With the DSK affair slipping from the public eye, Americans have found a new French sin to fixate on: children's lingerie. Thursday morning's Good Morning America featured photos of ruffled bikini sets and briefs with bows, items from new children's underwear line Jours Après Lunes.
Mispronouncing the company's name, newscaster Dan Kloeffler proclaimed that "the new line of sexy lingerie for girls as young as four . . .is rocking everyone from fashionistas to ordinary parents."
The garments themselves don't seem that different than other children's underwear -- briefs give substantial coverage, colors are muted, and bras are without padding. However, ABC, NYDailyNews, and other media outlets have also criticized the company for its look book, where child models wear teased hair and are dressed up in their mother's pearls.
"Some call it fashion. Others call it appalling," ABC said. For critics of the "children's lingerie" brand, this is yet another example of the fashion industry having "gone too far," as Vogue France did when it put 10-year-old cover model Tylande Blondeau on a recent cover.
Meanwhile, Americans are voicing their opinions on Jours Après Lunes' official facebook page. Recent posts include "FRENCH PERVERTS????? SCUM???", "Gross!!! Sicko's!" and "STOP PIMPING OUR KIDS!"
"We don't transform our children into adults"
The only problem is, it isn't really even lingerie. As Sophie Morin, the line's designer, told DailyFinance, the word "lingerie" in French has no sexual connotation. "Lingerie is any undergarment, for men, women, or children," she says. "It's a cultural misunderstanding."
The so-called "bras" that the press has singled out are actually bikinis for the beach, she explains, while all other garments are made of simple, opaque cotton.
Morin was "completely surprised" by the controversy, as her line has existed for two years and has been "very well received" in the past. It is currently sold at one of France's oldest and most famous department stores, Le Bon Marché.
As for the lookbook, Morin says: "I photographed the girls while they were playing. We never posed them. They weren't wearing heels, makeup, or nail polish. The hairstyles and jewelry seem exaggerated like they would on any little girl playing dress-up with her mother's clothing. . . One often sees little boys dressed up as cowboys and Indians. Does this make them future criminals?" Morin herself has two children.
According to Colombine Blum, a journalist for Marie Claire and L'Express who covers children's fashion, "The French are hyper-traditional when it comes to children's clothing. Neither underwear nor outerwear is ever avant-garde or edgy." Petit Bateau, the French brand that makes basic cotton underwear and t-shirts, is the industry reference, according to Blum. "Bras for children don't exist. We don't transform our children into adults," she says.
In Morin's opinion, her brand has become a scapegoat for public anger over Vogue's 10-year-old model. Morin considers the whole situation a cultural misunderstanding, if not a journalistic error.
Some French commentators had more critical interpretations. "France is being singled out by puritan America," ParisMatch wrote. Or, as Gala put it, "It seems that on the other side of the Atlantic, shock has become a second nature."
The French public is also reacting. On ParisMatch.com, one reader commented: "When you think of the Americans and their Mini Miss America competitions (which is worse and which attracts pedophiles like flies) this whole thing is ridiculous."
Children's 'Lingerie': Killer of Innocence, or Case of Francophobia?