Retailers selling bras for girls as young as three
IRISH stores are selling bras for girls as young as three years old despite years of criticism about the sexualisation of children.
And retailers are also selling padded bras to enhance the figures of nine-year-olds despite concern from children's rights groups.
The Irish Independent found that Dunnes Stores is selling bra-and-knicker sets for three-to-four year olds and for five-to six year olds.
Although the lace-trimmed underwear is labelled as a 'crop top set', it's in the underwear department amongst other starter bra sets for girls.
Dunnes also has padded bras for girls with a 28 to 30-inch chest, although it does not make clear what age group these are designed for.
Penneys, meanwhile, has padded bras emblazoned with the logo "Superstar" targeted at girls who are 140cm tall -- or aged around nine.
The chain also has non-padded bras for five or six year-olds, again labelled 'crop tops' but sold with other underwear sets aimed at girls.
Penneys also has knickers for seven-year-olds with logos such as "And your problem is . . .?", "I don't ask for much, just my own way!" and "Whatever!"
Last night the Barnardos director of advocacy Norah Gibbons said: "The availability of these items of clothing for children as young as three and four is adding to the early sexualisation of children.
"It is undesirable to encourage young girls to dress as adults -- it is denying them the right just to be children, and it could give solace to those who seek out children inappropriately," she said.
Childcare worker Suanne O'Connor said she had been shocked to see bras for small girls on sale in Penneys in Limerick recently.
"I have worked with young people in crisis and believe me the last thing that's needed is to encourage girls to dress up like adults younger and younger. Can we just bring back the teddy bears please," she said.
"The fact they're calling them crop tops is just a total copout, anyone looking at these would call them bras," she said.
A Penneys spokesperson said their bras were labelled by chest size with no reference to age and were lined for comfort and modesty and were not designed to provide enhancement.
They said their bras for five- to six-year-olds were crop tops that were classified as vests.
"Penneys is a responsible retailer which takes great care to ensure that its products are both attractive and appropriate for all age groups," the company said in a statement.
Dunnes Stores did not respond to request for a comment on the sale of the items highlighted.
The British Retail Consortium recently introduced a code of good practice for selling children's clothes, signed up to by many major retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Tesco, but not subscribed to by Penneys.