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Gender-neutral clothing: Get them while they're young

It's never too soon for non-gendered clothing, says Monica Lowry.

Monica Lowry

Thu, 19 Mar 2015 10:45:06 GMT | Updated 1 years today

The popularity of raising children without sharp gender divides is gaining steam.


This isn't to say that young children should all be treated the same. Often, little girls and little boys will develop preferences in what they want to do, how they want to dress that are well in tune with common stereotypes. But the idea is to let that happen naturally (or let something else entirely happen) by raising children without imposing those stereotypes from the start. 

The Telegraph took an in-depth look at the issues in an article back in December and actually came up with some fairly shocking observations.


Not only are young boys and girls frequently taught to prefer different colours, types of clothing, and styles of play, but it appears that in many cases, parents even treat boys and girls differently in very fundamental ways.


Read more: Put your best foot forward with these gender neutral shoes


For example, the article suggests that many parents allow boys to play farther away, off on their own, whereas girls are kept closer and monitored more diligently. This is an early sign of boys being encouraged to be more adventurous, whereas girls, as the article puts it, are taught "to be patient and quiet."

Beyond these basic behavioural issues, clothing tends to be identified as a significant area in which parents (or rather, clothing designers and distributors) apply gender stereotypes.


Naturally, there are some types of clothing specifically suited to boys or girls due to differences in body type. But designs, themes, and colours are all used to segregate boys and girls in unnecessary ways.


Girls are often put in pinks and purples with polka dots and floral patterns, whereas boys are in blues, greens and reds with superhero images and sporty phrases on their shirts. These are very general examples, but they'll certainly be familiar to anyone who's spent time around young children.

Fortunately, clothing also represents the area in which some of the biggest steps are being made to combat gender stereotypes in young children.


The aforementioned Telegraph article recognises Kate Pietrasik as one of those spearheading the effort to bring about more gender-neutral clothing for children. Her company, Tootsa, began as a small independent boutique selling adorable unisex clothing for babies and toddlers, and it now stocks items in Selfridges and a number of other smaller stores throughout the UK.


Pietrasik is quoted as making an interesting observation that one motivation for the gender divide in kids' clothing is financial gain on the part of designers and retail stores; essentially, having to buy multiple sets of clothing (and toys) for boys and girls means spending more money. Now, she's doing her part to end the trend.

As for Selfridges, they're going well beyond stocking one popular boutique's collection of gender-neutral clothing. Rather, they're taking the gender-neutral approach to a higher level, applying the concept not only to children's items, but to their clothing selections in general.


DIVA has details on the project, which has established an "Agender" section of the store in order to do away with segregated men's and women's areas. Quoted in the article, Selfridges creative director Linda Hewson says that the idea isn't necessarily to stock clothing designed to be unisex, but rather to provide a selection that could be accessible to people identifying with either gender. 

That said, however, there are also clothing lines looking to design unisex items for male and female consumers, even at the adult level. While boutiques like Tootsa MacGinty seek to do away with gender segregation through clothing for children, these other brands are helping to do away with the pressure and limitations inflicted even on adults looking for clothing.


One of the most interesting examples that has surfaced of late is Play Out, an underwear and boxer briefs company designed for any and all consumers. As stated in a Buzzfeed article about the company, the idea is for the boxer briefs to be "for men, women, and anybody who identifies as in between."

Ultimately, these are very encouraging signs for those who want to see gender stereotypes reduced across the board. The trend in identifying and eliminating troubling aspects of kids' clothing is a very important one, as it seeks to combat the problem at one of its strongest roots.


But even at the adult level, the idea of gender-neutral clothing can be very empowering to those who feel limited, or even slighted by the typically available options.

Monica Lowry is a freelance writer and mother of one. Her work focuses primarily on education, children's development, and general lifestyle issues. 


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  • Del LaGrace Volcano - Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:23:29 GMT -

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    I LIKE and support the idea of creating gender neutral clothes for kids but £24 for a t-shirt that I child will be able to wear for a few months? I don't think so. I can make my own gender neutral clothes from second-hand buys and being creative! All colours, stripes and styles belong to ALL kids!