Each year without fail, some ‘witty’ designers decide that the girls section needs some punching up. “I think girls are really into pink this year,” one might say. “Oh and princesses,” chimes in another. “No wait, let’s just sell them the same crap because girls are dumb! Haha, this is so meta.” This year’s fashion dunce cap went to The Children’s Place for their shirt, but retailers like Gymboree have made the same mistakes year after year without ever learning a lesson themselves. Because while corporations are (finally) universally panned when they imply girls are lacking in the math department, they still get a pass for telling girls they just need to be easy on the eyes. (If you can figure out how to get a PhD in cuteness, more power to you).
It irks me that big businesses think they can get away with things like, “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” Groups like Pink Stinks try to hold them accountable and let them know that this ‘I’m sorry you were offended’ attitude doesn’t fly. (Surprise surprise! We’re smarter than that.) The UK-based group wants to give girls the chance to say that there’s more than one way to be a girl by campaigning against overly gendered clothing, costumes or cosmetics that tell a girl she is (or should) be anything less than herself.
It’s hard to get away from the idea of The Girl Section and The Boy Section despite the relatively few differences in prepubescent bodies. Progressively-minded parents can still be thwarted by school bullies and gender-policing fitting room attendants if they shop from the “wrong” section. Even when fellow parents give great advice on finding gender-neutral togs in the boys’s section, it doesn’t really help that they follow up with tips on girlifying it. Shouldn’t retailers think, “Hey! Let’s let these kids figure themselves out.” Because no matter where your child falls on the gender gradient, they can usually agree with the label “kid.”
Where can you shop for clothing without being bludgeoned by a Rainbow Glitter Magic Wand that only extols the virtues of being pretty, pink and purchased? The web of course! If navigating the great land of webstores didn’t leave you feeling too great, you can always look to Etsy or any of these designers that think outside of the toybox.
Launched this summer, this clothing line strives for “girl clothes without the girly.” Created by Sharon Burns Choski, she wanted a clothing line that challenged her mall’s offerings. Following her simple rules of letting girls be kids, while staying away from pink, girly embellishments and stereotypical imagery, she ended up with a line that appeals to adults, tomboys and any girl that doesn’t hanker for magenta. As soon as you step away from the status quo, you get neat tees like Girls Will Be So Many Things and effing sharks. When was the last time you could gift your niece a hammerhead?
If you just want a resource on how to raise a strong woman, you’ll find it at A Mighty Girl, which collects everything that “smart, confident, and courageous girls” could want. Checklists of our actual talents? Female superhero undies? Medical scrubs/onesies for that genius newborn? Caped WonderWoman socks? They’ve even got presents for you! Like a graphic T section of your favourite childhood books!
If money is burning a hole through your pocket and you want your kid to be a fashion plate, look no further. Organized just as tops and bottoms, these fun prints are easily wearable by any type of kid. Their monster Ts, tuxedo jackets and astronaut onesies bare a simple message: “only to be worn by indikiduals.”
4. Hei Moose
Sparkles! Glitter! Random holographic things. Who doesn’t like fun things? Certainly not kids! This Nordic clothing line embraces the belief that kids should all get to play in brightly patterned clothing, including the boys! Although some of their pink items are still labeled for girls as you can tell, (the gender-neutral shopping task was harder than I imagined) you still have offerings that won’t leave either sibling feeling left out.
5. PigTail Pals
This line (along with Ballcap Buddies) just reminds kids to be kids. It just strives to remind girls (and boys) that they can be whatever they want to be. There’s no such thing as male or female professions any more than there are girl or boy colours.
If she likes pink she can wear pink, because she can do anything. Plan Canada isn’t just thinking about your youngster, but also about all of the girls around the world that simply need the opportunity to make something of themselves. So if your kiddo decides they love all things Magenta, remind them that it’s their decision and buy a shirt that’ll help another kid get to make their own choices.
There’s nothing wrong with liking pink. Or unicorns. Or glitter. If you were to ask a bunch of our queer, feminist writers how their current wardrobe compared to that of their childhood, I’m sure a lot of them would say, “similar, but adult-sized.”
No part of feminism says that certain colours or motifs are off limits. While forcing a hue upon our daughters, sisters and ourselves is ass backwards, so is denying it from its enthusiasts. So if your mini decides that they want to be a princess, you don’t need to deny their fun, just remind them they can be whatever type of princess they want. Including a self-rescuing one.
I cannot even with those pictures of Riese and Vanessa.
But also these clothing lines are SO good and magical and perfect, too. Obviously.
Things my 3.5 yr old daughter said recently that made me realise she doesn’t give a fuck about gender presentation… or presentation at all…
Daughter- “mami, look at the lady on tv with one arm”…. (points at children’s TV presenter with amputated arm)…
Me – “yes baby, some people have one arm, some people have two”
Daughter – “I think people with one arm can fly like princesses”
Me – tries not to cry un-cntrolably at my daughters beautiful heart.
First day at school – “Mrs Griffiths is my teacher. She’s my brother, and my friend”
She’s basically my favorite tiny human.
OH MY GOD YOUR DAUGHTER.
UUMMMMPH!! Your daughter’s fantastic!
Having a child has made me realize that young children 100% do not give a shit about (or even understand) gender roles, unless they’re taught to. My now-4-year-old daughter went through a big Cinderella phase when she was 3, and she’d ask me all the time to be the Prince. It didn’t phase her at all that I’m a woman. And sometimes she’d want to be the Prince.
Now she’s totally into Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and thinks she’s going to be “real Firestar” when she grows up. Not because Firestar is the female one, but because Firestar can fly and she *really* wants to fly.
“If you were to ask a bunch of our queer, feminist writers how their current wardrobe compared to that of their childhood, I’m sure a lot of them would say, “similar, but adult-sized.” ”
I like the way you think.
and so continues my grand tradition of coveting children’s clothes.
when i get super rich, i’m going to hire a seamstress to make me children’s clothes in “fuck that girl is tall” sizes.
i have never more wanted to be and/or have a kid in my life. omg interkidual.
i love all of this, this is amazing kristen
I babysit a lot, and the other day this four year old girl who I absolutely love told me that she couldn’t play with dinosaurs because they were boy toys. THEY ARE GIANT PREHISTORIC LIZARDS. HOW CAN THEY BE GENDERED???? I just. So sad D: I really love this article, because it seems to me that toys/children’s items are way more gendered than they were even 10 years ago. Or at least the girls’ toy section is way pinker. It’s nice to see that there are companies out there that are helping to change this. Now, if only little boys could dress in pink and frills and glitter without getting the shit beat out of them!
That makes me sad, because obviously someone has taught her that dinosaurs are for boys and therefore not for her.
We were driving with my wife’s mom the other day, and my 4-year-old daughter spotted a bulldozer when we passed a construction site and started talking about the toy bulldozers, dump trucks, etc etc that they have at her school. And my wife’s mom made some comment about those being “boy toys.” Both me and my wife were like, “NO THEY’RE NOT, THEY ARE EVERYBODY TOYS.” Her school/teacher are very much about all toys being for everyone and obviously we reinforce that at home. So Grandma got an unexpected lesson in not gendering toys!
No adult-sized female superhero undies?? Damn.
They actually do!! Proving how awesome A Mighty Girl is!
Yay for companies that don’t degrade or insult or put expectations of what girls can and can’t do into the minds of kids! My 8 y/o niece has an awesome t-shirt with the periodic table that says “I wear this… periodically” on it that I absolutely love. :D She told me that she doesn’t find it very funny, however, and likes her panda with a mustache t-shirt better. She’s the cutest tiny hipster, and I love her.
while i enjoyed all the awesome kid clothes, mostly what i got out of this article was a serious, serious craving for an ice cream cone. thanks a lot, kid-riese!
I know! Kid-Riese, setting all the trends from now until forever.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I wish these companies were around when I was in elementary school. It probably would have saved me from so much teasing from the other girls about getting my shirts from the boys section, and also from my mother, who still nags me about not wearing pink even though I’m almost 25.
Très bien. A Mighty Girl makes some bomb stuff.
But now I just want a tshirt that says “MATH”
Thank you for this. This is all really (well mostly) relevant to my life…only I have a son not a daughter.
My son is 12 and quite happily plays with his cars and lego bricks whilst playing with his collection of Sylvanian Families stuff, doesn’t phase him at all that they are supposedly for girls and targeted at girls, he just thinks they are cute and they drive an awesome caravan! He does all this whilst surrounding himself with candles that he has either made himself or got from the store.
The point is he doesn’t really seem to be phased by gender, he does things or wears things because he wants to. He is learning real quick that there are many non-gendered people out there and that is ok. I sometimes think that kids have a better understanding of this than most adults.
I love these clothing lines so much. I hope that we will find more of this in our stores, its healthy and its fun.
Also, Vanessa..those photos! :D
those pictures of vanessa shut up omg
also, as a rule of thumb, every one of my friends that has a baby receives from me a tiny leather jacket and tiny suspenders, because all humans (regardless of gender) should own those things because they’re bad-ass (and i secretly want all babies to look like me all of the time).
I used to work retail a few years back, and the pinkness of the girls department was seriously the worst. I know I wasn’t the only employee at that store who attempted to un-gender the toy shelves on the sly. Kid things are for everyone, even if our corporate office dictated that “science toys” go in the “boy” section and all the knock-off Barbies needed to stay near the pink shirts and embroidered-butterfly jeans.
Man, things like this make me wish I had some sort of familial relationship with a little girl so I could buy her awesome reading and dinosaur shirts as presents.
I went to a wedding once in a tux and this little girl asked me why I was wearing boy clothes. Both her aunt and I explained that girls could wear whatever clothes they want. Here’s hoping she’ll remember that!
On the other side of the kids caring/not caring about gender scale, my three year old nephew loves to walk around in people’s shoes, especially heels, and wears the frilliest apron when “helping” my sister cook.
This is so great.
I just now realized that the clothes I preferred as a kid really should’ve tipped everyone off; I stole one of my (male) cousin’s plaid shirts when I was probs about 8 and I wore it constantly. Also vehemently objected to pink clothing. And wore boys shoes until about 12.
A Mighty Girl sells a Frida Kahlo paper doll with 30 outfits. Forget the kid, I’m getting this for myself.
Good toy companies are ones that that promote learning, imagination and self-esteem for kids of any sex or gender!!
Bad kids’ products are created from the heart of festering traditionalist conventions, and to regain goodness and equality we need to throw all of them back into the fiery mountain of patriarchal hegemony.
The only graphic tees I’d wear as a kid were the ones that had sports balls on them (I wasn’t picky; I only played golf but I’d rock a volleyball shirt and didn’t give a shit) and some phrase about how GIRLS RULE BOYS DROOL, which oddly is still my motto today.
Also I totally had that Polly Pocket and she made out so often with my Lego people, despite their size differences.
OHHHHMYYYYGOSHHHHHHH do I have a lot of things to say about this.
I don’t have kids, but I worked at The Children’s Place for five years (I just quit a few months ago, so my hate and rage against the place is still fresh in my mind). I have folded a lot of FUCKING STUPID shirts in my time at that place. Every single one of the girl graphic tees is covered in glitter. I am about as femme and girly as it gets, but I hated folding girls clothes because it meant I was covered in glitter for days, and even I hate that. Hey TCP- all girls clothes don’t need glitter! Sometimes even little princesses and baby femmes like to wear clothes that aren’t covered in butterflies and sparkles. Sometimes we like colors like navy blue, red and green.
I hate that people buy clothes like this for girls, but I hate to say it sucks in the boys section too. If you are a parent that isn’t into sports, you don’t have many choices for “boy” clothing from The Children’s Place. Also, they don’t carry school uniforms for girls after the fall season, but they carry white polo shirts for boys year round. I live in a town where every public school kid has to wear a uniform, and I can’t tell you how many dirty looks I’ve received after I suggested they just get their girl a polo from the boys department. I mean, on a five year old kid, does it even matter what department the shirt came from? Kid clothes tend to fit all kids the same. It always amazed me when people wouldn’t buy their girls clothes from the boys department, even if it was just a plain t-shirt, socks or a uniform. It happened everyday.
I have so many feelings about this and could go on for days. Sorry, guys.
Actually, the worst part about this is that some underpaid sales associate is literally in the back room of a mall somewhere just cutting those shirts up. That’s what “pulled from the stores” means. The worst memories of that place include me standing in a back room literally cutting up pieces of clothing because there was a “customer complaint” and the item was pulled off the shelves. Though normally the complaints weren’t as valid as this.
Ughhhh let’s just all learn to sew and make kids clothes instead.
omg baby riese
Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it, come on vogue, vogue
Growing up in the ’80s I had to get clothes in the ‘boys’ section every time I wanted a t-shirt with a dinosaur or robot on it. (And thank you mum, for knowing that dinosaurs and robots are awesome, and gender-neutral.)
Sad to know, all these years later, things seem to be getting worse.
Seriously tempted to buy that Wrinkle In Time t-shirt right now!!! Also I really wish I had my childhood wardrobe in adult sizes… so many mismatching patterns and bright colors.
Thank you for the timing of this article. I have to go through a series of mental exercises to prepare myself for a shopping trip for my four year old. Not only am I disgusted with the amount of pink and glitter but I nearly lose my mind to find that anyone thinks it is appropriate to have the word cutie printed on a four year old’s backside. I have been fortunate enough to find gender neutral clothing for my daughter but have not always handled the criticism from others very well. It’s a source of pride for me that my little girl asked for a bow and arrow and an easy bake oven for her last birthday. Or that she plays with her baby doll while wearing a foam dinosaur hat. She loves her matchbox cars and races them while sporting an awesome Bob Marley tshirt. But the strange looks and comments abound. It will pay off in the end that I have fostered her open mindedness to create an amazing human being. And she is amazing as she pretends two disney princesses are getting married and an older family friend says oh no honey girls marry boys and without batting an eye she says they can marry who they want leave them alone.
Ive always liked clothes for my kids.
You should also check out Jill and Jack Kids (www.jillandjackkids.com) – they’re brand new and they make tees in awesome colors. One of them says “Half of all T.rexes were girls”, and it comes in adult sizes, too!