The Importance of Buying Normal Clothes for Our Daughters and What You Can Do About It

The Importance of Buying Normal Clothes for Our Daughters and What You Can Do About It

Tom Burns is tired of the limited clothing choices presented to young girls and supports some recent efforts to provide our daughters with options beyond all things pink and bedazzled

As a father, I’ve fielded a number of difficult questions from my young daughter. Questions about morality, mortality, human anatomy, and a million other complex and tricky topics. But do you know what was one of the most frustrating questions my daughter ever asked me?

“Dad, can you buy me a green hoodie?”

Sounds simple, right? But guess what—they don’t make plain green hoodies for girls. Trust me. Go to Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, wherever. Go to any store and, most probably, you will not be able to find a green hoodie made for a girl. Do you know what you will find? Pink. You’ll find pink hoodies and purple hoodies. You’ll find really cute brown hoodies that, unfortunately, are covered with fake fur and rhinestones. You’ll find black hoodies with glittery, silver hearts across the back, and you’ll find fire-engine red hoodies with a heart zipper and a huge-eyed puppy dog embroidered on the pockets. You will not easily find a plain green or gray or blue hoodie that’s made for girls. (Unless you’re willing to special-order something online or find something custom on Etsy and pay that premium.)

Now my daughter likes rhinestones and glitter occasionally (who doesn’t?), but sometimes she just wants to have “regular clothes” (as she calls them), and “regular clothes” for girls can be ridiculously hard to find. As a man, I definitely have a few pieces of fancy-man clothing in my closet, but I also have a firm foundation of simple, neutral pieces. Simple pairs of black pants, plain navy t-shirts, unadorned grey sweaters—normal staples in any person’s wardrobe. However, for girls between the ages of 1 and 13, those staple clothing items apparently don’t exist. (Or, if they do, they don’t exist in the inventory of most major retailers.)

For example, let’s talk about girls’ shorts. Looking ahead to the summer, I did a search on JCPenny.com for girls’ shorts for girls between the ages of 12 months and 6 years. You can click here to see the 17 results that came up for that search. There is not ONE normal, plain pair of shorts on the entire list. Every single pair is either covered in embroidery, polka-dots, or Hello Kitty OR styled after Daisy Duke-style super-short-shorts. And here’s the thing—I am FINE that those exist. If kids want to be fancy, be fancy. But what I hate is that other options aren’t being offered. Why must everything that young girls wear be constantly bedazzled? Why are girls only offered such a limited, stereotypically “girly” color palette? Why are pre-adolescent girls only offered skinny-fit or feminine-cut tops and bottoms even though their bodies won’t be that different from their brothers for many years to come? Why can’t my daughter dress like a kid rather than a beauty pageant drop-out named Starla? It’s frustrating as a parent and I think it pigeon-holes my daughter, which makes me mad.

So, what can you do about it? You could shop for your daughters in the boys’ department, which I sometimes do, because they do make plain green hoodies for boys, along with several other normal clothing staples, but that’s a stop-gap solution. Why does my daughter have to shop in the boys’ aisle? Why can’t retailers start treating my daughter like a human being rather than a Barbie doll? Complaining to retailers like Target and Kohl’s is another good step. Hopefully, if they get enough complaints, it might inspire them to start asking their clothing manufacturers for less perpetually glittery options.

Another way to start advocating for “normal” clothes for our daughters is to support Kickstarter campaigns that are trying to offer more options for young girls. Personally, I really like the Girls Will Be clothing line. Their style rules are simple—“colors beyond pink, no girly embellishments, imagery that breaks gender stereotypes, and styles that let girls be kids.”

You can see their great line of shirts and hoodies here, and Girls Will Be are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a new line of simple, stylish shorts for young girls. (Take that, JC Penny!)  Their shorts—which (blissfully) use colors like white, navy, and grey—look really cool and embody the Girls Will Be style rules. For their shorts, those rules include “an ‘in-the-middle’ fit that is not too tight, but not too baggy; a length that hits just above the knee; colors beyond pink (yay!); no ‘girly’ touches, and pockets big enough to actually use” (that last item is a surprisingly universal problem with young girls’ pants).The Importance of Buying Normal Clothes for Our Daughters and What You Can Do About It

I’m sometimes wary of retailer-sponsored Kickstarter campaigns, but the Girls Will Be shorts campaign isn’t asking for hand-outs. I mean, I’m sure they’ll gladly take hand-outs (and I’m a fan of their organization), but, for various levels of donation, if you like the shorts, you can basically pre-order a pair for your daughter, granddaughter, niece, or whomever you want. And they’re super cool-looking shorts. They basically just need to know that’s there’s enough interest out there to fund the production and they’re a little more than halfway to their goal with 16 days left in the campaign. I hope they reach their target.

Once again, let me make this clear—I’m not saying that everything pink and frilly is evil. My daughter has a lot of sparkly, princessy clothing items that she adores and I begrudgingly like a few of them myself. BUT it is RIDICULOUS how limited the options are that retailers and clothing lines present to young girls, particularly compared to what’s offered to young boys. Parents should support any effort to expand the range of options presented to our daughters and give our daughters the choices they deserve when it comes to determining their personal style. Not everything our daughters wear need to have embroidered hearts and flowers on them. There is just so much more in the world that should be available to them.

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For more on similar topics, please read:
Buying Boys’ Underwear For My Daughter
Kids Challenging Gender Barriers, One Pair of Batman Undies at a Time
Girls’ Superhero Underwear Is Selling Out Online: Are Retailers Listening?

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Images courtesy of GirlsWillBeHQ.com

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About Tom Burns

Tom Burns is a husband, a dad, and a veteran of the educational publishing industry, living just outside of Detroit Rock City. He’s also been a writer and contributing editor for a number of web sites, including 8BitDad, and founded BuildingaLibrary.com - a website devoted to helping parents find the right books for their kids. You can find him on Twitter at @buildalibrary.

Comments

  1. I agree you see this problem in some of the cheaper and/or chain clothing outlets, but it’s by no means pervasive. I suggest anyone looking for a variety in boys’ and girls’ clothing check out LL Bean or Land’s End. Lots of clothing in a mix of patterns, colours and styles for both boys and girls. And if you can afford to spend a little more (sadly, I usually can’t) Tea Collection also offers lots of fun, age-appropriate clothes as well.

    I’d love to hear any other shopping suggestions, too!

    • So you have to shop expensive to get something plain? That is ridiculous! Most people cannot afford L.L.Bean or other brands like that all of the time. That is part of his argument, that it should not be damned expensive to dress our daughters in more gender neutral clothing. You clearly missed that part of his point. Millions of people in this country live below the poverty line. They dress their children in what they can find. They want better choices, but cannot fork over 40 dollars for a pair of pants. They should not have to be in that position.

      • Girls Will Be charges $34 for a pair of shorts and $24 for a t-shirt. Those prices are very high. At least at L.L.Bean and the like you can pick up clearance items at a good price. Clothing companies manufacture what stores want to buy and stores buy what they can sell the most of. If you want better choices learn to sew them yourself. It’s not that hard.

        As for another suggestion on plain t-shirts and sweatshirts in a variety of colors at a reasonable price try Hobby Lobby or a similar craft store. That’s where I find them. And they sell transfers and decals too so your girl can pick whatever color with whatever picture she wants. Also, try cafepress.com their prices are a bit high but if you sign up for their mailing list they send sales alerts all the time…and they have great customer service. If it doesn’t fit or has a problem they send you another one at no charge.

  2. I’m a mom of 2 girls and I’m really sad that I too have been a victim of the brainwashing that the girls clothing industry does. I
    When I look at the girl in the shark shirt with cargo style shorts, my first thought was “why is she wearing boy clothes?”
    I’m sad and disgusted that THAT was my first thought! Why does it matter if a shark is on a “girl” shirt. Why can’t girl shorts be long enough to have large functional pockets. And the worst part might be that this was much of the style that I wore as I developed my own style in my youth.
    Now I chose more “feminine” clothes. Is it because I truly like them or am I conforming?
    Thank you for writing this piece! I have much to think about as I dress both my girls and myself.

  3. April S. says:

    As the mother of three boys, I would KILL to have the selection that is on the girl’s side of the store. That side is always 3X the boys’ selection! I have a choice of: Plain, Transportation or Sports/Bugs/Monsters. And let’s face it: I can’t shop on the girl’s side! At least girls can shop on both sides of the aisle.

    • I completely agree. Trying to find Sunday clothes for boys is the biggest headache. Either you have to spend scrupulous amounts of money or buy the only button up shirt available in their size. Whereas girls have a million dresses! There’s little variety in boys’ clothes as well, and less quantity. But I see this author’s point of wanting to get over gender barriers. I just think it needs to be on both sides. I’d love for my sons to be able to wear pink or purple button up shirts. Pink is one of my oldest son’s favorite colors.

    • bmommyx2 says:

      I have two boys & I totally agree. I do find that Gymoree, the Gap & Mini Boden have a more appealing selection in my opinion.

  4. I found “regular kid” clothing for girls, including green hoodies, in two seconds of looking at oldnavy.com and then llbean.com. Not a rhinestone in sight.

  5. I agree, it’s ridiculous. The level of fuzzy pink beadazzledness is pretty terrifying. Everyone needs options and wardrobe staples, and they shouldn’t break the bank. I loved boys’ clothing when I was a little girl, and never understood why only boys got Transformers and Star Wars and all of the cool things I wanted (I also never understood why I got teased when I wore those things).

    My secret source of simple, inexpensive staples is the clothing distributors who generally serve screenprinters and the like – my go-to is t-shirtwholesaler.com, but there are a bunch of these companies. I buy plain color shirts and hoodies for prices that are generally better than what I find at Target or Old Navy – and I get a crazy number of options, regardless of the season (because sometimes you need to buy a tank top in January!). $12 for Hanes or Fruit of the Loom or Gildan hoodies in at least 20 different colors? $3 for t-shirts that come in dozens more colors (seriously, Jerzees makes shirts in about 50 colors, only 4 of which are pink)? Yes, yes, yes! Since these options are clearly out there on the internet in spades… why aren’t they in the mass merchandisers?

  6. I second the person who said it’s not practical to be buying clothes for young kids at LL Bean, Lands End, or Garnet Hill. Give me a break, that green sweatshirt was $38. If you had an unlimited clothes budget for your kids, there are tons of choices (REI, Patagonia, Hanna Andersson, Boden, and Splendid come to mind). But the point is why can’t you buy plain clothes for girls at a regular-person price point?
    My suggestion is to look at some of the chain stores that have migrated from Europe… we have H&M and Uniqlo here in California. I would be surprised if those two have stores in Detroit though.
    Really, why do clothes have to be gender segregated at all?

  7. I find it odd that clothing for kids and babies seems to have gotten more and more gender stereotyped over the last 20-30 years. I really though it was going to go the other way. When I was a kid (a girl) in the 70s and 80s there were plenty of much more neutral colors and options to pick from. Now, if I want to buy a gift for a baby its almost impossible to find colors in other than pink or blue. And girls really do get the short end, pink, pink, pink.

    • bmommyx2 says:

      I agree. When I was a kid if a girl wanted jeans you had to get them in the boys department & I often wore boys clothes. There should be a happy medium between girls wearing bedazzeled pink everything or boys clothing. I think the Gap is pretty good & although they are not cheap they have great sales all the time.

  8. thank you for this article, I could not agree more and I have a daughter who loves bedazzling, but I don’t. I also have a son whose favourite colour is purple (he likes pink too) and let me tell you how difficult it is to find things for him in that colour. As one person said above, the choices for boys seem to be: dinosaurs and bugs (little boys), camo and sports (older boys). Ugh. My son and my daughter are four years apart so are different sizes, but their bodies are still very similar — why do we have to segregate at all? Can’t there just be “kid clothes” up to age 10 or 12?

    • bmommyx2 says:

      that would be awesome

    • bmommyx2 says:

      My son when he was pre-school age also went through a period where he liked purple & pink, but the only shirts available were super girly with cap sleeves & ruffles. I found out that a lot of boys that age actually go through that. There is a whole rainbow of colors & why should boys be stuck with blue, dark green, black, grey & brown & girls pink, purple, yellow & turquoise?

    • Try Handsome in Pink and Quirkie Kids for some great unisex t-shirts with pink that your son might like!

  9. American Apparel might be another suggestion… they have lots of good plain clothes for both boys and girls and aren’t outrageously expensive.

  10. It would be super helpful if you didn’t use language such as “normal”. There is nothing abnormal about the other girl clothes, you just happen to not like them.

  11. bmommyx2 says:

    Maybe if more people would question these things & use their dollars to express their opinion the system would change. If no one bought that stuff they wouldn’t sell it & if all the girls started to shop in the boys department maybe there would be more variety there.

  12. california mom says:

    Two words: Hanna Andersson. My son has a plain green unisex hoodie that will one day be my daughter’s, and still look new.

  13. Excellent! I have a 6yo tomboy who hates pink and purple. It makes me sad that she calls them boy colors and girl colors. Can’t we all share the colors?

  14. I have had no trouble finding green hoodies and other things at lands end online. Their prices are quite reasonable. One of my daughters has one.

  15. Until my children are old enough to make choices about what they wear my plan is to do the same thing as the victorians and dress them all in gender neutral white (for easy bleaching) smocks (for freedom of movement and easy diaper changing).

    It just seems practical. I grew up desperately wanting sparkly stuff (not pink, I despised pink because I thought it was infantile and prefered red) with a mom who loved overalls and had hoped I’d be like Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird… I did like to catch frogs though, I just wanted to wear a tiara while doing it (…I neither confirm nor deny a desire to be queen of the frogs)

    Based on their mom and dad I theorize my kids will grow up believing skirts are for everyone but only girls wear color (my husband is a pretty, androgynous goth boy… who’s wardrobe is entirely monochrome)

  16. I have two girls (6 and 2 yr olds) and I let them choose what they want to wear and I always have. Now I have rules of course as far as modesty but for the most part I give them a few choices that I think they might like and they choose. for them, since the time they could choose, usually younger than 1yr old, they always choose pretty pink frilly glittery, etc…..
    I Don’t see a problem with it personally. My style of clothing is drastically different than theirs. We never shop for clothes anywhere but thrift stores (That’s my way of protesting over consumption), So i don’t know what else is out there.
    I’m glad that this campaign is going though and I LOVE the shorts that are long. they are so hard to find!!! I would love to buy some but just because they don’t have any girly look to them I doubt my girl would ever want to wear them. :(

  17. @Chris The brainwashing begins very early and children police each other to comply with the culturally prescribed likes and dislikes. It’s your task to expand their horizon and to not limit their experiences to those that tightly follow the gender script.

  18. Actually, there are retailers that do this already, we bought 10 pairs of white shorts from old navy, they are knee length and now, half of them are rit dyed in various shades of navy blue jean blue ( the whit were 6.00 less per pair)
    BUT i do agree – we should not have to see it out.. why cant my 4 year old son play in a pink shirt ? why cant my 8 year old daughter who LOVES science get cool beaker and safty glasses shirt, that was sold for boys????
    ( she can , we just screen printed it ourselves) – but why — SALES, pink and CUTE sells more than the “normal” plain clothes..

  19. Why is the Girls Will Be color palette so limited? The yellow spectrum…? Earth tones galore…? Why did they completely dump pink and purple? Isn’t the whole point to ditch the limitations of color and embrace the color spectrum, while removing the glitter and lace and fake fur patterns and tight, revealing cuts? I like a lot of their designs, don’t get me wrong.

    I have two girls and a boy, and there are issues for both sexes – the societal stigma against boys using “girl colors” is also a HUGE issue, even if there is more plain stuff. There is also a LOT of sports-sports-sports, superheroes, skulls/monsters, and “look at me, I’m great and you suck” sorts of antagonistic, competitive sloganeering. “Ugh!” all around.

  20. Jon Jay Obermark says:

    I think the point here is that even though the problem is easily solved, and the range for guys is equally limited, and guys really CANNOT just buy girls’ clothes, we have to see females as being controlled or oppressed in any way we can.

    This is the old habit of seeing women as unfortunate, to motivate men to take care of them, and to keep them from really trying their best. It is half of all we say about women nowadays. It is outright asinine toward men, it slowly undermines women, and it provides a deeply, deeply conservative undertow to modern feminism.

    • Really? Because I’m pissed off about earning less (and being discouraged from entering fields where I’d earn more) and the huge risk of rape and domestic violence I live with.

      But oh, thank you SO much for telling me I’m not actually unfortunate, and that I don’t try my hardest.
      Thank you so much, you’ve really opened up my eyes to the fact that I TOTALLY have equal opportunity.

      /sarcasm

      You are terrible.

  21. And I see this another way too…I have a son who loves the movie Frozen along with Anna and Elsa. H also loves Doc McStuffins….and I too draw the line at purple, glitter and such for my son…..why does everything have to be such gender divided….

  22. Anonymous says:

    Seriously? I love how people are acting like LLBean and Gymboree and other department store brands are the ‘afordable’ clothes. You want affordable PLAIN clothes? Look at Walmart, KMart, Dollar General & Old Navy sale racks. There you go people…affordable plain clothes. If you want coverage, bermuda shorts and capris are very fashionable. The options are there, just quit ‘label shopping’. ;)

  23. Seriously? I love how people are acting like LLBean and Gymboree and other department store brands are the ‘afordable’ clothes. You want affordable PLAIN clothes? Look at Walmart, KMart, Dollar General & Old Navy sale racks. There you go people…affordable plain clothes. If you want coverage, bermuda shorts and capris are very fashionable. The options are there, just quit ‘label shopping’. ;)

  24. This father is obviously a very poor shopper. I Googled “green hoodie girls” and found dozens of green hoodie options out there for girls, and many more in more popular colors.

  25. MoonSpeck says:

    The problem is not only in the market; it’s a parental responsibility. It’s not very hard to find cheap appropriate clothing for either and all genders at any age. I believe that most parents probably don’t care. People buy baby shirts that say; “cum dumpster.” If you are truly having issues finding apparel for your children it’s very easy to find and buy plain, gender neutral items that can be personalized.

  26. It’s wonderful that there are men, like the author of the story, that think and worry about the way their little girls may be harmed by a cultural that puts a lot of pressure on little girls to dress and look in certain ways.

    But sometimes I’m concerned that we are shaming little girls who enjoy their overt girlyness. Little girl’s clothing is getting condemned but boys clothes are called “normal”. Disney movies are ripped apart for their anti-feminist themes but Superhero movies and movies like Star Wars are upheld as being simply “awesome”. I saw an article where a Dad was concerned because his daughter liked to have teaparties where he wanted her to pretend she was a police officer or cowboy instead.

    I don’t totally disagree with this Dad’s point of view. I think clothing for little girls has become mroe sexualized. But I also don’t want us to go so far the other way that we try to deny a girl who loves all thinks pink and sparkle to be something she isn’t as well. I guess I say this because I was a little girl who went through certain periods of picking out everything pink, sparkles and rhinestones and with animals silkscreened on. And I didn’t become a lady of the night because of it.

  27. These two sentences totally contradict each other:

    1. “Why are pre-adolescent girls only offered skinny-fit or feminine-cut tops and bottoms even though their bodies won’t be that different from their brothers for many years to come?”

    2. You could shop for your daughters in the boys’ department, which I sometimes do, because they do make plain green hoodies for boys, along with several other normal clothing staples, but that’s a stop-gap solution.”

    If we accept your premise that the bodies of pre-pubescent boys and girls are nearly identical, then why wouldn’t “boys” hoodies work just as well for your pre-pubescent daughter as they do for boys? Especially when talking about hoodies, which are a gender-neutral piece of clothing. I wouldn’t call that a stop-gap measure at all.

    Should there be better clothing selection for everyone? Yes. But I do feel you contradict yourself. Additionally, clothing retailers tend to create whatever clothing will sell the most. If they find that a majority of young girls like the color pink, or like glitter, then they will act accordingly when deciding what type of clothes to create. And this is not a female-only problem. How much success you do imagine young boys have looking for pink clothes with glitter in the boys clothing section? Even less. I have no doubt that a normal green hoodie for girls exists somewhere out there, even if the stores you checked didn’t have it. But a pink, glittery shirt for boys? That would be even harder to find. So it’s just a reality that there are colors and clothing-styles that girls prefer on the whole, and there are colors and clothing-styles that boys prefer on the whole, and clothing retailers are going to stock the boys section mostly with colors and styles that are generally preferred by masculine, and vice-versa for girls. I do feel there should be more variety available for both boys and girls for the sake of individual expression if nothing else (i.e. how are we supposed to have our own individual, unique styles if the clothing stores only offer a few different options?), but as far as your daughter is concerned, I see no reason why she can’t just buy a green hoodie that fits her, regardless of what section it hangs out in. Most hoodies are gender neutral, and even if it’s hanging in the boys section, you said yourself that the bodies of pre-pubescent boys and girls are pretty similar and that it shouldn’t make any difference. So at least until puberty, that should be a perfectly viable option by your own logic.

    • Apologies for the typos in my comment. I wish there was an edit button. I meant boys not “masculine,” and I made a few other typos too.

  28. My middle son loves horses…..what a headache it is trying to find any tops with horses on them without sparkles, flowers or hearts. Do boys not like horses too? His favourite colour is also purple.

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