I came across a piece charting the style evolution of 12-year-old actress Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally, the on-screen daughter of Betty and Don Draper in Mad Men that made me thunderously shudder.
Here I was, gazing at the wardrobe hits and misses of a 12-year-old child actress, who looked like she certainly shouldn’t be ‘evaluated’ in this manner. So, I skipped though Shipka’s style slideshow, and the more images that unfolded before my eyes, the more uneasy I felt. For I was looking at a young girl who is currently taking Hollywood by storm, due to her on-screen brilliance and sheer talent, but the reason behind this viewing, the ulterior motive, seemed unsuited to her age.
Discussing the fashion credentials of someone who is in the public eye at such a tender age can be a dangerous ball game, and this played out as the slideshow went on, with Shipka’s poses becoming more grown up to match her outfits. With each click, she seemed to shed a thin layer of her pre-teen innocence.
Of course, no one is blaming Shipka for jumping the age gun and wanting to portray herself as someone she is yet to become. For she comes from a long line of child actors, Chloë Moretz and Elle Fanning, to name a few who, although slightly older than Shipka, are still subjected to the same sartorial scrutiny, seemingly pushing the said actresses to pursue the hottest names in fashion to dress them.
It is almost how the world might expect Suri Cruise to turn out in the years to come: fashion-centric (which she already is, at the tender age of 5), although with better fashion choices and almost ‘pushed’ into the hand-on-hip pose far earlier than is required, just like in the Shipka slideshow.
The slideshow contains a photograph taken at an Emmy’s pre-party in 2011 showing Shipka in a strappy, pale blue satin dress complete with hand-on-hip pose radiates an eerie, grown up aura. This leads on to many more images of Shipka in mini-me versions of adult dresses striking an I’m-not-10/11/12-I-just-look-it pose.
Fair play to the budding actress, she is definitely a solid Hollywood star in the making, and through her current situation has been predisposed to red carpet fashion and a higher sense of style, but how does this type of style scrutiny hang in the balance with our continuous ranting about child models, Toddles & Tiaras and every other manner of on-screen ‘exploitation’ where children are the focal point in grown up, somewhat alien environments?
A 12-year-old taking part in such a high profile production automatically spells media attention and a certain pressure to present the Mad Men brand, as well as looking the ‘presentable’ part, but fashion policing the style choices of a girl who may not even be able to remember the names of the designers dressing her really invalidates the public outcry against ‘kids growing up too soon.’
For me, the fact that I am sat here clicking through images simply to dismiss or approve what I see a child actress wearing automatically erases her from the thought process – I am not focused on whom, but what I see.
Sadly, though, with fashion playing an equally imperative role on the red carpet as it does on the catwalk, there will be many more Shipka’s to come, all with their red carpet togs at the ready to hit hard at heart the very critics who put them in these dresses and underage poses.