In the past decade or so maternity wear has undergone a much needed transformation – from tent dresses to belly-hugging tanks, and all manner of accouterments to take an expectant mother’s regular wardrobe through her pregnancy with her. In the age of the “yummy mummy,” when every celebrity from Angelina Jolie to Celine Dion and in between is telling the world about their pregnancy, it’s no surprise that maternity wear has become a growing market (no pun intended). But in a world where Target has maternity designer Liz Lange creating a new collection each season, it would seem that the market is already to full for a new competitor. Forever 21 – already competing in the intense world of cheap teen fashion – has seized on the popularity of such teen pregnancy celebs as Bristol Palin, and popular culture’s fascination with them (Secret Life of the American Teenager anyone?), to carve out a new niche: maternity wear for teens.
Now, some of you are likely poised to begin furiously typing in the comments section that I could not possibly know that Forever 21’s maternity wear is meant just for teenagers. Well, dear readers, I did some investigative work. While I don’t live in the states where Forever 21’s maternity line, Love21, is being sold (interestingly, the same 5 states that are among the highest rates of teen pregnancy), I do have a Forever 21 nearby, and after an evening spent sifting through their wares, I can tell you this: Forever 21’s clothes are cut for juniors – the bodices on the shirts and dresses are narrow, the jeans have little to no allowance for hips, and the skirts – besides being be-ruffled and be-dazzled, are short. The clientele was young – think 15 and under – and the styles were nothing that an adult woman would build a wardrobe out of. Sure, there were a few plain t-shirts… but with no room built in for adult sized breasts, it’s doubtful that many adult sized women would be able to wear them. As a size 4 woman I could not fit into anything sized smaller than an XL.
So, having concluded that, yes, this is in fact maternity wear for teens, is it a bad thing? Certainly teenagers who are pregnant have enough to worry about besides finding a pair of jeans that fit, but does this line of trendy, fashionable clothing make life easier because it says to all teenagers the same thing that Bristol Palin and The Secret Life of the American Teenager say – which is that you might be pregnant, but hey, you’re fashionable, you’re fun, it’s ok. Bristol Palin gets to be adorable and well dressed because she’s paid $15,000 per speaking engagement (ironically, on how poor she is due to being a teen mother), and, as previously discussed, The Secret Life of the American Teenager projects a patronizing delusion, not reality. Forever 21’s maternity wear for teenagers does the same. While the corporation does not bear any particular responsibility toward stopping teen pregnancy (at least not any more than any of us do), for it to blatantly exploit pop culture’s ridiculous fascination with it, and therefore normalize it is abhorrent.
How angry would you be if you saw a company selling cigarettes for teenagers? Very. Why? Because smoking, while it might look glamorous, can have long lasting ramifications. Well, guess what? So does teenage pregnancy. So get mad at Forever 21 for advertising it as being glamorous, and walk out of their store, and get on your computer and send an e-mail to their corporate offices, and tell them about it.