Ellen DeGeneres’ GapKids Line Is Smart, Subversive, Will Delight Both Children and Tiny Butch Lesbians

Ellen DeGeneres has partnered with Gap this summer to launch the GapKids x ED Collection, a clothing line for girls “whether they skateboard or dance, wear dresses or jeans, build forts or paint rainbows, or everything in between.” The campaign is smart, cute, and full of subtly subversive messaging against prescriptive gender roles. Basically, the best girl’s clothing line I’ve ever seen.

Check it out:

And some still photos, in color:

https://instagram.com/p/6_dgtdGh0x/

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Models from the Miami debut of GapKids x ED. The show featured 13 “power girls” as models, including four identifying as disabled.

I. Love. This. I love the tomboy details, like the washed out color palette, pushed up muscle sleeves and raglan style tops. I love the spunky, empowering messages on the tees, like the one quoting Midsummer Night’s Dream: “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” I love the general aesthetic and iconography used, like the lightning bolt (a symbol of empowerment, according to the press release), and the speech bubble (a symbol of self-expression). And I even love the accompanying social media campaign, where wearers are encouraged to fill in the bubbles and post under the #heyworld hashtag.

Own who you are. It's Beautiful. @GAPkids @EDbyEllen AND #HeyWorld

A photo posted by laverne cox (@lavernecox) on

Important message from Laverne

On YouTube, Gap is promoting the line with a series of video interviews with the campaign models. My favorite is the trio of skateboarders known as the Pink Helmet Posse: Relz (age 8), Ryan (age 7), and Bella (age 8).

Others include Alexey, age 12, an award-winning drummer; Torrae, age 9, a robotic hand builder; and Asia, age 12, an entrepreneur. (Side note: does everyone remember when Asia was featured on This American Life last year? This chick is totally crushing it, and she hasn’t even finished middle school yet!)

Autostraddle Intern/general heartthrob Nikki says, “I think what makes this line cool is the whole premise is just be you. The line has dresses, shirts with pink but on the flip side also has a more tomboy style. I mean, one of the lunch bags has skateboards on it and you don’t have to go to the “boy” section to find it!”

Items range in price from $6.95 to $49.95. Smallish adults will be pleased to know that the girl’s line goes up to XXL and should be warned that every tiny queer who can fit into a 14-16 will be raiding the racks immediately. Gap also carries a few pieces (including the conversation bubble tee) in women’s sizes.

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 211 articles for us.

67 Comments

  1. I just skateboarded to and from my little bro’s school.

    For those who watched, it was far from an elegant, cool ride. (You’d think after a couple years I’d have it down by now haha) Point is, the Pink Helmet Posse are badass and skilled. And adorable. I must contact the parents and get the PHP’s to teach me, obv. I really look forward to their future careers! Girls who skate are the coolest.

    Basically, every child in that video is wholly more successful than I.

  2. I would also like to share for anyone who like these that Land’s End has some seriously awesome girl’s clothes that may fit some of you (or your little ones of course). They have a bunch of science t’s just for them, and many glow in the dark. This planetary size shirt is cool: http://ocs.archchicago.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=sqpyGCH/VGM%3D As is this shirt with dinosaurs: http://www.landsend.com/products/girls-long-sleeve-crewneck-graphic-t-shirt/id_256443?sku_0=::ODL

  3. While I’m glad they offer a wider variety of gender expression for children, given the Gap’s history of using child labor to manufacture its products, does this fall into the category of pinkwashing?

      • No… the fact they’re using Le Tigre as music for the commercial and Ellen as “the adult” means zilch. It’s totally coincidental. Those corporate Gap people are just altruistic and trying to better society. And the Gap previously using “street cred” advertising campaigns (especially when they were getting a lot of heat for using child worker sweatshops) was just a way of honoring our multi-racial society and not some way of deflecting criticism. Never ceases to amaze me how people who would (rightly) call out Israel for its pinkwashing/progressivewashing ad campaigns lap this up like kitties to milk because… well, it fits their aesthetic and budget.

        And I still don’t understand what the hell Laverne Cox has to do with any of this (was she paid by the Gap or is this an approval of corporate behavior from the gender goddess?) If you’re going to include her in an attempt to give The Gap progressive cred, then it IS worth asking why is it that the same parents who would proudly buy these clothes in an instant for their AFAB children cringe if femme clothes were likewise targeted to their AMAB children?

    • Yeah, I love the campaign itself, but there’s a gross irony to it being by a company that keeps getting caught using sweatshop labor and talking about fixing it, then being caught again. They truly don’t give a shit.

      And for anyone interested, John Oliver did a great segment on this topic. http://www.thewrap.com/john-oliver-rips-gap-walmart-hm-clothing-over-sweatshop-labor-unsafe-working-conditions-video/

      • Ugh, had a moment of dumb and re-posted basically the same link. Now that I’m more awake, my point still stands, and I wish this were an issue people didn’t keep conveniently ignoring because of (admittedly great in this case) ad campaigns and good deals.

    • I think that if this had been by a company that manufactures their clothing in first world, guaranteed non sweat shop conditions (aka more $), in the first ten comments there would have been at least one wishing that this cool stuff was accessible to the non-rich.

      Not sure how to win.

  4. Everything about this line is amazing, but why use phrasing suggesting these clothes will exclusively delight the tiny butch and/or lesbian crowd?

    As we move toward an existence where we can finally start voluntarily letting go of restrictive gender roles and their associated fashion styles, you (Autostraddle) should be encouraging this!

  5. *sigh* So many people will say this is “edgy” and does so much to help girl’s confidence, even if they are a tomboy and tired of the overly sexualized, feminine clothes that currently exists. And while tomboys have been around for generations and everyone “laughs it off” (meaning, they tolerate it) – God forbid a little boy show a single ounce of femininity. Where is their clothing line? Where is their support? Oh wait, women also buy into the misogynist view that femininity is “weakness” and “less than”, especially for someone born with a penis. Those janegirls are exponentially more likely to be beaten, bullied, thrown out by their parents, sexually assaulted, and murdered. “Oh, but it’s coming – it’s coming!” I guarantee that if there was a transman who wanted to use the boys bathroom at his high school, there wouldn’t be students protesting. Gender equality is about ALL genders – not just one or the other.

    • While I agree with many of your points about this double standard, in fact, there have been a number of discrimination cases involving trans boys using the boy’s restroom in school settings—for example: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/27/transgender-boy-high-school-bathroom-discrimination-case

      There is little question right-wingers tend to focus the bulk their hate towards the trans feminine spectrum, but that’s derailing the point of this thread.

    • I agree that it’s probably harder to grow up as a girly boy than a boyish girl, and that was actually one of my first thoughts – when will there be a movement like this for boys? But I hate this trend of pooh-poohing a good thing just because it doesn’t solve everything, or because it doesn’t address the worst problems out there. Gap is a huge corporation that like almost all large corporations is ethically dubious. Yes, celebrating tomboys is not a new thing, and boys have it really hard, gender-enforcement-wise. I think it’s great that people want to point those things out.

      But do you have to spit on other people’s struggles and (small) victories to point that out? A lesbian is a fashion icon and has a tomboyish kids line at a mainstream clothing store. That would have been unthinkable fifteen years ago when I was in high school. It’s a good thing. There could be a better thing, but can’t we be happy about something that’s good even if it doesn’t solve all the world’s problems? Lots of people are commenting that this would have made a difference to them at kids. Don’t tell them that doesn’t matter.

      • “Lots of people are commenting that this would have made a difference to them at kids. Don’t tell them that doesn’t matter.”

        I hope I’m not saying that, because it does matter. (although I remember buying clothes for my daughter in 2005-2006 and it’s not like any of this stuff wasn’t available then at Children’s Place or Gap Kids). But I’m not going to be silent on certain important issues just because it’s a designated rah-rah thread. There are ways to support a positive social trend (allowing for a wider range of gender expression) without making it about how wonderful a corporation is which has (and might continue to) exploit child labor. Yes, they certainly aren’t the only ones which do it, but that doesn’t mean you go ahead and give them unqualified props for, let’s face it, a marketing campaign. A campaign which, for all the good message, manages to ignore the liberation AMAB children for the easier message. Whether I’m ‘spitting’ on your celebration or not… I leave that up to you to interpret.

        • ginapdx, I wasn’t responding to you, but to the tone of the original post. Maybe I shouldn’t have pulled the child labor thing into it, your post about that didn’t really bother me. Like I said, I think it’s good to point these things out, I just bristled at “sigh,” and this contentious “you think you have it bad?” message. I think most people also want boys (or assigned male at birth kids) to feel free to express femininity too – why is celebrating this seen as taking away from that? That’s all.

  6. Wow this is glorious, smashing gender roles at the childhood level is super important, and also I definitely could probably wear some of these things myself so that’s what I’m gonna go do with my life now

  7. This is awesome. little me would have wanted all of these clothes because 1. I had some kind of weird brand loyalty to the Gap and 2. Because of the of the commercial.

    I definitely appreciate that the collection includes skirts and dresses because I think a lot of times we accidentally send the message to girls that liking dresses is somehow negative…as though you can like princessy things or sporty things, but you absolutely cannot like both (then those little girls grow up, and they sometimes become the type of women who criticize other woman for being not pretty enough/too pretty because they haven’t been taught anything else). This branding is very intentionally like, hey girls, you can be badass at skateboarding and still wear a dress if you want (…and I really think my childhood would have been less confusing if I had saw that message somewhere.)

    I didn’t realize I had so many feelings about children’s clothing.

  8. Oh my god I’m going to turn into my mother.
    Buying clothes in mind with what size the kid will be at the next gift giving occasion is.

    Which thing for which niece tho, they’re both petite little badasses.
    But one of them is highly respected eldest perfect child and the other is like me. So like me it kinda hurts some times. Especially since her parents don’t think people like me are worthy people.

    “Be your own hero” seems a worthy choice of shirt to give a little one that’s already fighting for herself and will be her own hero.
    Just what to get the kid that has everything, but will be in for a rough ride when she starts to become a woman and has to step into the world of men.

  9. Going along with Paige’s comment, it’s great that girls/women can choose to wear anything they so desire and they receive social accolades and praise for their choices. Could society treat boys/men with the same regard? Clothes are merely coverings for the body to supposedly satisfy the social morality perceptions and to help shelter its wearer from normal environmental discomforts and harm. All other reasons for selecting appareling items are the personal business of each individual, not anyone else’s. The programming we are subjected to, even from birth, is that males don’t have the tastes for aesthetic side of living like females have, but when males exhibit such interest they are considered to have defective character flaws or some mental deficiencies that need correcting. In spite of all our social ingraining, we all have our own perspectives and tastes. Society may have put labels on things to qualify and differentiate who they think should wear them, but these man-made edicts can’t remove a person’s desire to satisfy their taste.

    • Do you really think that women and girls can wear whatever they want and “receive social accolades and praises”? Not only is that a humorous statement, it’s also inaccurate on a number of levels. Dress codes at schools are put in place to police girls on a very specific level, oversexualizing their child bodies and blaming them for it. Even just a tank top can be considered “promiscuous.” Too short a skirt and you’re a slut who’s at fault for harassment and assault. Too long a skirt and you’re a gross prude.
      I was raised in the dominant American religion (Protestant, Evangelical Christianity), and my clothing choices were policed at an incredibly early age, while my brother was free to run around mostly nude. I couldn’t wear “too short” shorts, or spaghetti straps, etc, because I’d be causing men and boys to sin. AS A CHILD. This isn’t some uncommon thing.
      God. The ignorance. You can make your point without spouting ridiculously wrong statements and acting like institutionalized misogyny isn’t a thing.

      • I can appreciate your view point for those who have to be at primary learning facilities and/or the work place for most of these places have strict dress codes. However, the fact is gals can wear pretty much anything guys wear when they have the option to select their attire, while the guys who choose to wear any of the item(s) gals were “socially assigned” risk being marked as social perverts trying to look and be like gals.

        • But see, clothing marketed to little girls is 90% nothing like what’s in this collection. It’s oversexualized and feeds on the “shallow and dumb” box that girls are forced into, whereas clothing marketed to boys includes science and power and things of that nature. That’s INCREDIBLY harmful. And again, oversexualizes little girls en masse, something little boys truly don’t have to deal with.
          Dismissing/erasing the intense and universal reality of misogyny is just stupid and harmful and inaccurate etc etc etc. Ay dios mio.

  10. I was delighted to see all aspects of this campaign, from the video to the print ad to the actual clothing. Also, I enjoyed scrolling through the comments here and revelling in the positivity, until I came across some of the nay-sayers. While I strongly agree with Paige’s closing statement – gender equality IS about all genders, I wish that sometimes, we could all just smile and delight in something fantastic, in this case, all these young girls who are just being themselves and are clearly being supported in their life/style choices by friends, family and society. Yes, it’s “just” a clothing line from Gap, and yes, “clothes are merely coverings for the body,” but as a primary school teacher, I have seen the power of clothing choice and the effect it can have on a child’s identity and self-esteem. And by this, I don’t mean specifically brand name clothing (like the Gap), I’m just referring to the availability and social acceptance of clothing for kids so that their exterior represents their interior. If many adults (female/male/trans) can appreciate the magic that comes with wearing clothing that is a visual, external representation of their identity/essence/personality/mood etc., then shouldn’t children have that same opportunity? I think that’s what this is all about. There are plenty of opportunities for (much needed) discussions relating to the social philosophies of gender politics and construct, but an article praising the Gap for it’s fun new clothing line for kids doesn’t need to be that platform.

  11. So some people are talking about the tomboy focus and the fact that girls are getting to wear “anything they want” while boys still have to adhere to certain standards…

    I think one important thing, though, is the fact that part of girls and women embracing “tomboy” clothing is finally getting to wear clothing that allows them to move, run and play with confidence. Traditionally, clothes and shoes made for men and boys have been more functional than clothes marketed to girls and women. I noticed this most recently trying on the slip-on Converse on the “girl’s” side of the aisle — they kept slipping off my feet and if I was a kid on the playground I would have a heck of a time running in them — whereas the regular Converse in the “boy’s” aisle fit me like a glove.

    Dresses and cute ballet flats and heels and other “girl fashion” can restrict play and movement in ways that pants and sneakers and t-shirts never have. Part of moving towards more androgynous clothing lines, especially for kids, is about putting people on an equal playing field when it comes to ease of movement and functionality of what they wear.

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