In a world where we tell our kids they can grow up to be anything they would like to be, it’s hard to believe that society still puts so many limits on their clothing choices. There’s no doubt that it is easier to get dinosaur clothing for girls even though it’s mostly still pink, but try finding a Doc McStuffins or My Little Pony shirt that’s not obviously marketed to girls. A Paw Patrol shirt for girls? Absolutely. But only if it’s pink with Skye plastered all over it. Ninja Turtles shirt for girls? Yep. But again, only in pink. Then walk over to the boy’s section and try to find a pink shirt. I dare you.
My kids are super close in age (21 months to be exact) which means that, for the most part, they watch the same television shows and have the same interests. My daughter loves Star Wars and dump trucks and reaches for Legos just as often as my son does and my son loves playing with the doll house, performing surgeries on stuffed animals and baking. Which is all cool with me. They are kids after all. I don’t blink an eye when he picks up a baby doll and pretends to feed it and don’t worry about her and her future maternal instincts when she tosses that same baby doll and reaches instead for the ninja warrior mask. All is good.
But what does worry me is the lack of imagination when it comes to kids clothes. The way designers and retailers still allow for a set of archaic beliefs to dictate the way they market clothing to children and the inadvertent signals that clothing sends to children when parents purchase and dress them in those items. We tell boys that certain colors are off limits and we tell girls that they can be whatever they want to be as long as they are wearing glitter and bows and looking cute while doing it.
While there are a whole lots of retailers that are doing this all wrong, fortunately for us there are a number of companies that are doing it just right. Here are a few of our favorites:
Mitz Kids designs all of their clothing so that it can be worn by everyone, boy or girl. Their prints feature designs loved by all kids like choo choo trains, astronauts, and rainbows. They don’t break down their clothing into “Boys Clothes” or “Girls Clothes.” Instead its organized by type of clothing: dresses, shirts, leggings, etc - which makes way more sense to me - and all of the prints are offered in the different variations. So, have a kid that really loves dump trucks? That’s available in a dress, a shirt, and leggings - which would your kid rather wear? A few of our other favorite designs are the tool set, dino rawr (complete with a set of 3D spikes down the back) and space explorer.
Quirkie Kids is all about celebrating childhood, letting kids be kids and fostering a movement that encourages us to question the typical stereotypes of both boys and girls. They believe what we as parents already know: that girls can be rough and tumble and boys can be sweet and sensitive and those things don’t make them any less of a girl or any less of a boy. All of Quirkie Kids’ shirts can be worn by boys or girls and, again, the website is organized by style of clothing rather than gender. We love the “Still a Boy” and “Still a Girl” shirts along with their “Pink” and “Blue” shirts.
The t-shirt designs over at Super Designer celebrate the everyday heroes and encourage kids to be themselves, whoever they may be. There are tons of shirts from this company that I love for various reasons but the kids have loved playing in the Scientist for a Day shirt (her) and the Scrubs Costume (him). Again, the website is organized by clothing style rather than gender and the characters depicted on their shirts are ethnically diverse which is a huge plus!
The Trendy Tot
Sometimes its not just about the graphics on the clothes but about the style and shape of the clothes themselves. My daughter loves a dress. In fact, most days that’s probably what she would prefer to wear, but when she’s ready to play she wants something that will allow her to climb, leap, and run. Enter The Trendy Tot with their super cute and unique handmade leggings. What she loves most is that they are comfortable and non-restricting. What I love most is that they have the most adorable, non-traditional styles: foxes, polar bears, swans and so much more.
Frida & Marie
Jadda, the maker behind Frida & Marie totally understands little girls…or at least my little girl. She gets that little girls can love bows and dinosaurs, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. And while she definitely offers bows in pinks and purples there are also loads of other colors like this neon green dinosaur headband. But what makes the company stand out even more is the adorable packaging they offer. Each purchase comes with a “girls rule” sticker and the cards that hold those bows and headbands double as a coloring page featuring spaceships! So, so cool.
From the Pear Tree
Retailers have drastically changed their marketing efforts when it comes to toys for girls, recognizing that girls also like things that were traditionally seen as “boy toys.” They have been much, much slower to make this change for boys. From the Pear Tree recognizes that all kids, regardless of gender, love to carry around and dress their favorite dolls or stuffed animals. They recognize that baby carriers are not an exclusively “girl toy,” so they offer their carriers in a wide favorite of fabric options so that every child can find the perfect carrier for them and their favorite companion.
Dress-up play has always been one of my favorite types of play because kids, both boys and girls, are encouraged to be anyone. It’s a great way for kids to explore different roles, act out different scenarios and really make sense of things they are still figuring out. In some ways, dress-up play is the only place that it has been acceptable for kids to escape gender roles and stereotypes for any length of time and that is something to be applauded. There are so many favorite companies that make great dress-up options, but we love the quality and affordability of A is for Alice. Ruth, the mama behind the shop, trained as a costume designer and worked in the theatre for many years. Now she is inspired by her own children and their imaginations to make play limitless for all kids.
Do you have a favorite shop, retailer or designer that specializes in gender stereotype free clothing, accessories or toys for children? If so, we would love to hear about them!
Photography by Paiges of Gray