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by Abigail Van Buren

Tarted Up Girls' Clothing Brings Out Readers' Wrath

DEAR ABBY: I must respond to the letter from "Troubled Grandma," who was appalled at her 7-year-old granddaughter's revealing bathing suit. Lest you think Grandma is hopelessly old-fashioned, my daughter is 9 (I am 30), and I think some of the clothes marketed for girls are pretty shocking. Last summer, the style was teeny little tops that exposed the navel and had spaghetti straps, worn with bell-bottom hip-hugger jeans. The skirts this year are minis and the shoes are chunky with platforms.

My daughter plays with another 9-year-old whose mother bought her huge platform shoes for the summer. Every time the girls would run out to play on the swing set, this girl's ankle would turn and she would fall off her shoes! I told my daughter not even to THINK of wearing stuff like that.

I used to work the night shift for a courier service. My "run" took me into Manhattan between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m. (My husband, who was my fiance at the time, was beside himself about my doing it, but I needed the job.) During those hours, prostitutes would openly solicit on street corners -- and guess what they were wearing? Teeny tops with spaghetti straps, tight jeans and platform shoes!

Kids need to be kids for a long time. My daughter still has a "blankie" she sleeps with, and she isn't ashamed of it. In my opinion, girls should be concerned with skipping rope, running in the sunshine, swinging on swings and jumping in leaf piles after their studies. Dressing them like women pushes them to grow up too fast. -- OLD-FASHIONED MOM, TRUMBULL, CONN.

DEAR OLD-FASHIONED MOM: When I printed the letter from "Troubled Grandma," I did not realize what a hot-button issue children's fashions has become. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I would like to validate the feelings of "Troubled Grandma." I'm the mother of a 5-year-old girl and feel strongly about this issue. It's very difficult to find appropriate clothing for little girls, especially swimwear. All the suits are cut high at the leg; many have see-through sides and backs that leave little to the imagination. Wake up, people! Our little girls need a chance to be little girls! This means telling them "NO!" when they choose inappropriate clothing, and refusing to buy from manufacturers who are irresponsible.

I remember when I was young, my mom said "NO!" to outfits that were too sophisticated or revealing. I thank her for teaching me how to dress with style and class. These decisions are taught by responsible parents who have the guts to draw the line with whiny children, media and manufacturers who do not have a clue (and could not care less) about what makes a little girl become a self-confident, independent woman. -- STANDING TALL IN TEXAS

DEAR STANDING TALL: Thank you for speaking out on behalf of many like-minded parents. I hope the manufacturers are listening, because what I'm hearing is there is money to be made if someone can come up with a sensible, as well as appealing, clothing line. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Please tell "Troubled Grandma" that in March, the new bathing suits will arrive in department stores. She should buy her granddaughter the cutest ruffled one-piece swimsuit she can find, send it to her, and ask for a photo of the child wearing it. Perhaps that will "cover" the problem! -- CHRISTINE L. ORMAN, DALLAS

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