Before most babies are even born, they've already been labeled a boy or a girl, with plenty of pink or blue clothing to match. But more parents are looking outside of pink and blue, girl and boy, in search of gender-neutral options for their kids.
When the topic of kids’ clothes and gender comes up, parents tend to be quick to share their opinions. Whether they’re angry at the lack of gender-neutral options, frustrated that t-shirts in the girls' section are thinner than those in boys or searching for a purple shirt for a 6-year-old boy, parents (and kids) need more diverse options.
As a parent, I want kids to have more freedom and creativity, and not feel boxed in. That could mean wearing clothes in neutral colors, but it also means giving all kids all the colors. Here are my favorite ways to create a kids' wardrobe that allows kids of all genders to get creative and have fun with their clothes.
Start at the thrift store. If you're new to the idea of gender freedom, thrift stores are a great place to start. Why? They’re less expensive. Many parents tell me they hesitate to buy their kiddos clothing outside of assigned gender roles because of the cost. “I’m not paying that much for something he’s not even going to wear!” is a common refrain.
At the thrift store, the cost of experimentation can be easier. I’ve even been to thrift stores where baby and toddler clothes were organized by color, rather than by gender, making it easier to shop the whole rainbow.
Take all hand-me-downs, not just the “right” ones. Hand-me- downs are one of my favorite things, because they’re like thrift store clothes, except they’re free and they have a story. They are also a great way to insert variety into a wardrobe.
Some people may assume that if they give your son their daughter’s stuff, you’ll be offended. But you can do it! I just let my family and friends know that we’re happy to take clothing from all genders. In my experience, this works, and we get a little bit of everything.
DIY it. Not everyone can sew or wants to, and that’s fine. However, if you feel up for a project, you can make less gendered options for your little ones.
For example, my son loves trucks. He also loves glitter and the color pink. I can’t just walk into a major retailer and buy a pink glittery truck shirt, and I’m not a master seamstress, but I can spray paint! I found a truck template, made it into a stencil, and grabbed a pink t-shirt and some spray glitter. After spending 10 minutes in the basement with the spray paint, my kid has a sparkly pink truck shirt that he absolutely adores. The sky is the limit here.
Shop gender neutral/inclusive. Fortunately there are a few companies that want to help you out. Here are a few:
- Primary is a company that just does basics, that’s it. They use bright bold colored fabrics, and their products are without frills and about as neutral as you can get. They also don’t have a “boy” or “girl” section on their website, just “kids” and “baby.”
- Mitz also doesn’t gender segregate their stuff. And they have that purple shirt covered in construction trucks you’ve been looking for!
- Free To Be Kids is focused on sharing positive messages. Shirts with sayings like “girls rule, boys rule, the end” and “love is my superpower” are pretty much for everyone.
- Svaha is a clothing company specializing in dresses, t-shirts, and onesies with cool themes like science and math. As a bonus, they make adult sizes too!
- Target also has a variety of colorful options including a gender-neutral range.
Cross the aisle. It might be hard at first, but you really can shop both sections where you already shop. If your kid is old enough to help, give them the choice of checking out all the clothes, not just half. Kids get frustrated by what’s in “their” section so give them both sections. If you’re still doing all the shopping, take the plunge yourself.
It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where small children weren’t pushed into impossible and unfair gender roles. But we don’t live in that world, at least not yet. In the meantime, parents can step up, get creative and give their children more clothing options.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2017, and updated in January 2020.