What Would Bristol Wear?

2 Aug

In the past decade or so maternity wear has undergone a much needed transformation – from tent dresses to belly-hugging tanks, and all manner of accouterments to take an expectant mother’s regular wardrobe through her pregnancy with her.  In the age of the “yummy mummy,” when every celebrity from Angelina Jolie to Celine Dion and in between is telling the world about their pregnancy, it’s no surprise that maternity wear has become a growing market (no pun intended).  But in a world where Target has maternity designer Liz Lange creating a new collection each season, it would seem that the market is already to full for a new competitor.  Forever 21 – already competing in the intense world of cheap teen fashion – has seized on the popularity of such teen pregnancy celebs as Bristol Palin, and popular culture’s fascination with them (Secret Life of the American Teenager anyone?), to carve out a new niche: maternity wear for teens.

Now, some of you are likely poised to begin furiously typing in the comments section that I could not possibly know that Forever 21’s maternity wear is meant just for teenagers.  Well, dear readers, I did some investigative work.  While I don’t live in the states where Forever 21’s maternity line, Love21, is being sold (interestingly, the same 5 states that are among the highest rates of teen pregnancy), I do have a Forever 21 nearby, and after an evening spent sifting through their wares, I can tell you this:  Forever 21’s clothes are cut for juniors – the bodices on the shirts and dresses are narrow, the jeans have little to no allowance for hips, and the skirts – besides being be-ruffled and be-dazzled, are short.  The clientele was young – think 15 and under – and the styles were nothing that an adult woman would build a wardrobe out of.  Sure, there were a few plain t-shirts… but with no room built in for adult sized breasts, it’s doubtful that many adult sized women would be able to wear them.  As a size 4 woman I could not fit into anything sized smaller than an XL.

So, having concluded that, yes, this is in fact maternity wear for teens, is it a bad thing?  Certainly teenagers who are pregnant have enough to worry about besides finding a pair of jeans that fit, but does this line of trendy, fashionable clothing make life easier because it says to all teenagers the same thing that Bristol Palin and The Secret Life of the American Teenager say – which is that you might be pregnant, but hey, you’re fashionable, you’re fun, it’s ok.  Bristol Palin gets to be adorable and well dressed because she’s paid $15,000 per speaking engagement (ironically, on how poor she is due to being a teen mother), and, as previously discussed, The Secret Life of the American Teenager projects a patronizing delusion, not reality.  Forever 21’s maternity wear for teenagers does the same.  While the corporation does not bear any particular responsibility toward stopping teen pregnancy (at least not any more than any of us do), for it to blatantly exploit pop culture’s ridiculous fascination with it, and therefore normalize it is abhorrent.

How angry would you be if you saw a company selling cigarettes for teenagers?  Very.  Why?  Because smoking, while it might look glamorous, can have long lasting ramifications.  Well, guess what?  So does teenage pregnancy.  So get mad at Forever 21 for advertising it as being glamorous, and walk out of their store, and get on your computer and send an e-mail to their corporate offices, and tell them about it.

12 Responses to “What Would Bristol Wear?”

  1. KushielsMoon August 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    While I’m not overly angry at the idea of maternity wear for teens (they do need something to wear, and why not let them look nice too?)- I don’t think a day spent wandering around Forever21 proves their clothes aren’t for adults. I know of at least two adult women (one I know to be a mother) who have said they shop at Forever21 after they heard about this maternity line. I also have friends who are no longer teenagers who shop there as well.

    How can we not make teen pregnancy look “fun” while still treating pregnant teens as human beings? Do teens not deserve to dress up (like all other teens do) just because they’re pregnant? Should we force all pregnant teenagers to wear sweatpants and never do their hair, so that everyone else thinks they look awful and decides to avoid pregnancy? How demeaning to pregnant teenagers (who are still people) is that?

    There must be a balance somewhere.

  2. Emily WK August 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    Gosh, I am larger than a size four and I shop occasionally at Forever 21. Not often, and I don’t like most of their styles, but I like that I can get work-appropriate dressy shirts that are summery and cute for pretty cheap.

    I don’t see this as being the same as a company selling cigarettes to kids – I think it’s more like selling attractive oxygen tank holders for kids who have lung cancer. It’s dealing with the result of the behavior, not encouraging the cause. Isn’t it?

  3. Amanda August 2, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    In the dialog around reproductive rights, we talk a lot about choice and about trusting women to make good decisions for themselves. Are teenagers known for making good decisions? Not always. But I do trust young women to not be so gullible as to think that “oh now there are cute maternity clothes so it’s okay if I get knocked up!” or to actively seek pregnancy. I think you are really selling these young women short.

    Moreover, you seem to be treating teen pregnancy as shameful and the young women that are pregnant as deserving of shame. I believe young pregnant women deserve to wear comfortable and attractive/stylish clothes during their pregnancy. The market is there and Forever21 is simply catering to it (which is why starting these lines in places with more pregnant young women makes economic sense).

    Maybe it is normalizing teen pregnancy, but I don’t think that it’s abhorrent. Do we need to educate young women on how to not get pregnant (and young men on how to not get their female partners pregnant)? Absolutely! Do we need to continue to treat teen pregnancy as a shameful and aberrant condition? No. Deciding not to have an abortion is a valid choice and I don’t think young women are making that decision more just because they won’t have to wear a sack dress for 9 months.

  4. Moon August 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    I second Amanda’s opinion. This is not some marketing ploy saying it’s okay for teens to get pregnant, but for the markets to help teens find clothing they can wear if they do end up pregnant.

    What ever happened to “trust women” and “trust choice”? It’s as if you believe that abortion is the ONLY option for these women. Guess what? It’s NOT, and you should trust them to make the decision that is right for THEM. If life is the right decision for them, let them make that choice.

    Don’t treat pregnancy as a disease, especially not one that someone is ousted from society because of. It’s not leprosy (even though that is completely curable now). If you treat them that way, they’ll only look at you and those who agree with you as enemies.

    Besides, pregnancy isn’t always planned. What if those who are raped (even though they’re less than 1% of pregnancies) choose to have the child? Do you want them to feel bad because they made the choice to keep it? The rape already hurt them. Don’t make it worse by saying they have no right to keep the child, and saying they can’t go through the pregnancy in clothes they can feel comfortable in.

    Yes, teach people that sex does lead to pregnancy, and give them all the tools they need to prevent it. However, don’t be spouting “choice” and then write articles like this, which leads others to conclude that you believe it’s unacceptable to make any other choice than abortion. That only makes you a hypocrite.

  5. Cynthia August 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    We may look like middle schoolers, but not all of us are under 15! Just wanted to make a note that a lot of my fellow college-goers shop at Forever 21 for the same reason the kids do. It’s cheap, affordable, and something that won’t always overdraw our accounts.

    I don’t know much about maternity wear besides the fact that a lot of wear I see are from more expensive shops in malls. There isn’t really a lot of advertising for more affordable maternity wear, besides now from F21.

  6. Taylor August 4, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    Are you serious? As if having maternity wear at a teen store is the same thing as telling them to go get knocked-up so they can be like Bristol Palin. I found this post very ageist and patronizing.

  7. Noelle August 6, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    Whoa, this article has a lot of counter-productive ideas of womanhood, normal bodies, and class built into it.

    Let me first say that I’m an “adult” (college grad now entering the career world) who shops at forever 21 on a regular basis. I very much resent the implication that I must not have “adult size” breasts, or age appropriate tastes. For some women just starting off on a career, forever 21 offers some very affordable work wear (amid the polka dot mini skirts).

    Secondly, I have several friends who might fit your narrow idea of adulthood who are stoked for this maternity line; it’s not just for teens.

    And third, what is important about policing fashion for pregnant teens? This just adds to the perception of motherhood as shameful or less worthwhile than other life paths (or hell, the assumption that teen pregnancy somehow precludes going to college/being a successful happy human being). Our society is already hard enough on mothers (a woman was recently kicked out of a Michigan target for breastfeeding), let’s not contribute to that behavior.

  8. MsFeasance August 7, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    In critique of the collection itself, there…really isn’t anything there that isn’t available elsewhere. there are two different types of leggings available as maternity wear (by comparison to the over 20 types available in regular sizes). No jeans, one blouse, three types of dresses (two in jewel tones and one with a black top and print skirt), three different cardigans (well, really, two cardigans and what can charitably be called a scarf), a faux-wrap top, and a belly band. This is all stuff that can be had elsewhere—there’s nothing I’d call “cute” per se—it’s just more affordable and accessible at Forever 21.
    More to the point, they’re all in colors I like to call “don’t-look-at-me” colors–shades of black and gray with limited offerings in peach, purple, pink, and blue, which were the 1950’s go-to colors for maternity wear.

  9. Juliewashere88 August 8, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    So what should pregnant women, of any age, be allowed to wear?

  10. S.L August 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    I never have set foot in a Forever 21 store so I don’t think I’ll comment. I’ve looked into the windows at the mall but don’t like what I see in terms of clothes. Maybe I’ll check this out and see what I think firsthand.

  11. F July 15, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    (I’m a year late, I know, but…)

    I’m not gonna argue that marketing maternity clothes or cigarettes towards teenagers is a bad (and terribly stupid) idea, but honestly it’s just marketing and ad campaigns. Selling these clothes or advertising them is not getting these girls pregnant. If teenagers have unprotected sex or smoke, then that it is ultimately their own actions, and their own faults for not recognizing the risks.


  1. Tweets that mention What Would Bristol Wear? | Abortion Gang -- Topsy.com - August 2, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sharon, The Abortion Gang. The Abortion Gang said: new post : What Would Bristol Wear? http://j.mp/cje543 #prochoice […]

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