Fashion Sends a Message: But Is It the Right One?

"Gorgeous." "Sexy." "Beautiful." Many young women are all these things, but a fashion trend that has them wearing these words on their busts and bottoms is raising some eyebrows.

“Message” fashion — clothing with descriptive phrases stamped on the chest and behind — is the teenybopper look du jour. But critics say the trend, which sometimes includes provocative phrases and even expletives, can go too far.

“Messages that are positive and pure, like 'beautiful,' 'angel' and 'magical,' are absolutely OK, but not anything sexual that could be construed as dirty and nasty,” said Elizabeth Kiester, fashion director for YM magazine (search).

Mary Jane Mariani, a New Jersey mother of five daughters ranging from 15 to 24-years-old, said she wouldn't mind her girls wearing some of the sayings, but agreed that others aren't appropriate for teens.

"It depends on what it says. 'Gorgeous' is OK, but I wouldn't want them to wear 'sexy' or 'boy toy,'" she said.

Kiester confirmed that the trend is a huge hit with girls. In fact, YM is featuring message sweaters and belts in their October issue. But the teen glossy is highlighting innocent versions of the fad, and focusing on the impact that wearing a statement about yourself can make.

“We’re going to show a sweater that says 'leader of the pack,' across the chest, and on the ironic side, a belt that says 'dork,'" Kiester said. "The feature is about the empowerment of words, how words affect the way you feel about the world and yourself."

But when the messages veer into the realm of sexually suggestive sayings such as "I'm delicious" and "boy toy," even some fashionistas get skittish.

Kiester was taken aback when her 12-year-old niece started wearing Juicy Couture (search) sweats with "juicy" written across the front and backside.

“My sister said, 'It’s just a brand.' But I thought that might be a little too sexy," she said.

One New York City teacher told she has witnessed her kindergarten students' young mothers wearing messages that she feels cross the line.

“I’ve seen them wear jeans, tops and shorts that say provocative things, and I think it cheapens the female person and makes sex a game," said the teacher, who requested anonymity.

Nevertheless, the look can be found just about everywhere. Express (search) stores, frequented by teens and young women, carry cropped cargo pants with “gorgeous” across the tush, as well as T-shirts with “sexy” on the breast pocket.

Wet Seal, another favorite youth-oriented chain store, features colorful T-shirts that say “high maintenance,” "notorious" and “miss chievous.”

E! fashion director Elycia Rubin said the trend is an “attention-grabber," which is in line with the culture's increasingly flashy pop stars and actors who influence teens. But Rubin's not bothered by the sassy sayings.

“I have a pair with 'love' across the butt — my boyfriend made them for me,” she said. “I’ve seen them on Britney [Spears], Gwen Stefani (search). It’s just a fun kind of flirty, spunky clothing trend."

Rubin, who lives in L.A., said men do call out to her on the street more than usual when she wears her "love" jeans, but she thinks that’s perfectly OK.

“It’s sweet when there’s a nice message. I’ve seen some of the bad words — Madonna has swear words on some of her clothes — [but] I don’t think it’s offensive. If you wear it well, you’re fine."

However, some parents like Mariani are concerned that the fashion statements could be construed as walking personal ads, especially when kids are involved.

"I object to 'hot' and 'sexy," Mariani said. "I wouldn't want my daughters to call attention to themselves in that way."