Going gender neutral

Founder of unisex children's clothing brand Tootsa Macginty, Kate Pietrasik, tells you the impact that strongly gendered clothing can have on your little ones, and how to avoid it

Tootsa Macginty

The time of princess pink being reserved for little girls and boys being restricted to camo and spacemen outfits is at an end. But how can you avoid the stereotypes? Kate Pietrasik shares her advice.

What impact can gendered clothing have on young children?

Dressing children in strongly gendered clothing, for example with slogans such as 'Here comes trouble' for boys or 'Love me' for girls, will affect how others perceive and interact with them. If they have a label or slogan pinned on their chest, it will prompt an immediate reaction. I find it particularly strange when they're seen on tiny babies who haven't even managed their first words yet.

Once a child learns to read, these slogans will impact their view of the opposite gender.

Another example is dressing girls in tiny skirts and heeled or impractical shoes, or large, flouncy, synthetic 'princess' dresses; they will not have freedom of movement. A child (whether a girl or a boy) ought to be able to run, jump, crawl, climb and have an active lifestyle.

Tootsa Macginty

So how can you avoid gender stereotypes?

I would first and foremost think about freedom of movement. I believe a child ought to be 'a child' and not dressed in paired down, miniature adult style fashions which will restrict movement and be impractical for children.

• Children love colour, give them a wide choice of colours – they have the whole rainbow to choose from!
• Avoid slogans. These will label your child according to popular perceived traits in a boy or a girl. Allow them to be individuals and not labeled.
• Choose clothes with natural fabrics, which are best for a child's sensitive skin and will keep them warm in winter and cool in the summer.
• For the changeable weather between seasons, choose items that mix, match and layer up so that a child can easily remove items of clothing or layer them up.

Tootsa Macginty

What's it like elsewhere?

Unfortunately, I think many countries are now following suit and I see more and more gendered clothing abroad as well as in the UK.

I believe the pink and blue divide is a marketing construct to make more money from consumers, doubling the money if parents have a child of each gender!

I find the UK is a very consumerist society with a very fast turnaround of throwaway fashions. Sales and discounting happen year-round, and importance is placed on price and availability, rather than quality.

Kate Pietrasik is the founder of unisex children's clothing brand Tootsa Macginty.

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