French Vogue fashion spread features sexy sexy children

young girl with big hair posed on a leopard print couch wearing high heels and jewelryThey’ve been selling us women’s clothing using adolescent models for years, so it was only a matter of time before a magazine put couture on kids. An editorial spread in the December-January issue of Vogue Paris features more than a dozen pages of girls – not teenagers, girls – wearing couture, heavily made up and with their hair in up-dos.

The copy asks, in part, “What makeup at what age? How does one wear makeup at 13? What about at 70? Obviously not like one does at 20.” Styling a spread about choosing the right makeup when you’re 13 or 20 or 70? It makes complete sense to choose models who look like they’re about 9.

Predictably, the girls are posed in come-hither positions or with things in or around their mouths. One girl is sprawled out under a Christmas tree and another is lying on her stomach on a tiger skin rug. Fashion bloggers Tom and Lorenzo, who responded to disgust similar to my own, observed that the magazine “once again struggles mightily to produce something edgy and controversial to get tongues wagging on several continents.” Well, sure, except that there’s nothing edgy about sexualizing girls. It happens all the time, and there’s nothing edgy about doing something that everyone else is doing.

This isn’t edgy. It’s inappropriate, and creepy, and I never want to see a nine-year-old girl in high-heeled leopard print bedroom slippers ever again.

You can see the rest of the spread here.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/radicalhw/ Shannon Drury

    I need to scrub my eyeballs with bleach, that is so horrific.

  • http://feministing.com/members/probablywriting/ Amanda

    I get so angry whenever I see the fetishization of children (big shocker, right?). I can’t believe someone thought it was okay to do this kind of spread. And the other links are just as disturbing – particularly the little girls dancing to “Single Ladies”. So many of the comments talk about what great dancers the girls are; nobody seems to mind that they’ve been dressed like the dancers from the movie “Chicago” and performing a sexually toned routine. I feel so bad for these little girls – children should never be portrayed as sexy. It also reminds me of the fact that many anti-gay rights individuals talk about homosexuality leading to or being connected with pedophilia, and I just want to say to them, “Look at what members of the mainstream, heteronormative media are putting out there.”

  • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    Sadly, I’m not surprised. It seems as though that children dressing up in adult clothes (not in Mommy’s lipstick and high heels with a frilly hat) has been rearing it’s ugly head for some time. What ever happened to just putting kids in playful positions?

  • nicolechat

    Here’s what I don’t get about the spread – they’re not even following their own theme. They talk about “what makeup you wear at 13″ and yes, 13-year-olds wear makeup and I don’t even think that’s all that inappropriate; seems like a reasonable age to start to me. (The appropriateness of makeup overall is of course questionable, but I digress.) Some people might disagree on that but that’s how old I was when I started and many of my friends were starting at around 13 or 14 too; it’s pretty typical and makes sense. That’s the age kids start dating and kissing and sexualities are budding, so it’s natural that that’s the age girls start experimenting with makeup.

    But a typical 13-year-old does not burst forward full-tilt into the world of foundation, tint, primer, lip liner, dual-toned eyeshadow, etc. A typical 13-year-old might wear one or two things and not every day – some eyeshadow or eye liner, maybe mascara, probably some concealer when she has a zit. And it probably won’t look very polished or sophisticated either; it’ll have that awkward, clownish look of too-bright colours, too-thick liner, or tones that don’t match the skin. I’m not being snarky or critical, just observational; this is the stuff of growing up.

    But, not only are most of these girls not even close to 13 like Chloe said, they’re also mostly not wearing makeup that is an accurate portrayal of youth-style cosmetics; with maybe a couple exceptions, the makeup is flawless and even and thick. This doesn’t fit the stereotype of “13-year-old makeup,” it is the same cosmetic style that this very magazine would use to adorn 20-year-old women. There are a couple instances of really bright eyeshadow and blush that kind of break the natural look, but that’s it.

    So again, I’m not trying to overgeneralize, I’m just talking stereotypes because that’s what the magazine purports to be doing, but they can’t even get the stereotypes right, making their sexualization of these kids all the more pointless.

    • http://feministing.com/members/nancyshrew/ Nancy Shrew

      RE: second paragraph:
      Very true! When I first started wearing makeup in the sixth grade I wore one of those powder/foundation things and, in retrospect, I was pretty bad at applying it. I didn’t really learn the importance of “less is more” and “blend, blend, blend” until I was a bit older. Also, I cringe at how I used to apply eyeliner.

      And I agree with your overall point.

  • zooeysalin

    When I posted this link over on the community blog yesterday I was horrified, but it’s gotten even worse today! Reading over the blog post’s comments over on Tom and Lorenzo’s site is disgusting and disheartening. I’m especially disturbed the many posts which say there is something screwed up in the individuals who think the spread is sexualizing little girls instead of seeing a spread which critiques the fashion industry and/or celebrates the tendency of little girls to play dress up with their female relatives’ clothing. I’m so disgusted and outraged I can offer little to no reasoned analysis.

  • http://feministing.com/members/neohfem1/ Amy Hanna

    WHO let the pervs at Vogue into the girls’ dressing room?

    BTW if the above did happen (and since there’d have been cameras present) in a store, they’d have been swiftly taken into custody. But since it’s in the name of haute couture for a magazine spread, it’s OK …?!

    Just … UGH.

  • http://feministing.com/members/nancyshrew/ Nancy Shrew


    I have to admit: Not taking into account the long hours and stress of modeling, I would have been thrilled if, as a child, somebody did my hair and makeup (or if I got to play with it) and I got to wear cool clothes (yes, even the high heels). From child-me’s perspective, it would have been like a really cool game of dress-up. Obviously that’s not what’s going on here. I don’t know how much fun child models generally get to have (not much, from what I’ve read/seen on TV). The girls in the spread certainly don’t look like they’re having much fun and the lack of any smiles frankly creeps me out.

    I don’t know, I have mixed feelings. Basically, I get kind of annoyed at people totally babying kids (fairly understandable here; I guess I mean older kids) but the spread is also really creepy and just…no. Dress-up is supposed to be a good time. These girls look like they’re about to have a root canal.

    On a related note, I started wearing makeup when I was eleven: Some powder, blusher, a little mascara, sparkles (big when I was a kid), and lip gloss. I didn’t wear anything heavier until I was about fourteen. Before that, my mother would not let me wear makeup outside of the house (which didn’t stop me from sneaking it anyway). She probably relented at eleven because I had pretty much been begging her since I was five, but we still had to compromise until I was in high school. Make of all that what you will. Thankfully, she never let me get into beauty pageants even though I thought they would be fun. Really: Thanks, Mom!

  • marc

    I am not sure why we’re all surprised at this, or worst, why we’re reacting to this and not other commercialized sites exclusively devoted to pictures of teen and pre-teen “models.”Often, these sites pass off as modeling sites for aspiring teen and pre-teen girls to look at, but in truth, contain pictures of very scantily dressed young girls, with body parts often seen under their bikinis.

    The only ones having the economic power to get memberships to these websites are not teen or young girls looking to become models, but men who are attracted to them. Often, the conversations men have on these sites also include talking about the teen and pre-teen bodies and what they’d like to do.

    I think we’re better off focusing our attention on these sites because they’re more likely to promote predatory behaviors.

    For a sample, Google “jailbait gallery”or news articles for “Little Amber.””