Peekaboo Beans's cool CiCi Bean tween line doubles body image and style
When it comes to instilling self-esteem in prepubescent girls, parents have always had a lot of forces working against them: peer pressure, mass-media advertising, impossible standards set by the fashion industry—all the usual suspects. But now with the immediacy and unaccountability of social media, it’s almost impossible to counteract all the negative messaging that impressionable (not to mention hormonally challenged) tweens are faced with on a daily basis.
That’s why when Peekaboo Beans founder Traci Costa decided to add a tween collection to her well-established kids-clothing line, she didn’t want it to be just another label that caters to certain body ideals or dictates what’s hot and what’s not for young girls. So she hired longtime employee Julie Strobl to design CiCi Bean, a line of preteen clothing that celebrates individuality and encourages healthy body image.
“The design concept is really focused around the idea that you can wear any piece and it’s supercomfortable, because if you put something on that’s uncomfortable, you blame your body, like: ‘Oh, my waist is too big,’ ” says Strobl, who, along with Costa, recently sat down with the Straight at a local café. “So nothing’s going to be supertight, so you don’t have to be pulling on things and adjusting,”
With that in mind, instead of ultra-form-fitting tops, CiCi offers softer, looser designs, such as the Hangout Sweatshirt ($69), that don’t chafe or draw attention to changing bodies. As well, bottoms like the Slumber Party Pant ($59) have double-waistband detailing, so they scoop everything up without digging in. Then there’s the Be Me Mini Skirt ($45) with cinchable pockets, so if, for example, a girl is the first in her class to get hips, she can let the pockets out for a chic, slouchy look and no one will be the wiser.
And unlike the pre-set, “dad-proof” Peekaboo collection, CiCi is all about separates that girls can mix and match. The designs are on trend but not trendy. The hope is tweens will feel free to make the pieces their own by adding whatever accessories they want, which is especially important to Costa, whose daughter just started Grade 4. Her goal is to make her nine-year-old muse confident enough to rock her personal style and to ignore what the “cool” girls think.
“She’s very fashion-forward, and she’s very social and outgoing, but I’ve seen the impact of what girls say,” says Costa, who sells her clothing through Nestings Kids Junior Homestore (2126 West 41st Avenue), Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver, and through “Bean Soirées”. (For more info, visit the Peekaboo Beans website ). “Like if she wears a fedora or something that she loves at home and then goes to school and one of the girls says, ‘Why are you wearing that?’ then she becomes sheepish in what she’s doing.”
Thus, every CiCi piece has the embroidered heart-shaped logo with the word Be to remind girls to be themselves. As for the clothes’ greatest weapon against body dysmorphia, that’s got to be their sizing. Strobl and Costa have done away with numbers and replaced them with Great, Ten Out of Ten, Totally Awesome, and Fabulous. That way young girls don’t have to feel less worthy just because they’re a size 14 and the rest of their friends are a size 12. That feeling of inferiority is something Strobl can relate to.
“I had a really hard time going through high school,” she says. “I had almost no self-esteem at points in time. And I struggled with eating disorders and things like that. So I know how tough it can be and how girls can be to each other. And I just want to try to help anyone I can so they don’t have to go through that.”
That said, both women know they have a tough road ahead of them in terms equipping girls with enough positive reinforcement to get them through high school with their self-confidence relatively intact.
“Do we have our work cut out for us?” says Costa. “Oh, totally. But at the same time, if we’re not going to do it, who is going to do it?”