NEW YORK - The woman who dressed her young daughter as Dolly Parton -- complete with a padded bra and sculpting underwear -- for a child beauty pageant that aired on TLC's Toddlers & Tiaras could lose custody of the girl after her estranged husband claimed she sexually exploited their daughter by allowing her to dress so provocatively.
Little Maddy Verst's appearance in the costume on an episode of the controversial TLC program sparked a firestorm of criticism against her mother, Lindsay. Her father, Bill Verst, has asked a Kentucky court to grant him sole custody of his daughter, who is now 6.
During a court proceeding Saturday, a judge threw reporters out of the courtroom, closed the hearing and placed a gag order on mother Lindsay Jackson. The judge also imposed a ban on any pageant activity for Maddy or her mother for the duration of the trial.
A court-appointed psychologist has sided with Maddy's father, condemning the Parton costume and recommending that a judge make Verst the girl's sole custodial parent.
Jackson said the costume was never meant to be sexual and that she shouldn't be at risk of losing her daughter.
Jackson dressed her daughter herself in the Dolly Parton costume, telling the TLC show's cameras, "When she wears the fake boobs and the fake butt, it's just like an added extra bonus and it's really funny when she comes out on stage and everybody thinks it's hysterical."
Not everybody thought it was hysterical, however. Some online commenters were quick to express their disgust for the costume and for the perceived sexualization of little girls on the show.
It's not the first time a pageant mother has come under fire on the show.
Wendy Dickey was condemned for dressing her 3-year-old daughter, Paisley, in a racy costume that mimicked the outfit worn by Julia Roberts' prostitute character from the movie Pretty Woman.
The costume consisted of a fitted, skin-baring white blouse, tight blue mini-skirt and thigh-high, shiny black boots. Paisley wore it all -- complete with a blond wig, which Roberts' prostitute character also wore -- and critics and children's advocates erupted in outrage.
The court proceedings in Maddy's custody case resume Aug. 31.
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