Some tops are made for girls as young as 6. Photo / Michael
Padded bikini tops for pre-teen girls are being taken off
the shelves after a furious child welfare advocate intervened.
The bikinis, for girls as young as 6, have been on racks in
chain stores throughout New Zealand this summer.
The Warehouse, Amazon and Quiksilver stock bikinis with
shaped inserts which could make pre-teen girls appear more
The swimwear has been condemned by Children's Commissioner
Russell Wills, who said the inserts were unnecessary and
sexualised young girls.
"My view is that this is padding and not lining and
contributes to the sexualisation of young girls," he said.
"It contributes to the negative body image for these girls
that can lead to eating disorders such as bulimia and
After speaking with the Herald on Sunday, Wills phoned The
Warehouse to demand the products be pulled from sale.
The New Zealand-owned Beach Works brand stocked by The
Warehouse included triangle and bandeau halter-neck styles
with removable cup-shaped inserts.
Sizes ranged from 8 to 16 years.
The Warehouse defended the Beach Works brand, which cost from
just $9, describing the inserts as comfort or modesty liners,
Warehouse chief executive Mark Powell said company would
never sexualise young girls.
"These bikinis have removable lining, not padding, to cater
to the broad age range of our size run, which covers girls
who are at very different stages of development," Powell
"Feedback from our customers is that they like the lining for
the comfort and modesty it offers them when they're at the
Despite standing by the range, Powell said on Thursday he
would remove the frilly bikini, but it was still on sale
yesterday. The triangle style would remain, he said.
Wills said he was disappointed with the response from the
"It makes sexual objects of very young girls that can lead to
sexual abuse and assault."
Chris Fogarty of Billabong said its bikinis, which retail for
$60, weren't designed to enhance the bust area, but had a
"thin layer of foam" between the Lycra and lining.
Designers said the foam was for "modesty" and to "retain
shape". A spokesperson for Roxy said padding was included to
keep the top in place during movement and is also a modesty
measure in case the fabric became transparent when wet.
Beachgoers spoken to this week felt the bikinis were not
appropriate for pre-teens.
Shown the Beach Works halter-neck frill bikini, Auckland mum
Lisa Dempsey said she would not let her 10-year-old daughter
Charli wear it.
"I disagree with making children look, or want to be, older,"
"It is promoting the wrong image for that age."
Dempsey said the padding wasn't huge but it could make girls
believe they needed it.
In 2010, UK chain store Primark withdrew padded bikini tops
targeted at 7-year-olds after public outrage.
And the following year, popular American retailer Abercrombie
and Fitch came under fire for a range of padded bikinis aimed
at 8-year-olds. It pulled the range after parents complained
and relaunched with an age target of 12-plus.
- Kirsty Wynn of the Herald on Sunday