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What Not to Wear? Girls, Clothing and 'Showing' the Body

By Jane Pilcher


Consumption practices of children in contemporary Western societies are implicated in the reconstruction of childhood, according to both popular debate and to those academic perspectives stressing the individualisation of identities within the life course of late modern consumer societies. Yet, little is known about the meanings children themselves give to their own consumption. Drawing from an ethnographic study of children aged 6–11 years and their families, the paper presents girls' constructions of fashion in relation to their own bodies and to those of others. It is shown that although girls may both desire and actually 'dress up' in fashionable clothing, they present a range of contingent and contradictory meanings for doing so. For some girls, 'dressing up' in certain clothes may be a way of 'ageing up' toward feminine adulthood, albeit in restricted contexts and after negotiations between themselves and their parents as to what can be worn and where. Nonetheless, girls in the study also showed anxieties and disapproval of 'showing the body' through 'revealing' clothing. The article concludes by considering the implication of these findings for debates about gendered childhoods, and intergenerational relations in late modern consumer society.Peer reviewedPost prin

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2009.00239.x
OAI identifier:

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