Kiddie Couture

Image of a young girl in make-up and heels; another young girl in a fur coat and sunglasses driving a car.

French Vogue features its youngest models ever: Kindergartners. They’re fully made up and are striking eyes-cast-down, pouty-lipped poses. And the spread is called “Cadeaux,” which means “gifts.” Um, yuck.

The copy asks, in part, “What makeup at what age? What makeup does one wear 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.

In Vogue’s defense, fifth-graders were probably too fat.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Advertising, Beauty, Body image, Fashion, Gender, Media & Media Literacy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Kiddie Couture

  1. Kristen J. says:

    Barf.

  2. Nahida says:

    Wow. One of the girls is actually placed UNDER A TREE.

  3. Brenda says:

    Wow. When I read the description in my feedreader without seeing the images I thought maybe it would be cute, like little girls playing dress up. But the photos are clearly…not that.

    To be fair, the fact that we’re talking about it, and how gross it is, is literally all French Vogue wanted to achieve with this.

  4. karak says:

    Wow.

    Two thoughts occurred to me:

    1. These photos are actually kind of pretty, in a creepy way.
    2. Man, I never realized how sexualized coutoure fashion was until I saw a child do it.

    You know what would have been awesome? Ask the children to behave like children–giggling, smiling, poking at things, playing in these outrageous overdone outfits on these serious fashion sets. THAT would have been wink-nod subversive. This is just… weird.

  5. KMayer says:

    this is disgusting. if they were playing dress up as kids, i might get it. but playing grownup sexy sultry at this age is reprehensible.

  6. Paraxeni says:

    What the actual fuck?

    That ‘Heels’ one, the blank stare, heavy make-up and skinny bare legs… it’s repulsive and disturbing to me. Want to know why? It’s shockingly similar to images used by children’s charities here in the UK to highlight the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

    Way to go French Vogue. Being 4/5 should be about Crayola, Lego, dolls, building forts, stomping in puddles and learning about the world. Couture photo shoots? Not a part of the picture as far as I’m concerned. Do we have to feed such little children to the Fashion Monster, really? I already have to listen to my 4 year old niece, bloated from post-chemo steroids, angsting over how ‘terribly fat’ she is. Now she has actual contemporaries to compare her ‘fat’ self to.

    Sorry if I’m so incoherent, I’m just stunned.

  7. andrea says:

    Paraxeni: What the actual fuck?

    Yeah, that pretty much summed up my reaction, too.

  8. Lara Emily Foley says:

    Oh wow eww that’s just fucked.

  9. Ashley says:

    I saw this on another site a couple weeks ago. It’s really creepy. It’s amazing how they can make a little kid look my age.

  10. Bufkinite says:

    Up next: sexualized fetuses!

  11. Bagelsan says:

    I’m in the middle of reading Lolita for the first time, actually… And, welp, this nips my “how uniquely fucked up Humbert is!” comments right in the bud. Pedophilia is apparently fashionable. Gag.

  12. Paraxeni says:

    @bufkinite – well, if the foetuses will insist on being so damn naked all the time, someone might as well make the most of it. Maybe Vogue could ‘shop the latest Couture looks onto ultrasound pictures?

    Oh no, I just thought “What about the catwalk?” and my brain jumped to the most inappropriate conclusion. Women birthing little Fashionista Babies, surgically pre-dressed in Westwood, Versace etc., live on the runways at Bryant Park.

    Time to go and switch off my brain I think, before I get too carried away.

  13. Athenia says:

    The kids were totally asking for it. Look at how they dress!

  14. Bagelsan: I’m in the middle of reading Lolita for the first time, actually… And, welp, this nips my “how uniquely fucked up Humbert is!” comments right in the bud. Pedophilia is apparently fashionable. Gag.  

    Also see: Katy Perry’s prevailing look last year. I’m quite disturbed by the ongoing sexualization of immature and infantile imagery.

  15. Karen says:

    Bleccccchhhh.

    Also, my younger son was “counseled” by my pediatrician per my insurance company for having too high a BMI at AGE 5. 5. To her credit, she simply noted that insurance company required this and gave me a flier provided by said company, but still, someone, somewhere, in a position of authority, thought that it was appropriate to note that a 5-year-old was too fat and print up stuff about it. Four years later I’m still peeved.

  16. Because the sooner we can transform children into adults, with purchasing power and the ability to buy unneeded accessories, the better! Nah, let’s just sexualize them more than we already have!

  17. UnFit says:

    Ashley, that’s what I thought, too. It’s creepy how I probably wouldn’t even have noticed they were kids if it hadn’t been pointed out.
    Of course the fact that they’re also photoshopped in the exact same ways as grown up models contributes to that impression.

  18. GallingGalla says:

    Dear French Vogue: This shit isn’t couture. This shit is rape culture. Cut it out.

    Also: Would you like to see your *own* female children turned into paedophile’s “gifts” like that?

  19. Hypothetical Woman says:

    Oh, ew ew ew. What is also seriously bugging me is how the article is about make-up for thriteen-year-olds but the models are nine, so any *actual* thirteen-year-olds or their mothers who see this will think that they look *too old*.
    Holy shit.

  20. Natalia says:

    What’s truly sad is that these are kids who are being told by adults that, “Hey, this is cool, this is awesome. It’s totally not weird or creepy or anything like that. You look awesome in those enormous high heels and with that lipstick slapped on!”

  21. alynn says:

    Saw this a few days ago too…still makes my skin crawl and stomach turn.

    I just can’t see how this idea went from a creepy thought to a photo shoot to print all without SOMEONE putting a stop to it. How many people were complicit in this act?

  22. Cindy says:

    I don’t think Vogue didn’t realize what it was doing. I thought the point was to be intentionally provocative i.e creepy, because most models aren’t too far off in age to these girls. I really hope people who don’t usually think about it, start to wonder why they don’t see sixteen year old girls like this and get creeped out.

  23. ACG says:

    What’s truly sad is that these are kids who are being told by adults that, “Hey, this is cool, this is awesome. It’s totally not weird or creepy or anything like that. You look awesome in those enormous high heels and with that lipstick slapped on!”

    That’s something I’ve been thinking. This could be a launch pad for these kids’ modeling careers–“Appeared in French Vogue at the age of 5!”–throwing them into a cannibalistic industry before they have the self-preservation instincts of a 14-year-old Latvian. And they probably won’t be able to trust their parents to advocate for them, because any parent who would watch their five-year-old get dressed like a club girl and draped seductively across a couch does not have that child’s interests at heart.

  24. ACG says:

    And it makes me think back to when I worked for Conde Nast (not for Vogue, although the entire industry has an ick factor to it), and we got a several W‘s returned in the mail. The subscribers were in prison, and the wardens had decided that one of the spreads in the magazine qualified as pornography and wouldn’t let it go through. It was a racy spread, but at least the models were all adults; I can’t imagine what the wardens would say if they saw this.

  25. karak says:

    Also: I just realized that it was their *size* that really tips me off to the fact these girls are children. The proportions of their build are the exact same as professional models–meaning models that look like tall children are particularly sought out. What does it say about us as a culture that we want our grown women to look like pre-pubescents and our pre-pubescents to look like grown women?

  26. wrysuitor says:

    @bufkinite- do you know what it feels like to have coffee spray out your nose? because I do now.
    @karah- eeeeewwwwww, creepy point. I mean I have said to myself before “why is it that so many models look like twelve year old boys with wigs?” (because conversations with myself can get a bit odd) but now you mention it I am looking at that picture and you’re right, they have the exact same proportions, which makes the entire line of thinking that much more disturbing….ick, ick, ick.

  27. Cactus Wren says:

    And — to paraphrase Ruthless Reviews — this, this THING, made it from notion-in-someone’s-head to idea-being-casually-tossed-around to something being seriously planned for, then to active in-progress photo shoot and finally to actual printed issue of Vogue … and no one thought to say, “Um, no.”

  28. PrettyAmiable says:

    So I’ve been thinking about this and am curious about your thoughts: what about THESE girls in the photos? I wonder if they just think they’re playing dress up or that this is the way that they should be.

    And do guardians in France need to consent to their children’s work the way they would need to in the US?

  29. David says:

    PrettyAmiable:
    So I’ve been thinking about this and am curious about your thoughts: what about THESE girls in the photos? I wonder if they just think they’re playing dress up or that this is the way that they should be.
    And do guardians in France need to consent to their children’s work the way they would need to in the US?  

    I don’t know about the first, but I imagine the second is a yes. It doesn’t seem like the photographer could kidnap the kids for a day and shoot a bunch of photos of them without the parents knowing/consenting.

  30. UnFit says:

    Nope, and pretty much all of Europe has fairly strict regulations on child labor. Even kid TV stars can’t shoot after a certain time in the day etc. So yes, the parents pretty much have to be on board with this all the way.
    And besides, I can’t imagine a six-year-old running away from home to become a model.

  31. Jess says:

    The proportions are so weird that I really wonder if these photos are just badly shopped. I mean, can any nine-year-old really have such huge feet as the girl on the left?

  32. Jackie says:

    Oh my God, that girl on the left looks like Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct. That’s just all kinds of wrong, a kid being associated with that film.

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