Gender neutral clothes & the official palette of newborns

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1980My parents tried to raise me in relatively gender neutral clothing, and I fought it every step of the way. Mom would dress me in brown second-hand cords and yellow tshirts, only to be foiled by my paternal grandmother sending me Little House easter dresses from Sears, which I vastly preferred.

I remain amused by the photos like this one where I’m a grubby little hippie child in the woods, wearing my lacey finery and a tidy little headband. Although I would eventually go through my “lavender polyester sweat suit” phase in 5th grade, I looooved frilly stuff as a little girl. The only way my mother was able to convince me to wear pants more often was by telling me at age five that jeans made me look tall. I clearly remember thinking “Ooh, I want to look tall — I better wear more jeans.”

I recounted this story recently for our friends Kate & Steve, who are trying to fend off the ubiquitous frilly princess girl clothes for their daughter Ruby. I was like, “You can try, and my parents sure did … and look what happened to me! I’m a billion times more froofy than my mom, love sparkly make up and wearing my pink heels with bows on the front.” The thought crossed my mind that maybe I didn’t care that much about gender neutral clothes.

And then. We started getting hand-me-down baby stuff from various friends and family who know we’re having a boy. Little brown baby baseball hats. Lots of blue and brown stripes. A shirt and short set covered in fire engines. A onesie covered in monster trucks that said “Li’l Crusher” all over it. I quickly got overwhelmed. Many of the clothes are either pastel-y newborn things or somber BOY colors … navy, brown, grey, dark red. I like bright colors! Does this mean boys don’t get to wear bright colors?

That day, I traded emails with a friend about adorable baby clothes, and when I showed her a purple hooded romper thing I was lusting over, she said “Oh, you really wanted a girl, didn’t you?”

I thought to myself, BUT IT’S DEEP PURPLE! That’s a girl color now?

So, feeling like the hand-me-downs were too BOY!! for me, I decided to poke around online to see what else was available. I started with onesies.

…and quickly learned that the official palette of newborns is Easter Egg Pastels. Everything is light pink and pale blue, custard yellow, and soft green. The weird thing here is that newborn vision is so poor that really the only colors that are actually interesting to them are black, white, and red. Why aren’t baby clothes all zebra-print with big red hearts all over them? Why soft blue for boys and soft pink for girls? I want rockabilly flames and Victorian wallpaper patterns.

Luckily, I found a place that sells wholesale baby onesies in very bright colors. I will probably be stocking up on what *I* think of as gender neutral colors. Not pale green and yellow, but RED! ORANGE! KELLY GREEN! DEEP PURPLE! BLACK! WHITE! BRIGHT BLUE!

Comments on Gender neutral clothes & the official palette of newborns

  1. We relied on orange and purple a lot when our boys were little. They wear a lot of Threadless shirts now, at ages 9 and 10, and tend to choose orange and green when picking out solid colors. I remember, though, looking at the list my husband wrote after a baby shower we were given — there were SIX outfits described as "light blue with bears." Damn it, Spouse! Couldn't you have been more specific? We have to put it on him at least once to send a picture to Aunt Cutesie-Poo — why didn't you write "bears with kites," or "bears with blocks," or "bears with bulldozers?" <mumble mumble frickin' bears>

  2. I also pretty much adore dying things more fitting little person colors. Dye online is cheap, and white onesies are cheap too! If it's going to be green it should be GREEN! That's what I say.

  3. Color has been stereotyped like so many things. I was recently at a music festival with my "baby" a Boston Terrier, Poppy Petal, and this little old country man kept calling her a him. It really didn't bother me much but my partner kept correcting the gentleman stating that Poppy was a girl. He replied with "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm just used to calling dogs him and cats her".

  4. This is what gets me about the whole "gender neutral" thing… I think it has the right idea in trying to create a level playing field of items/clothing for boys and girls to choose from without the items/clothing being gender-stereotyped. I've been surprised to see articles in magazines as mainstream as Parenting about this… which again, is nice that gendering is getting that sort of attention and exposure. BUT there are so many way more important things that go into gendering that aren't brought up in those sorts of articles. I have been slowly piecing together a gendering article and I can understand why its often avoided–
    1) people get really upset about gender, whichever side they are on (neutral vs. traditional vs. other)
    2) The gendering debate is surrounded by political movements and few scientific studies, the latter fueling both sides of the political/social movements.

    Really the whole thing can get pretty sticky. But we just try to do the best we can offering toys and clothing that is in line with our values (like nothing with guns, barbies, etc for boy or girl) instead of worrying exessively over the supposed gender of an item.

  5. My son has been mistaken for a girl over and over again while wearing full-on blue from head to toe, a shirt that reads "Mama's Boy", etc… so the idea that people are going to stop mistaking their gender because of the color of their onesie holds no ground as far as I've seen. They're going to be mistaken either way.

  6. I was a child of a strong, intelligent, tomboyish single mom until I was 5 and then even after she married my wonderful stepdad we still didn't have beaucoup bucks. So as a kid most of my clothes were hand me downs boy clothes or ocasionally some hand me down girl clothes from a neighbor girl, or homemade 🙂 I was so tall and skinny I had to wear boy jeans to find any that fit, just like my momma. For shoes I had the oh so lovely buster browns, because they were durable as all hell, and my not so stylish mom thought they were genuinely cute, HA!

    I was a huge tomboy who secretly loved pink. But I felt that if I openly wore pink or showed that I liked the color I would be one of the dime a dozen girls in my elementary school class, and somehow weak, or at least perceived as weak. I didn't really embrace my love of pink until I was in high school and was like fuck it. I don't care what people think, I LOVE PINK!

    I love my mom and I think since she was a tomboy she was glad I was too. But sometimes I wish I had someone in my life when I was little to tell me being girly wasn't weak or wrong. Not that my mom told me that it's just the message I came up with somehow.

    I understand being gender neutral, to allow your kids to become who they want to be. Like right now my 3 yr olds son's favorite color is pink (just like momma) and that's cool with me. And my 15 month old daughter's favorite toys all have wheels which suits car enthusiast Daddy just fine. My hubby's favorite color is purple btw so it is very gender neutral in our book 🙂

  7. A bit against the grain, but I have no probs with my soon to arrive daughter wearing heaps of pink and her nursery to be pink – I love pink!

    But almost all the newborn/nursery stuff in the shops in my area is PASTEL pink which I hate. I like hot pink, with flames and wikid punk designs! I found clothes like that for older girls but where are all those for baby girls??

  8. I totally agree with you. I have spent hours and hours trawling the net for interesting and imaginative baby and toddler clothes for boys and it’s a difficult task. I have even daydreamed about starting my own clothing label for kids that doesn’t stick to the usual boring palette. Bring on the patterns and colours for both boys and girls!

  9. I really recommend you to check this brand. It is swedish and i just love it!! Polarn o you will love it too. Also smafolk has amazing colourful clothes for babies and children. I have a few from both and I cant wait for my baby to come!
    Good luck!

  10. Grumble Grumble. I want to start a clothing line that has AFFORDABLE gender neutral clothes — because not all of us can afford super cute European threads. 🙂

  11. I agree that it doesnt matter what you put them in, they’ll still be mistaken for the opposite gender. I was at the bank with my little guy the other day and an older lady stopped and said how cute “she” is. He was wearing broewn cargo shorts, a black KISS onesie with and an orange and black plaid shirt over it, and a denim bucket hat… I dont think theres specific “girl colours” and “boy colours”, but I thought it was a pretty masculine outfit for a little boy who wears girls skinny jeans and ugg boots…

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