Blush, Hot, Pale: The Challenge of finding Gender Neutral Clothing for Baby Girls

Once I recovered from the shock of learning we were expecting, I was eager to shop for cute infant clothing. I am not a fan of pink and I generally do not like the pretty, handsome, prince, or princess themed children’s clothing. Other than those exceptions, I was open to whatever I happened to find. At the time I started looking for baby clothes I did not think my preferences would inhibit the enjoyment of baby shopping. I never considered clothing my baby in any one color or style, because to the best of my memory I was not restricted to any specific colors or styles when I was a child. I wore dresses, pants, frills, unisex tops, or whatever was purchased for me.

Before we learned the sex of our child I was relegated to non-gender-specific options. I did not think I was expecting too much and I did not consider myself to be a hard-core, gender-neutral parent. By the time I began to swell and waddle, it became quite clear I was asking far too much of the retail industry. Much to my disappointment the choices in most brick-and-mortar children’s sections were lacking. Then, we learned we were expecting a girl.

I anticipated having three months of maternity leave to snuggle my little one and stare at her pudgy little face. Now, in reality, maternity leave was really ten weeks of sleep deprivation and sore nipples and two weeks of snuggling and happiness. I did not want to stare at baby vomit on pink EVERYDAY for three months.

Now, several of our friends and family gifted us items their children could no longer use. Many of those items are pink and I have no criticism of those items, as beggars cannot be choosers. I love saving money and I appreciate all our friends and family.

Since we had already been gifted with pink stuff, I saw my pregnant shopping trips as an escape. Unfortunately, I was overwhelmed by all the pink. It was everywhere! Blush, hot, pale, rose, coral, magenta, fuchsia, salmon, mauve, and on and on.

I never really favored the color, but I was especially annoyed there was not a wider variety of color alternatives. Even when I found a multipack or clothing set with other colors there was at least one pink piece creeping. And, if the clothing had to contain words or themes, it would have been nice to see more career-oriented items or at the very least choices that did not contain the words “pretty” or “cute” marketed to (the parents of) girls. While many items in the boy sections I visited included some variation of the words handsome or heartbreaker, there seemed to be more color and theme options in addition to the copious shades of blue.

Regardless of all my strong feelings, my child must wear clothes. Unless I am in a children’s section, what color my daughter wears is usually the least of my concern. As long as she is bathed, happy, and healthy I am likely to have a smile on my face. So, why have color and style options for infants ruffled my millennial feathers? A comfortable variety of options should be available for children and their caregivers.

Trends in girl clothing styles persist from infancy through childhood. I very frequently wondered how my daughter could comfortably run and fall in some of the clothing marketed to girls. Why should my daughter be predominantly relegated to a meager variety of color options, few style options, and clothing that may inhibit her ability to be an active, healthy child?

I was thoroughly annoyed by the incredible lack of choice and loose implications by some people that I was somehow jeopardizing my daughter’s femininity by not suffocating her in pink all the time. On top all the wonderful and uncomfortable changes of pregnancy the last thing any woman wants is an unnecessary annoyance.

Ultimately, I had to make a choice for my mental health. To break the monotony in my child’s closet and calm my pregnant self, I purchased ‘boy’ bodysuits and pajamas. Those were some of the most satisfying purchases I have ever made! I felt so empowered for my child, like I was subverting gender norms, if only by a smidge.

There are many habits of my gender expression I would like to eventually share with my child, like I believe many parents would. It is most important to me for my child to know she does not have to base her femininity on one section of the clothing store. As I am one of my child’s primary caregivers, the way I choose to dress her now will likely shape how she chooses to express her gender identity. While some caregivers will prefer traditional gender options, I side with others that prefer unisex options.

All people do not choose the same way to express their gender. As such, there should be a variety of options for parents. Markets need to be responsive to the changing preferences of buyers. Offering gender neutral clothing choices is not a novel idea. It is efficient for parents that plan to have multiple children and allows caregivers to encourage children to be who they are without othering them. My daughter may love having the option of variety in her wardrobe or, much to my chagrin, she may prefer pink and frills all the time. Regardless, the choice should be available.

by: Lauren Speight, contributing writer

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