High heels on a toddler? Fashion goes too far

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  September 23, 2009 01:16 PM

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I have a 4-year-old girl at home, so this item caught my eye for all the wrong reasons: Suri Cruise, 3, was seen traipsing around Boston with her mom on Monday wearing shimmery high-heeled silver shoes.

Granted, the heels were only about an inch-and-a-half high. (Mom Katie Holmes, interestingly enough, was wearing flats.) But these weren't your typical, plastic, swiped-from-the-princess-costume slippers being worn during a play date. These were proper, miniature peep-toed pumps -- no word on whether they're the custom-made $2,500 Christian Louboutins she's rumored to own.

But even if they're from the sale rack at the dollar store, high heels on a 3-year-old is taking fashion too far. Here's the thing: High heels are sexy -- that's why women wear them. Little girls don't need to be sexy -- that's why they shouldn't.

Now, I understand the desire to "dress like Mommy." I wanted to when I was a kid; my not-quite 5-year-old loves shuffling around the house in my shoes and occasionally tries to wear her pink plastic princess slippers to school.

But Suri's shoes and the ones like it that I'm seeing in stores aren't for playing dress up. A quick online search of the shoe selection at up-scale Nordstroms showed several adorable wedge and kitten-heel shoes as well as chunky-heeled boots in little-kid and toddler sizes with as much as a 2-inch heel.

There's even a soft high-heeled shoe for infants too young to walk (the company, Heelarious, touts them as "her first high heels" and offers rubber teethers shaped like credit cards to complete the look.)

Kids' clothing has been trending away from tradition for a long time now, with the latest hot outfits informed by adult styles. That's nothing new -- I was a kid when Madonna was in her "Like a Virgin" phase. What's new -- to me, at any rate -- is the blatant sexualization that comes with it now, and the way that sexualized look has become the norm for younger and younger kids.

What do you think, parents? Are high-heeled shoes too much for a toddler? Why or why not?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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14 comments so far...
  1. Not only is it sexualizing girls at far, FAR too young an age, but I have to believe that putting a growing child of any age into high heels is just BEGGING for all kinds of orthopedic problems as they grow up.

    In general, we strip kids of their childhoods far too early. Childhood is a time to grow, learn, explore. To spend hours climbing trees or swinging in a tire. To run barefoot. To be silly. To be free.

    Kids should be able to get dirty and sticky and messy and gross without having to worry about ruining their $2000 shoes or $5000 outfit. They should be able to smear ice cream on their faces and make mud pies. Stomp in puddles.

    I have no idea why children seem so determined to shed their childhoods earlier and earlier each generation, or why their parents seem so eager to encourage it.

    I think it's because we as a culture have grown so desperate to cling to our youth even into our senior years that we've begun packaging adulthood in fun primary colors to make it more palatable to ourselves, without considering how appealing we make it look to our kids.

    That, or we're so jealous of their youth and innocence that we want to rob them of it as quickly as possible so that we don't have to face a constant reminder of what it is that we no longer have.

    Whatever the reason, it's just simply wrong.

    Posted by kara September 23, 09 03:10 PM
  1. I totally agree with you! Unfortunately, I don't thing this is a new trend. My step-daughter is 11 and I've known her since she was three. I recall even way back then needing to make sure that we had appropriate shoes and clothes for her to wear when she came for the weekend because the wedge-heel slides, strappy sandals, and high-heeled ankle boots (and mini skirts - no shorts underneath - and trapeze tops, etc.) just weren't practical for things like the playground. As a mom of boys, I was shocked at how trampy clothing for little girls was and frustrated that the only place I could get shorts with an inseam longer than 1" one summer was Gap (and they were a fortune). I'm fine with kids looking trendy and cute and somewhat like Mom and Dad but sexy? Um, no.

    Posted by Jen September 23, 09 03:22 PM
  1. Heels for girls under 10, not a good idea. Take it from one who knows. I started wearing small one-inch heels in fourth grade and kept wearing heels all through college (I'm on the short side at 5'2".) At 34, I now have permanent foot problems and can wear heels for only 1-2 hours at a time. And then my feet will hurt for the next day or two. It's not worth it. Save the heels for special occasions.

    And I completely agree about early sexualization of children, esp girls--it's pervasive and wrong. It destroys self-esteem and I'm sure it does contribute to sexual abuse and some abductions.


    Posted by Just1voice September 23, 09 04:34 PM
  1. Excluding the ridiculous fashion aspect - the main objection I have is that a child's feet are growing and wearing high heels (and not just playing dressup with Mom's shoes) is bad for her feet.

    I've read that she already is showing diva like (spoiled brat) behavior - but that should be too bad and the parents need to step up and have her behave like a child her age.

    Posted by GaPeach September 23, 09 04:37 PM
  1. high heels on any child is obsurd!!!! 15-16 years old and older ...that is ok... but anything under say 14 is highly inappropriate.

    Posted by jadee September 24, 09 06:58 AM
  1. I can understand the concern for the over sexuality of children as seen on shows like Toddlers and Tiaras but surely that is not the case here with Suri Cruise.

    Here is a child who is in a pink ruffled skirt with a petticoat, pink T-shirt, clamshell toy bag and an armful of toys holding on to her mom's
    hand and wearing her Cinderella/dance shoes. Here is a mother by the way who anticipating what was to come packed a pair of comfortable sneakers in her bag which one can see the child wearing as well.

    Playing dress up is so much of a child's growing up years, it is done in cities, countries and towns the world over.
    It is very, very sad indeed to see that an activity many of us and our parents once looked back on with complete delight is now being feared, ridiculed and criticized.
    Sad indeed.

    Posted by Mary September 24, 09 10:07 AM
  1. This is GROSS! Kids don't need to look taller and certainly shouldn't have to deal with the pain and health risks associated with wearing uncomfortable shoes. That outfit would have looked way better with ballerina flats which is what a 3 year old SHOULD be wearing.

    Why would you let/make your 3 year old wear something that is going to hurt her feet and back? Crazy!

    Posted by Leora Israel September 25, 09 12:02 PM
  1. and I can't even stand to see pierced ears on a child under the age of 10

    Posted by Val September 26, 09 08:38 AM
  1. Pleeeeeeease. Police yourselves ladies.

    Posted by freedoms4 September 26, 09 05:08 PM
  1. Not a great idea at all! Setting a bad example for any child to wear high heels at such a young age!
    Sets the pace for more and more problems down the road!
    Mark

    www.highheeledart.blogspot.com

    Posted by Mark September 26, 09 10:01 PM
  1. I wouldn't let my child wear high heels. But I have to start drawing the line at all these women/moms trying to tell other moms what to do. Unless you are talking about actual abuse, I'm sick of it. Only I know what is best for my child. I will raise her myself thank you. I think what has really gotten out of line is women getting together and cackling like a bunch of old hags and commenting on how another woman raises HER CHILD. That is shameful.

    Posted by Jessica September 27, 09 01:13 AM
  1. high heels on any child is no. Kids should be innocence, dance shoes,comfortable sneakers .

    Posted by A. Marchese October 5, 09 09:52 AM
  1. Your looking at a three year old as making a fashion statment about growing up too fast instead of a little girl who simply wants to play dress up. Your liberal sensiblities go too far.

    This comment has been edited to remove the sophomoric personal insults. Also: You mean "you're," not "your." -- LMA

    Posted by Neal October 15, 09 05:13 PM
  1. I think they are adorable and wish I could buy my 4 yr old a pair. There's no sex about it and her ears aren't even pierced but they are adorable and she should have that option. My daughter decides what she wears and if it's heels then fine.

    Posted by K. Smith February 20, 11 06:24 PM
 
14 comments so far...
  1. Not only is it sexualizing girls at far, FAR too young an age, but I have to believe that putting a growing child of any age into high heels is just BEGGING for all kinds of orthopedic problems as they grow up.

    In general, we strip kids of their childhoods far too early. Childhood is a time to grow, learn, explore. To spend hours climbing trees or swinging in a tire. To run barefoot. To be silly. To be free.

    Kids should be able to get dirty and sticky and messy and gross without having to worry about ruining their $2000 shoes or $5000 outfit. They should be able to smear ice cream on their faces and make mud pies. Stomp in puddles.

    I have no idea why children seem so determined to shed their childhoods earlier and earlier each generation, or why their parents seem so eager to encourage it.

    I think it's because we as a culture have grown so desperate to cling to our youth even into our senior years that we've begun packaging adulthood in fun primary colors to make it more palatable to ourselves, without considering how appealing we make it look to our kids.

    That, or we're so jealous of their youth and innocence that we want to rob them of it as quickly as possible so that we don't have to face a constant reminder of what it is that we no longer have.

    Whatever the reason, it's just simply wrong.

    Posted by kara September 23, 09 03:10 PM
  1. I totally agree with you! Unfortunately, I don't thing this is a new trend. My step-daughter is 11 and I've known her since she was three. I recall even way back then needing to make sure that we had appropriate shoes and clothes for her to wear when she came for the weekend because the wedge-heel slides, strappy sandals, and high-heeled ankle boots (and mini skirts - no shorts underneath - and trapeze tops, etc.) just weren't practical for things like the playground. As a mom of boys, I was shocked at how trampy clothing for little girls was and frustrated that the only place I could get shorts with an inseam longer than 1" one summer was Gap (and they were a fortune). I'm fine with kids looking trendy and cute and somewhat like Mom and Dad but sexy? Um, no.

    Posted by Jen September 23, 09 03:22 PM
  1. Heels for girls under 10, not a good idea. Take it from one who knows. I started wearing small one-inch heels in fourth grade and kept wearing heels all through college (I'm on the short side at 5'2".) At 34, I now have permanent foot problems and can wear heels for only 1-2 hours at a time. And then my feet will hurt for the next day or two. It's not worth it. Save the heels for special occasions.

    And I completely agree about early sexualization of children, esp girls--it's pervasive and wrong. It destroys self-esteem and I'm sure it does contribute to sexual abuse and some abductions.


    Posted by Just1voice September 23, 09 04:34 PM
  1. Excluding the ridiculous fashion aspect - the main objection I have is that a child's feet are growing and wearing high heels (and not just playing dressup with Mom's shoes) is bad for her feet.

    I've read that she already is showing diva like (spoiled brat) behavior - but that should be too bad and the parents need to step up and have her behave like a child her age.

    Posted by GaPeach September 23, 09 04:37 PM
  1. high heels on any child is obsurd!!!! 15-16 years old and older ...that is ok... but anything under say 14 is highly inappropriate.

    Posted by jadee September 24, 09 06:58 AM
  1. I can understand the concern for the over sexuality of children as seen on shows like Toddlers and Tiaras but surely that is not the case here with Suri Cruise.

    Here is a child who is in a pink ruffled skirt with a petticoat, pink T-shirt, clamshell toy bag and an armful of toys holding on to her mom's
    hand and wearing her Cinderella/dance shoes. Here is a mother by the way who anticipating what was to come packed a pair of comfortable sneakers in her bag which one can see the child wearing as well.

    Playing dress up is so much of a child's growing up years, it is done in cities, countries and towns the world over.
    It is very, very sad indeed to see that an activity many of us and our parents once looked back on with complete delight is now being feared, ridiculed and criticized.
    Sad indeed.

    Posted by Mary September 24, 09 10:07 AM
  1. This is GROSS! Kids don't need to look taller and certainly shouldn't have to deal with the pain and health risks associated with wearing uncomfortable shoes. That outfit would have looked way better with ballerina flats which is what a 3 year old SHOULD be wearing.

    Why would you let/make your 3 year old wear something that is going to hurt her feet and back? Crazy!

    Posted by Leora Israel September 25, 09 12:02 PM
  1. and I can't even stand to see pierced ears on a child under the age of 10

    Posted by Val September 26, 09 08:38 AM
  1. Pleeeeeeease. Police yourselves ladies.

    Posted by freedoms4 September 26, 09 05:08 PM
  1. Not a great idea at all! Setting a bad example for any child to wear high heels at such a young age!
    Sets the pace for more and more problems down the road!
    Mark

    www.highheeledart.blogspot.com

    Posted by Mark September 26, 09 10:01 PM
  1. I wouldn't let my child wear high heels. But I have to start drawing the line at all these women/moms trying to tell other moms what to do. Unless you are talking about actual abuse, I'm sick of it. Only I know what is best for my child. I will raise her myself thank you. I think what has really gotten out of line is women getting together and cackling like a bunch of old hags and commenting on how another woman raises HER CHILD. That is shameful.

    Posted by Jessica September 27, 09 01:13 AM
  1. high heels on any child is no. Kids should be innocence, dance shoes,comfortable sneakers .

    Posted by A. Marchese October 5, 09 09:52 AM
  1. Your looking at a three year old as making a fashion statment about growing up too fast instead of a little girl who simply wants to play dress up. Your liberal sensiblities go too far.

    This comment has been edited to remove the sophomoric personal insults. Also: You mean "you're," not "your." -- LMA

    Posted by Neal October 15, 09 05:13 PM
  1. I think they are adorable and wish I could buy my 4 yr old a pair. There's no sex about it and her ears aren't even pierced but they are adorable and she should have that option. My daughter decides what she wears and if it's heels then fine.

    Posted by K. Smith February 20, 11 06:24 PM
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