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
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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).
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?