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Gendered clothing

(38 Posts)
HupTwoThreeFour Sat 27-Dec-14 23:17:06

I read the recent let clothes be clothes blog calling for more unisex clothing for children. It has made me wonder what the ultimate feminist ideal is in terms of clothing.

Personally I have always felt that the lack of colour choice for girls is negative, as is the fact that girls clothes are often less practical, but those are my concerns rather than the fact that there are separate boys and girls ranges - I am happy to choose girls clothes for my DD as long as I can ignore the pink/impractical options. So she is usually identifiable as a girl (she hardly has any hair so that couldn't be used to distinguish, not that girls necessarily have to have long hair anyway). I identify as a feminist and now I'm wondering if I should feel differently about this.

Is the idea that ideally men and women would wear unisex clothing too? (Presumably each item of clothing would come in one version designed for women's body shape and another for men's body shape.) Or is it different for adults given men and women do have different body shapes, unlike young children?

Interested in your thoughts!

FrancisdeSales Sat 27-Dec-14 23:24:45

Really? This is truly boring. The "ultimate feminist ideal" is to let people be free and not create a new uniform for them

Middleagedmotheroftwo Sat 27-Dec-14 23:28:48

I don't get why it's a bad thing for boys and men to dress like boys and men and for women and girls to dress like women and girls.
I don't want to look like a man, and I don't want people to think my girls are boys thank you very much.

Reekypear Sat 27-Dec-14 23:32:44

I don't want to dress like a man. I like being feminine. I'm still a feminist .

Hazchem Sat 27-Dec-14 23:33:54

I don't think the ideal is that we are all the same. Rather that our differences do not define or hold us back. So wearing a pair of high heals or pair of steel capped worked boots says nothing about us apart from shoe choice. However I don't think that level of freedom is possible under a patriarchal system with strict gender socialisation. So to get to a point where pink isn't reserved for girls requires an overhaul of our current system and with that would come many more important changes than just clothing.

YonicSleighdriver Sat 27-Dec-14 23:38:18

It's not really an ultimate feminist ideal but wouldn't it be great if all children's clothes were practical for play, hard wearing, warm or cool as dictated by season and with colours and patterns for all!

PuffinsAreFictitious Sat 27-Dec-14 23:45:58

Disclaimer- I haven't looked at the website you mentioned, I will do though.

Is it coming from the PoV that girl's clothes should basically mean whatever clothes a girl is wearing at that moment in time? I know that when I was a child, there was a much larger colour palette available to parents when buying girl's clothes, and that the use of hand me down clothes was more prevalent which probably meant that apart from really obviously gendered clothes, like suits and dresses, children just wore children's clothes IYSWIM? This isn't to say that boys can't wear dresses or girls can't wear suits should the mood take them either.

Looking at children's clothing now, it does seem that pink/pastel colours are all that are available to girls, which must make buying choices difficult for parents of girls if their DDs are not the type to stay clean and tidy, getting dirt out of light coloured clothing can be a bugger. Boys clothes OTOH tend to be either darker (so don't show dirt) or have brighter colours (which hide ground in grubbiness more easily).

I'm not sure that a more unisex colour palette and clothing styling would be a bad idea, not particularly from a feminist PoV, but from a purely practical PoV. This isn't to say that dressing in a feminine way is always necessarily bad, just that for a lot of people it can be impractical. Unisex clothing probably wouldn't always work for adults due to the differences in body shape.

unclerory Sat 27-Dec-14 23:48:11

I think there are good practical reasons for children's clothes being gender neutral, I have 2DDs then a son, we have boxes of heavily gendered clothes sitting in the attic that I can't get away with putting him in (and he was wearing pink cords and tights today so I'm using as many of his sisters clothes as I can). If more childrens clothes were gender neutral (as they were when I was a child) they could be reused more.

The over sexualisation of young girl's clothes is another, I was looking for a denim skirt for DD1(5) last year, NEXT had a denim skirt that had a hole over the crotch. Because obviously everyone wants to see my 5 year old's knickers. Agree with the OP about the pinkification of girl's clothes, and the impracticalities of female clothing generally.

Itscurtainsforyou Sat 27-Dec-14 23:49:28

Segregated boy/girl clothing really irritates me - they're children, doing (hopefully) the same activities, why do we need to dress them according to gender?

My friends who have girls have really objected to the sea of pink they face when shopping for girls (lilac if you're lucky) and the saccharine slogans like "little princess" etc. And the clothes that make them look like mini-women - "fur" coats and sparkly vest tops, plus completely impractical suede boots.

Boys clothes I've found are often restricted to blue/grey/brown, also with stupid slogans ("I'm a little monster") or pictures of cars/trains/other stereotypical boys interest pictures.

There are some shops out there that are slightly better, but you have to search hard for them IME.

debbriana Sat 27-Dec-14 23:56:26

I have a little girl who I love to dress her in beautiful dresses everyday. I dress her the way I wanted to be dressed when I was little. Everybody comments about how beautiful and smart she looks.

I buy cloths for her in different colours. They are not all pink. Some have pink flowers.

I would love to consider myself a feminist. I bet someone like you would not see it that way.
I love high heels, bras which I cannot live without because not only do they look good but they also help hold up my gg cup size breast for comfort. U didn't enlarge it. It's natural. I always have men staring at them.

I believe in equality and equal pay . I believe in freedom to do what we want and feel like as long as is within the boundaries of the law.
If being baked is what you like then so be it.

Some feminist act like religious fundamentalist who are extremist. Terrorising any body who wants to pick and choose what fits them and their lifestyle.

I don't really care for gender neutral cloths. Cloths should be made in all colours.

FrancisdeSales Sat 27-Dec-14 23:58:00

Among my kids I have two girls and I have never had any problems finding them clothes to play in that were practical. Their winter jackets are usually snowboarding jackets as they are waterproof, light and trendy. We often bought clothes in black, red and royal blue that all the kids could wear but one of my DDs has always loved sequins and sparkles (like her Nan) and has not been deprived of them.

My DH likes to dress up the most in our house and has very flamboyant clothes. He often makes his own and for the kids.

debbriana Sun 28-Dec-14 00:02:34

Mums complaining I think you have to be an excellent shopper to sieve through the gender centred colours. Just be determined.

MrSheen Sun 28-Dec-14 00:16:07

'Unisex' clothing tends to be boys clothing.

I have boys and girls. I find the colour palette slightly more limiting for girls, and a higher amount of impractical stuff for girls (shoes are particularly bad, with practical school she's being very much 'boys shoes'). There are a lot of shit boys clothes about too and smart outfits are a bit harder for boys (it's getting better though).

I also find that often girls clothes are perfectly practical but are slagged off by the tree climbing brigade. You can 'run' and 'play' and 'climb trees' perfectly well in a skirt, even if it is pink.

By making children's clothes 'gender neutral" I suspect the result would be children's clothes = boys clothes. Boys can dress like men and girls can also dress like men, even if they don't want too. As the mother of an extremely girly girl it is frustrating to see the negativity about girls who make the choice to like pink. Yes, I get that they are marketed too, and they are conforming to convention, but nobody takes the piss out of a little boy who wants a Thomas the Tank engine jumper, or an adult man who wears a suit, so why are girls who make a choice to dress the way they are told girls dress, singled out for wearing silly girly girl clothes in impractical colours that you can't play in? It's astonishingly similar to the way adult women feel pressure to conform to femininity, and then are mocked for ruining their feet with high heels, ruining their nails with acrylics, ruining their hair with extensions, taking too long to get ready, spending too much on cosmetics etc.

I'm a butch woman. I don't wear heels, I rarely wear make-up. I have short hair. I shop in the teenage boys section or the casual end of topshop. I wear suits with ties and brogues. This is not unisex, it's masculine, and it means I am judged every bit as harshly as the acrylic nail and extensions set. Any point I make about feminism can be torn down because I am wearing the 'wrong' shoes, or I'm an 'ugly feminist' or a 'dyke'. I wear a dress and heels then I'm a frivolous airhead who has sold out to the patriarchy. Wear whatever the hell you like, you can't win, because ultimately, it's not the cut of your clothes that's causing the problem.

nooka Sun 28-Dec-14 00:29:59

Assuming that the OP was referring to [[ this] blog then it seems to me it's more about presenting clothing choices to parents without labeling them 'boy' or 'girl' but rather by form and function. So for example instead of girls/boys t-shirts they just have t-shirts, without pushing the idea that everything girls wear much be pastel and flowery/glittery and everything boys wear must be grungy. Even if the children in question are tiny, or if a bit older that some girls like trucks and some boys like butterflies and that both choices are totally fine.

When my children were babies they wore babygrows for at least the first six months and I wanted them to be mostly unisex a) because I like bright colours, spots and stripes best on babies, b) so that they could be easily reused and c) because I don't think babies need to be identifiable by gender. This seems to have become harder and harder.

FrancisdeSales Sun 28-Dec-14 00:33:12

I agree with MrSheen that if something is gendered female it is devalued. On the other hand as I don't live in the UK I didn't only get offered pink for girls clothes and blue/brown for boys. My 14 year old is wearing a bottle green coat this winter and trainers but is very feminine although also very athletic. My 8 yr old son like his sis before him asked for glasses for Christmas (he has no problems with his eyesight) because he wants to see what its like to be someone who wears glasses. I bought him some black framed ones from Claires (she has a brown pair).

duchesse Sun 28-Dec-14 00:39:33

I believe that the perceived gender of a person is unbelievably irrelevant. So you can imagine that I am not a massive fan of sequinned boob tubes for little girls, or little boys dressed head to toe in camo. (<-- understatement of the year). Why the fuck does it matter what gender other people feel a child is? Other than as a handy pointer to assist in shaping their social identity, ie force them into gender-defined roles? Which again, I am VERY MUCH against. Only cretins believe that gender defines what you do in life (beyond the very obvious). So again, why does it matter what gender a child is perceived to be?

On the other hand, if more people wanted gender-neutral clothing for their children, it would be more available, and would mean that people who do want it don't have to make it themselves.

nooka Sun 28-Dec-14 00:49:02

We went shopping for skiing helmets a couple of days ago. dd (14) picked a black helmet to go with her black ski pants. ds (15) picked up one he liked and I asked the assistant to check they fit properly. The chap looked at ds a bit oddly and asked if he had meant to pick up that colour. ds said yes, he really liked purple and thought it looked cool. I asked the assistant if there was any difference between the male/female ranges apart from colour and he said no. I wondered why there was even a need to differentiate.

Likewise when I last got them trainers ds liked the brightly coloured ones from the women's range and dd liked the black ones from the men's range. They were specialist sports shoes, surely designed for that sport first and foremost, so why the gender crap?

PuffinsAreFictitious Sun 28-Dec-14 01:28:47

I don't really care for gender neutral clothes. Clothes should be made in all colours.

Please, first off, believe I am not picking on you Debbriana, I am simply using the statement you made as an illustration.

Making clothes in all colours would be making them more gender neutral. The problem (as some of us perceive it) right now is that there is basically a single colour, or at least a very restricted colour palette from which 'girls' clothes are made right now. Whereas, if clothes were made in all colours as you suggest, then they would be more gender neutral, because both sexes of child would be able to wear them without value judgments being made.

HupTwoThreeFour Sun 28-Dec-14 01:50:58

Thanks for all your thoughts.

A couple of people said they don't want to dress like a man - and I don't either - I like my dresses and my heels :-) But then when I try to come up with a logical reason why men and women should wear different clothes I can't come up with much. So I feel like the logical position for a feminist is to want clothes not to be gendered. Then I feel bad that I'm not even aiming for that for my DD let alone myself.

On the reusing clothes point - I did think I'd reuse lots of my DS's clothes for my DD given I knew I wanted to avoid too much pink, but when it came to it they all just looked so masculine I couldn't bring myself to. I had some basic jogging bottoms in grey and red that I thought would be fine for a girl but having put her in leggings a couple of times the jogging bottoms just seemed so bulky.

Hazchem Sun 28-Dec-14 08:18:38

I don't want clothes to be gendered but I don't want them all to be the same. I want to be able to wear a low cut top, red lipstick and long nails and it mean no more and no less about my "gender" then wearing work boots, tradies pants and a chesty bonds singlet. And I think what we do with childrens clothes helps to enforce what happens with adults clothes
So girls tops with little princess and boys tops with little monster enforce ways of thinking about boys and girls which is limiting. I want that to stop.

SewingCircus Sun 28-Dec-14 08:47:41

Children's clothing is the issue for LCBC - not adult clothing. Adults can determine for themselves what to wear, can be clued up to how clothes are sold etc. This is in no way a campaign for everyone to dress like men and boys! No banning of dresses, no loathing of skirts.

The issue is choice.

Why should children face negativity and bullying for simply wanting to wear their favourite colour or theme? Why berate children for crossing this fictitious girl or boy divide?

Take fit for example, girls predominantly offered slimmer fit, including shoes, regardless of their sizing being so similar to boys? These are also plenty of examples of girls clothing and shoes being highly sexualised from age dot onwards. That needs tackling.

The point of unisex is you free yourself from all the boring and lazy stereotypes - and just provide clothes for children. Fun, practical. Take John lewis and their unisex Donna Wilson range that got split down the middle, and ended up being ridiculous because they had no clear social norm basis for the split!

HupTwoThreeFour Sun 28-Dec-14 08:59:20

I don't think adults can determine for themselves what they wear though, at least not without being judged. eg look at MrSheens comments earlier, or if a man wanted to wear a dress her would be seen as cross dressing and it would be chalked up as a sexual preference in some way, rather than being able to choose a dress because it's more comfortable. (Which I think they are, at least in warm weather.)

SewingCircus Sun 28-Dec-14 08:59:58

The campaign is only focused on children, ams letting children have every option to wear clothes they want - in every color, theme and motif without stigma. Let them decide their own interests. Children after all have very different needs to adults. The campaign is not for banning dresses or skirts smile

Adult clothing is not at all issue for this campaign. I personally believe you can wear what you want and still be a feminist! Feminism for me is equality and often a fight for that equality. I want the same for my children.

unclerory Sun 28-Dec-14 09:26:43

I didn't know about the Donna Lewis range, that's a useful link.

Huptwothreefour yes, the clothes are so gendered that it's quite hard to break out of it. My SIL had a DD after two boys and she tends to mix some very masculine clothes with very feminine clothes which means my niece looks fab, e.g. a lumberjack shirt with a raa raa skirt. She definitely reuses more stuff than I do, even though when dressing DD1 I bought as gender neutral as possible, the old thing of it being OK for a girl to aim up to masculinity but not OK for a boy to aim down at femininity. DS still gets called a girl though, his clothes are still pretty neutral at 2 but he has very fine hair cut in a pageboy style (not enough of it yet to cut in short layers), very similar to my brother in the 70s so is obviously a girl!

SewingCircus Sun 28-Dec-14 09:27:57

That's very fair comment, I agree there are huge issues there - definitely, but the campaign focus is wholly children. If progress is made to encourage positive attitudes to appearance, in particular that girls not feel it is something they will be judged on, then brilliant.

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