Tweens, shopping, and adulthood

Tweens ‘R’ Shoppers

IT is 11:15 a.m. The kids have the day off from school and I’m mall crawling The Westchester in White Plains, with my posse: my 11-year-old daughter, Lake, and two of her friends, Annabelle K, 11, and Eve W, 12.Shortly after we enter the mall, my perfectly coiffed and lip-glossed group of girls step into Louis Vuitton and gaze at a white mink stole covered with colorful logos in a plastic case. “I have to have this!” exclaims Lake.

Tweens ‘R’ Shoppers – New York Times

Okay… this article is both enlightening and freakishly scary (to me, once-a-tween who enjoyed mud pies, smudged cheeks, and ratty hair– like some little wood nymph). It’s power-packed with insights from these three tween-tots-of-shoppindom.

When we pull up in front of Abercrombie, the preteen version of Abercrombie & Fitch, silence falls over my crowd. With its cloying overspritzed air, loud thumping music, blowup posters of young girls and boys, this is ground zero for tween fashion worship: collared shirts in sorbet colors, tanks so thin they often come with holes already in them and skin-tight jeans that curvier teenagers can’t
squeeze into

GAK! Straight up opinion here, and I’m sorry if you disagree but… for this trend I blame: Paris Hilton, Bratz Dolls, and Parents. Skin-tight jeans? Dear lord. Let’s not exploit sexuality for tweens who’ve barely even entered the suckiness of puberty!

What was surprising about watching these girls move around the mall was their depth of knowledge of even the most sophisticated brands and their brand loyalty.

Told you:

COMBINE this new emphasis on consumerism with the influence of celebrities, like Paris Hilton, and you can see where the younger set is getting its notions of fashion, style and culture. There is also TV, with its fashion shows aimed at younger viewers, from “America’s Next
Top Model” to “Project Runway.”

Curses and drat! It makes you worry about the kids who really DO look up to Paris, Lindsay (oh, how horrible), and (dare I say it) Britney “walking train wreck” Spears– these are the celebumorons who have been peddling themselves for YEARS to the younger audiences with their books, their movies, they catch phrases, their music, their websites, their brand names, and their brand stupidity. I can’t WAIT for the wave of psuedo-normal celebrity kid-turned-adult actors (like Shia Lebeouf). Better role models please. If we’re going to peddle off actor/celeb brands… let’s have some brains behind it, eh? Sheesh.

It also describes perfectly the way my posse ricochets between childlike abandon and adult composure — by the minute. As we walked past the Brookstone store, they threw themselves onto the massage chairs and jumped up and down, just like children. They are caught between two worlds and that is perhaps why stores like the Limited Too, which my group no longer considers “cool,” carry such a schizophrenic mix of bubblegum and bras.


“It’s not really about clothes,” Ms. Conrad said. “At this age it’s important for them to feel like they’re part of a larger club. And this does it.”

Daniel T. Cook, an associate professor of advertising at the University of Illinois, said that clothes shopping gives tweens a safe place in which to do some of the heavy lifting of adolescence.

“They get to select and survey a world of identities and selves that are presented out there,” he said. “It almost has a sense of ritualistic or magical  timeout.”

Wow. “ritualistic or magical timeout”? That’s an interesting insight I hadn’t thought of. Noted and noted.

The sociological move away from authoritarian parents to parents-as-friends has given rise to a generation of children that was born to shop. The result?

“We have this incredibly sophisticated, thoughtful, opinionated consumer,” Ms. Liebmann said. “And parents have created it.”

Sharon Zukin, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College and author of “Point of Purchase” (Routledge), does not deride tweens for wanting to shop because she claims it is the modern form of hunting
and gathering.

While interviewing people for her book, Ms. Zukin asked people whether they remembered their first shopping experience. “They all did,” she said. “Shopping on your own is a rite of passage.”

Damn! I’ve been foiled. This is a VERY good point. How many of us cruised the mall in junior high while Mom was off in some lamer department store picking out creepy underwear? Or having coffee in the mall cafeteria with her shopping buddy. I was always adventuring off to Spencers and Claires or some toy store, happy to feel independent… thinking “is this what it’s like to be a teen? I can’t wait to drive.” Yeah– i voiced such thoughts… a lot. “Is this what it feels like” was and still is a slogan. Aspiring older. Aspiring cooler. Wanting to FEEL more and acknowledge such an accomplishment as it comes. Can’t beat that. 🙂

  1. Joi
    April 25, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    When you combine trips to the mall with parenting moments of “Parent as friend” and quick lessons of critical analysis of culture, you are on your way to the makings of a great teen and future citizen.

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