SEVERAL of Ireland's largest retailers have agreed to strict guidelines which impose a ban on the sale of sexually suggestive clothing for children.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said retail bosses had begun demanding "increased standards" from clothing designers due to growing concern over the sexualisation of children.
Ms Fitzgerald has revealed that 11 major retailers have agreed to comply with the 'Responsible Retailing of Childrenswear' guidelines.
Dunnes Stores has become the latest retailer to agree to the guidelines -- which ban the sale of sexually suggestive clothing, slogans and imagery.
The list of signatories includes Arnotts, Brown Thomas, Clerys, Debenhams and House of Fraser.
Marks & Spencer, Next, Penneys, Tesco and TK Maxx have also signed up to the guidelines.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Ms Fitzgerald said it was a positive step that more retailers had signed up.
"It's the one thing I find. People stop me on the street -- parents and grannies -- and they say 'delighted you took a stand on that'," she said.
"I think it reached a tipping point where many parents were saying: 'I actually find it hard to find what I consider appropriate clothing for young children'.
"I think suddenly if you start changing that and the retailers like Penneys and Clerys say to their designers: 'We don't want this, we want something more appropriate' . . . you get increased standards and they've all signed up and I think that's really positive. It has made a difference in clothes."
The guidelines, which were devised by Retail Ireland, focus on the sale of children's underwear. They state that great care should be shown to differentiate it from adult lingerie.
And the guidelines state that swimwear should provide for modesty and should be age appropriate.
In relation to marketing, the guidelines state that children's clothing should be targeted at adult purchasers only.
A complaints system is also in place if parents are unhappy with an item of clothing on sale.
Meanwhile, Ms Fitzgerald has ruled out the prospect of imposing a ban on US-style beauty pageants. She said she did not believe legislation was necessary.
There were been calls earlier this year for beauty pageants to be scrapped after it emerged that children as young as 11 months of age were being encouraged to enter.
Ms Fitzgerald insisted the Government would continue to condemn the staging of such events, which promote "sexism".
"It's the sexualisation of girls, it's sexism at the end of the day; it's very oppressive for young girls. I think it's not disconnected with anorexia and with the issues that arise for young girls in their teenage years, if the focus is only on appearance," she said.