shirt. Again, full coverage, but two pieces, which would work well without being too revealing.

  24. I am with you – at least no top is just little kids being free and suggests that this kid is small enough for it not to be an issue, whereas with a little bikini top with cups, it seems like you're being suggestive about what's under there, somehow.

  25. The book “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters’ from Marketers’ Schemes” is a great resource for understanding and navigating the waters of girls clothing, toys, etc.

  26. I'm partial to Lands End, LL Bean, Carter's and Gymboree. My 2 year old has a total of four this year because she can still wear last years suits. Three are tank-ini's and one is a cute polka dot one piece that we found at a big box store last year. I think tankini's are a nice option that provides two piece ease with the coverage of a one piece.

  27. I totally agree with you! Even tho I have a son, I do still see the girls clothes at the stores and am SHOCKED at some of the stuff I see for girls. Why are they putting such slutty clothing out their for little girls and why are some parents dressing their girls in those kinds of clothing? It makes me want to pull my hair out!

  28. Oh I'm so with you here! We do tankini styles for the ease of using the restroom too and it's been getting harder and harder to find options that are 'decent' for young girls. I can't imagine why the cutouts and cups are necessary – except to mimic what the adult suits look like. I'm sorry – but I don't want to see my preteen or teenager in a bikini either, nor do I wear them myself (wouldn't, even if I did have the body for it – which I don't). I just don't see the need to show off that much skin, not to mention more coverage is better where the sun is concerned too. It's not just a style issue – it's a safety one. I think we may start to look for the swim shirts and such this year. Great post!

  29. Sing it! As the mom of two girls (a kid and a tween), I was so annoyed by all the sexy options. My kids were too – and they CHOSE board shorts and those sunblocking swim shirts instead. So now they look like surfers in the pool. There really should be some middle ground.

    I noticed that Beth commented about Hannah Anderssen. I remember liking the toddler clothes from that catalog – I'll have to check it out for girls' swim wear. Thanks, Beth.

  30. Amen! I agree completely – and it's not just with swimsuits. I've seen so many summer tops that just aren't appropriate for little girls! And the cheapskate in me wants to know why I should pay so much for almost no fabric, too. Thank goodness for Lands End.

  31. I just wanted to say that I buy Dylan's swimsuits from old navy, they are two piece but the top is rash guard type top, not a belly baring top. I feel the same way you do about scandalous swimsuits for toddlers.

  32. Thanks for sharing that! I am so glad to see that something is happening on the swimsuit front.

    We have been in 3 other stores since this happened, and the selection has been the same in all three. Boo!

  33. I think you're right on!
    I have two little girls myself and the bathing suit styles they offer are simply horrible. The cut way too low top that is to show off cleavage (hello my 7 year old and 5 year old don't have any!!!) the ity bitty teeny tiny bottoms that barely cover thier behinds, oh I don't understand the buyers and the designers, don't some of them have little girls they worry about??
    I think they can look just as cute in modestly cut suits, they want what they see in the stores and on thier favorite celebrities.There really is not much to pick from. I make alot of my girls skirts and dresses for the same reasons, now if I could just find a cute bathingsuit pattern:)

  34. You are so right! It makes me angry. Half the bathing suits I find for my 4 year old daughter are too revealing on the back side too!! She complains they give her a wedgy. And it is not just bathing suits. Much of what I see out there for little girls are just smaller versions of what teenagers wear! Too sexy. All it does is reinforce for little girls what society already says: your worth is in your beauty and sex appeal. It is wrong!

  35. You need to goto Kmart and shop the toddler swimwear! I think you will like what you find. Very cute suits at great prices and they have coverage.

  36. I congratulate you on this comment I have 2 little girls 5 and 8 and I hate the selections they have at the stores and it's not just swim suits. We need more people to be concerned for our little girls and what they look like. I'm not raising a hoochie and I don't plan on stopping to make anyone happy. So thanks again now I know i'm not alone in this.

  37. This is so true about little girls swimming suits, preteen suits, teenager suits, young adult suits, middle age suits and geriatric swimming suits. If your a female and you want to wear a new swimming suit, your going to have to show some cleavage. As I am typing this in my new swimming suit with my breast showing. I am 51 year old shamed woman, but I have no choice.

  38. This is something that we’ve struggled with since my daughter was young. We’ve never allow her (she will be 17 in Jan.) to have a bikini. They are just not appropriate and encouraging – especially to boys. Our Youth Group does not allow them. Two years ago, I finally caved in and allowed her to get a tankini and those have worked out great. They make going to the restroom so much easier and it is possible to find a modest one. She has to raise her arms above her head and her stomach not show (The reach test in Youth Group).The search may take a bit longer, but possible. Our daughter actually searches for Boy Short – (longer type) bottoms or finds shorts that are appropriate.

  39. I totally agree and I don’t even have a daughter. But I did find that Old Navy has some 1 piece suits that are very cute and affordable and they have no holes in them 🙂

  40. Amen, sister! But just wait until they get older. Why is everything marketed to tweens and teens made of tissue-thin material so we have to also buy an undershirt, or cropped too short to wear to school? My son can go and buy ONE shirt and when he speaks, people look at his face but my daughters have to buy a shirt, an undershirt, a shrug or cardigan and on and on. Then there are the giant armholes that show half your bra on the sides or the low-cut tops that you automatically have to wear another shirt under. You’d think if they really want to push “Girl Power” instead of emblazoning slogans on things, they’d make clothes that let girls show their self-respect.

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