This is an issue that comes back again and again, but I felt that the time was right for it, having just read Lolita and also after Rachel Ramirez posted this amusing article on Thought Catalog. Before I begin I'd like to say that I don't know everything about this issue and I know it's a delicate one. I'll preface my own opinions with a 'personally' or similar.
What I found most disturbing about Nabakov's masterpiece was not simply the subject matter, but the description of young girls and particularly what aspects of them the protagonist finds attractive. Many of these struck me as attributes which tend to be considered beautiful by today's society: her lack of hair on her legs, her soft skin, and her undeveloped boyish shape.
Models are getting younger all the time. Controversy flared up around Thylane Blondeau in 2011 when, at the age of ten, she posed for French Vogue in poses and outfits which were decidedly adult. While her case seemed to particularly shock the world, she was not that far off in age from some girls making their runway debuts that season. I remember a flurry of blog posts at the time discussing the morality of using such a young model in the shoot. Some defended it as a piece of art, others quickly condemned it, but the majority agreed that it might have worked if it had been more like a girl dressing in her mother's clothes, but as it was, the shoot became unsettling. Whatever your opinion, it certainly highlighted an obsession which the fashion industry has with youth.
On the other side of things, as models get younger and other factors like airbrushing allow for an ever more youthful look on the front cover of every fashion magazine, so followers of fashion feel that they must go to extreme lengths to achieve this look. Of course this has been going on for thousands of years; the ancient Greeks valued the pale skin of a young woman above the weathered skin of an older one. Furthermore it's perfectly understandable to want to regain something of one's youth. It's just that there comes a point when it can appear somewhat...well...creepy for an adult woman to want to look like a little girl.
The problem seems to lie in the fact that the current silhouette in fashion is the 'boyish' look which, while there is nothing wrong with it, necessitates the use of young models. It also means there is a lack of celebration for other looks which lend themselves more naturally to adults. This is a fairly recent phenomenon. In the 1950s, models were usually grown women wearing clothes which emphasised the kind of figure one only has after puberty, thanks in part to Christian Dior's 'New Look'. Of course, their flawless make-up and impossibly tiny waists still made the look somewhat unattainable, but that will always be a part of fashion; it's something to aspire to. However, there is always the opportunity to take a look at what kind of image we are glorifying and reflect on the extremes to which people will go to attain it. If aspects of youth continue to be celebrated, are we not in danger of forgetting the kind of beauty which comes with maturity?
Please do share your opinions on this, I'd love to hear them.