Why are baby girl clothes all so frou-frou?
May 18, 2005 10:33 AM   Subscribe

What's the deal? It's not like a newborn cares about bows and ruffles, and it's not like she'll grow up any more or less feminine as a result of what she wears. Boys' clothes are much simpler and seem to have cooler designs, and some of the unisex stuff is pretty good, but all the girl stuff seems pastelly and flowery. Where are the primary colors for girls, the animals and trucks and fire engines. And does anyone make black baby clothes?
posted by SobaFett to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, basically I couldn't agree more, but if the newborn baby clothes "for boys" are more to your liking, why not just put the little girlie in boys' clothes? Can't be that much difference in the cut of a onesie, right?

I wholeheartedly agree that she won't become more or less "feminine" based on what she is dressed in at age 9 months, but the rest of the world seems to believe otherwise. Hence the pastels.
posted by scratch at 10:38 AM on May 18, 2005

i'd suggest dying clothes, but i was trying to buy dye in the usa last week and could only find one make, whose instructions seemed like a real chore. i'm pretty sure dyes do exist - even for black - that can be safely used in a washing machine with little hassle. but i don't know where you find them.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:43 AM on May 18, 2005

This is all about sexism.

Most grown ups place huge importance on announcing the sex of a baby and making this clear as soon as the baby is born (if not before).

For example, hospitals use pink and blue post-it notes and other labels to identify the sex of newborn infants. This is to prevent staff and visitors from accidently referring to boy babies as girls, and vice versa. And of course, everyone wants to know whether to treat "it" as a boy or a girl.

Try this experiment: next time you tell someone that a mutual acquaintance had a baby, don't tell them whether it was a boy or a girl. In my experience they will (a) immediately ask whether it was a boy or a girl and (b) resist talking further about the baby until you've told them its sex. It's like they're uncomfortable cognizing the baby until they know.

Clothes are just one piece of this.
posted by alms at 10:48 AM on May 18, 2005

If you want to escape the sartorial stereotypes, you often have to pay a little more. The Zutano line has some cute unisex prints, as does Babystyle. Try to find these brands on ebay though, as the prices are silly. One of my favorite sites is Blue Canoe, which has reasonably priced baby basics in a choice of dyes, many of them non-pastel. Finally, if you want black baby clothes, you could always try a site like this, although you might look like you're trying too hard.
posted by bibliowench at 10:48 AM on May 18, 2005

In my experience they will (a) immediately ask whether it was a boy or a girl and (b) resist talking further about the baby until you've told them its sex. It's like they're uncomfortable cognizing the baby until they know.

It's also like (just like) they speak a language that makes it awkward to talk about people without specifying a gender.
posted by redfoxtail at 10:51 AM on May 18, 2005

This is not limited to female baby clothes. It's the same for girls' & women's clothing too. It's hard to find girls clothes in sturdy fabrics, with pockets etc. It sucks.

Personally, I shop for my (currently 2 year old) daughter in the "boys" section a lot. She's got lots of great clothes for playing in. I ignore anyone that tries to give me a hard time about it (and unfortunately there are still a few who do). Anyone that is still so stuck in stereotyping, I dont really have time for.

However, I don't know if I'd have the same comfort level with putting a son in the little girls clothes. I know I'm not alone in this, but I think it's a shameful double standard and I'm not proud of it, but I'm not totally 'over it' either. It is still more socially acceptable to put a little girl in dark coloured army print clothes or other 'boyish' themes, than it is to put a little boy in a little pink dress. What does that say about sexism?
posted by raedyn at 10:56 AM on May 18, 2005

Be preapred for some ridiculously priced baby clothes. pokkadots makes a classic black bodysuit...Fooey has some too, but they are poker themed. Sugarfreckle has their Mommy-Tattoo bodyshirt. Rebecca Raggs makes outfits for brothers and sisters...so they are pretty neutral.

It does seem that all the reasonably priced clothes are unreasonably foo-foo.
posted by jeanmari at 11:04 AM on May 18, 2005

And does anyone make black baby clothes?

Ask and ye shall recieve...
posted by jonmc at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2005

Hey I am no Star Wars mega fan, but I found this fabulous baby bodysuit for my girl who'll be born sometime next week!
Now she'll be just as cool as her dad. :0)
posted by lorbus at 11:06 AM on May 18, 2005

And does anyone make black baby clothes?

Ask and ye shall recieve...

jonmc, those t-shirts are so great. They make me want to run out and rent an infant just so I can parade it around in the "Daddy Drinks Because I Cry" model.
posted by LeeJay at 11:12 AM on May 18, 2005

I have to admit...even though they don't come in black, I'm partial to Glarkware's baby t-shirts. Because I appreciate a baby with a sense of humor.
posted by jeanmari at 11:12 AM on May 18, 2005

See also.
posted by Specklet at 11:16 AM on May 18, 2005

It's interesting to note that up until roughly the 1930s (?) it was common to dress baby boys (up to the age of...what...3 or so?) in clothes that we would identify today as unquestionably girly: frilly dresses and the like. I have no idea what caused that to change, but it did.

As to the modern double-standard: it's not just for kids. It's perfectly acceptable for an adult woman to wear a T-shirt and jeans. Not so much for a man to wear a dress. Women today just have a broader range of acceptable clothing. If there's any sexism in that, it's reverse sexism.
posted by adamrice at 11:23 AM on May 18, 2005

As far as dyeing your own baby clothes: I recommend checking out Dharma Trading. They've got a big selection of plain white cotton baby things, as well as a really frightening number of fabric dyes. For a few bucks and some elbow grease, you can get baby clothes in pretty much any style and color you like. They've even got tie-dye kits...which can make for some pretty cute results.
posted by Vervain at 11:23 AM on May 18, 2005

Wouldn't there be chemical-ingestion/fire-retardant-safety issues with dying baby clothes?

As for the actual question -- I don't know where you live, but around here (San Francisco) I've noticed a LOT of local clothing design boutiques that carry baby clothes. Most of them seem less bows-and-ruffles than the stuff I've seen in bigger chain stores.
posted by occhiblu at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2005

It's funny, but with a 14-month old daughter, I find the opposite to be true - it seems like all the boys stuff I see is earth-toned and truck themed; my wife and comment often about how much easier it is to dress a girl, and we don't do frilly.

That being said, I'll second Zutano - we've also gotten good stuff at Hanna Anderson and Mini Boden, neither of which are particularly cheap. For decent staples (like jeans with cool appliques) the sale rack at Baby Gap can often yield some treasures, and for cheap and stylish we've found some great stuff at H&M.

Adding to the punk/offbeat baby links above, check out Wry Baby, Lucky Lil' Devil, and Baby Wit.
posted by jalexei at 11:34 AM on May 18, 2005

adamrice, also, blue used to be a girly color and pink masculine.
posted by kenko at 11:48 AM on May 18, 2005

American Apparel, fine maker of t-shirts and basics, also has baby stuff. In black, if necessary.
posted by rfordh at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2005

adamrice: That reminds me of a painting I saw in Ireland of some aristocratic family (1700's probably). The sons were dressed in female type clothing as well.
posted by smcniven at 12:48 PM on May 18, 2005

Sexist ideas do go on well past baby clothes! Lack of pockets in women's clothing is one of my pet peeves. I am somewhere between amused and enraged at "faux pockets" on women's suits - the flap is sewed on, but there is no pocket.
posted by Cranberry at 1:58 PM on May 18, 2005

I agree, Cranberry. It's so frustrating to not have pockets. I LOVE pockets, and I hate purses.
posted by agregoli at 2:01 PM on May 18, 2005

occhiblu--I did a bit of searching about dye toxicity and came up with this, which basically says that as long as you use a fiber-reactive dye and follow all steps in the dyeing process (that is, making sure to fix the dye and wash the clothes well afterwards) it should be just fine. And while I'm not entirely sure about this, I seem to remember hearing that fire-retardant is only an issue with sleepwear. Dharma's been around for a while, so I guess I figured if there were problems with dyeing baby stuff, they'd have stopped carrying it...
posted by Vervain at 2:14 PM on May 18, 2005

LandsEnd has cute things(without being froo-froo) in bright colors for decent prices. They have baby clothes through to girl's size 16. Everything I've gotten from there has been well made from very soft, but durable fabric.
posted by lobakgo at 2:30 PM on May 18, 2005

I dressed my baby daughter in dark solids-- I hate frilly and I hate prints. So she wore black turtlenecks from Baby Gap and red corduroy skirts from Gymboree and Oshkosh jean bib overalls. I cruised the boy's clothing all the time; boy's clothes are often cheaper and sturdier.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:01 PM on May 18, 2005

Vervain - Good to know. I had images of babies dyed purple and blue, foaming at the mouth. ;-)
posted by occhiblu at 7:43 PM on May 18, 2005

Old Navy has a lot of gender neutral baby clothes and a huge clearence section.
posted by sadie01221975 at 8:55 PM on May 18, 2005

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