Top retailers including Penneys, Marks and Spencer, Brown Thomas, and Next have imposed a ban on the sale of sexually suggestive children’s clothes.

Guidelines introduced by Retail Ireland on children’s wear will also be strictly implemented by major stores such as Arnotts, Brown Thomas, Clerys, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco, and TK Maxx.

Most of the big outlets are members of Retail Ireland, which has also invited Dunnes Stores and other children’s wear retailers to adopt the voluntary code.

Retail Ireland, which is affiliated to employers’ group Ibec, said the code is to ensure the provision of practical, appropriate clothes for children under the age of 12.

The code, similar to one introduced in Britain last year, was launched yesterday by Frances Fitzgerald, the children’s minister.

She said Irish childhood had changed and continues to change, and everybody had a responsibility to make sure those changes were positive for children.

“Some things are not the same for adults and children,” said Ms Fitzgerald. “Never have been, never will be. This includes clothes with suggestive slogans, overtly sexual cuts and styles, and unreal or unbalanced portrayals of an ‘ideal’ body image. The guidelines recognise these differences.”

She particularly welcomed Retail Ireland’s plan to provide an email address — — that can be used by parents and others to report concerns.

Retail Ireland director Stephen Lynam said the guidelines provide extra reassurance for parents that retailers are just as concerned as they are about what their children wore.

He said the guidelines would ensure that all children’s clothing from production to the point of sale was age-appropriate and did not sexualise or unduly gender-stereotype children.

Mr Lynam said there are no plans to publicise the guidelines widely or to put up posters in stores. He said retailers would act on feedback from customers through in-store and website comment, and general correspondence.

Any item found to be in breach of the guidelines would be swiftly removed, he said.

The guidelines will be reviewed next year and an annual report will be presented to Ms Fitzgerald by mid-2013.

Some of the key guidelines on the sale and marketing of children’s clothes:

  • Slogans and imagery must be age-appropriate and not sexually suggestive.
  • Choice of fabrics and cut should provide for modesty.
  • Great care should be taken in the design of children’s underwear to differentiate it from adult lingerie.
  • Bras to be labelled by size, not age, with no enhancement or underwiring in first bras.