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Discussion Starter #1
Ever since I was a child, I've always found it odd how gendered baby clothing is. I understand that for older babies, children, and certainly youths and adults, it makes sense for clothing to take on differences based on gender. But for infants and young toddlers, it has always made little to no sense to me. Perhaps it's because I was raised in a home where our gender had nothing to do with the way we wore our hair, the clothes we chose to wear, or the toys we chose to play with. Or maybe it's because I've had a deep interest in the Victorian and Edwardian eras (when baby clothing was always gender neutral) since my youth. But I'm confounded, not only by how gendered baby clothing is, but how necessary parents feel it is to dress their babies by today's standards for gender segregation. When I babysit baby girls, almost their entire wardrobe is pink. No green, no blue, no orange - maybe some yellow or lavender. I babysit baby boys, and their clothes look identical to a man's wardrobe: collared onesies (the sharp, triangular type - not soft, round peter pan collars), t-shirts, trousers, lots of navy, black, grey...not a romper or day gown in sight, no pastels, definitely no pink. Newborn girl portraits are taken with baby dressed in frills, lace, and bows, and baby boys are already in their first neck tie or newsboy cap. Before they even have hair, baby girls are wearing alice bands and bows, and you can almost guarantee that if a baby boy is at a formal wedding, he'll be wearing a suit and tie. If a parent chooses to dress their baby "gender neutral," their options are few. Colours are limited to grey, white, and yellow (even that is becoming rare in gender neutral clothing sections), dresses (including day gowns) are rarely, if ever, offered, and the selection is minimal.

Take it a step further though, and the few parents who choose to dress their baby outside of gender standards are ridiculed and harassed with the same venom that many reserve for mothers who publicly breastfeed (without a cover - horror of horrors). These parents often just lie about their baby's gender, rather than stand there and listen to the inevitable rant from a stranger about how they're a horrible parent for putting their boy in a pink dress or dressing their girl in a blue playsuit with a train motif. Some people even consider it child abuse to dress a baby in clothes marketed to the opposite gender.

To me, how one dresses their baby is highly reflective of personal taste (some parents insist on pastels, some prefer bold prints, some love smocking), and as long as the baby is comfortable, warm (not hot), and has easy diaper access, what's the harm in dressing them however you want? Even if that means putting one's baby girl in a green dinosaur playsuit? Or putting one's baby boy in a lavender dress?

What are your observations? Do you feel that baby clothing is too gendered? Do you like how segregated it has become, or would you prefer it if the gender neutral section got a whole lot bigger? With your baby, did you play by the gender rules (only shopping in the department that was marketed to your baby's gender) or did you take a little from each department? What were your priorities in dressing your young baby, and do you think her/his gender had any influence on how you dressed your baby? Why do you think people get so offended when a baby appears to be the opposite gender than they are? I'd love to hear others' points of view on this topic.
 

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I think that one has to do away with some ideas of gender neutral to be able to have a bigger selection. Really, only pink and blue are strongly gendered colors and blue can still be a little bit of a cross over too. I have used all colors for my daughter and plan to do so with my son. I avoid strongly gendered clothes the first 2 years so few dresses and there will probably only be the occasional shirt for my son too. My daughter for example had a little sailor suit which I matched with a more flowery hat and a cute cardigan and my son will use the same one but perhaps with different accessory. I also didn't correct people who thought she was a boy at times, not because of shame but because I wanted her to get to be treated like a boy sometimes with people assuming she was tough and not just sweet and cute. If people asked for her gender or her name I told them, she has a traditional girl's name and not a gender neutral name. If someone first thought she was a boy and then found out a girl and apologized I always said that I don't think gender is that important and that I have chosen to not just use pink "because which adult woman wears only pink?" and most understood that point of view. I was sometimes asked if I wanted a son and I said no, I think children should be able to wear all colors and patterns and that they can choose to wear pink, glitter and lace when they are older. I sometimes also said that as she is a baby I have no idea what type of clothing she likes so I am choosing to put on all kinds of styles until she can guide me a bit more.

I expect it might be harder with a boy to keep this up, girls do have more freedom of dress regardless of age while boys in dresses and pink will stick out more. I still want my boy to be able to be himself whether that is in pink or blue. I will put him in flowery onesies and cute little things because while he hasn't been born yet I know he will be supercute. Babies are cute, not though or manly even if they are boys. As a tiny baby it is essential for me that he gets to be treated like the little fragile thing he is and nothing else.
 

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We had alternative nicknames for our DDs for when they were out and got called by the wrong sex- "what's his name?" We wouldn't correct them but would answer "Roswell" for DD1 and "Frankie" for DD2. I'm not fighting any battles about gender perception with little old men at the grocery store. DD1 at 4yo wears, at her instistance, mostly pink purple and blue. Never black or dark green. Society has gotten her. But she's also at an age of strong gender identity now.
 

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I have a boy. When I look for baby clothes I try to find things that are more classic and simple. Basic patterns. Color variety. It is annoying how hard it is to just find good colors. Pink and blue are fine, but I also want orange, purple, red! I prefer things that aren't themed or very babyish. Oh, and I HATE that there are so many boy clothes with sports themes.

When it comes down to it though, I don't care that much what the clothes look like. I have used plenty of clothes given to me that I wouldn't have chosen myself. Even stupid football onesies. The only important factor that I always consider when dressing my baby is comfort. I take my baby to church in soft jammies, not a tiny suit. And my baby girl wouldn't wear giant flower headbands. My two year old still rarely wears jeans, because soft little bellies should wear soft pants! I even go to the girls section to find him soft leggings. And he has run around in a gown plenty of times. I got some old ones from an aunt, and they have been passed down for a few generations. He also wore a bonnet that my great grandmother made for him (it was blue, but frilly).

If this next one is a girl I will probably mix in some feminine stuff, but I already have boy stuff, and it makes no sense not to use that too! I think really the only good reason to dress a baby in obvious boy or girl stuff if so people don't always ask about it. Put a girl in pink and they know you have a girl. But even that isn't a big deal.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
It's so refreshing to hear some of these ideas. I know so many parents who would never, ever put their baby boy in a day gown or a flower pattern. They don't say it outright, but you can see them cringing at even the mention. It's almost like they think doing so would turn him transgendered or homosexual (even though they know that's impossible). When my little brother was a young infant, he almost exclusively wore day gowns or sack gowns because it was so much easier to dress him and change him. He also didn't get his first hair cut until he was 3 (and then it was just a bob), so he wore a lot of barrettes to keep his hair back. Interestingly though, people almost never mistook him for a girl. He had such a male energy about him, I guess it was pretty easy to see he was a boy. My other brother though, was always mistaken for a girl, even with short hair and "boy" clothes. People regularly thought he was a girl until his voice dropped. And even though I was a very feminine child, my brother was even more feminine in his tastes, play, looks, and overall energy. And he turned out to be heterosexual, in spite of the fact that he loved to wear fairy princess costumes as a baby and play with dolls as a child (he was just as into American Girl as I was).
 

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Discussion Starter #6
"I will put him in flowery onesies and cute little things because while he hasn't been born yet I know he will be supercute. Babies are cute, not though or manly even if they are boys. As a tiny baby it is essential for me that he gets to be treated like the little fragile thing he is and nothing ele."

Too true. My mother made the decision to keep her baby boys' hair long (until they asked to have it cut short) because she felt people were much more gentle with them when they had long hair. Even when people knew they were a boy, they were still gentler and sweeter to a long haired boy than a short haired one. Babies should never be told that they can't cry or that they need to be tough. I also find it interesting that when I go to the playground, a lot of parents with baby girls are so much more nervous and cautious. They're always telling their girls to, "Be careful!" They're so scared she might get hurt that they don't let her test her strength.
 

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funny

I would put my toddler son is some pretty boyish clothes sometimes (heck sometimes I dress like that), plain grey sweats, army green shirts with truck running shoes and we would STILL get the "What's your daughter's name?" or "What does she..." Even when my son got a lot older and was wearing very boyish stuff, and acting very boyishly, we'd still constantly have gender confusion simply because he's a super cute, round faced, curly haired, freckly boy. He does have gorgeous hair LOL! Because I was getting hand me downs/shopping thrift stores/cutting costs we didn't always have tons of choices with clothes, when my son was a baby I wasn't terrifically concerned with masculine clothes, just comfort and function. Babies are cute and practically genderless anyways. We did end up with a sateen rimmed t-shirt at one point, it didn't strike me as a big deal. As he got older I would try to find colourful boy clothes (the fit is different), clothes that were fun and easy, and because his dad likes button up shirts it was also fun to dress my son up like him sometimes. Sometimes I'd find stuff that had a girl brand name on it and if it fit properly and looked unisex, I didn't have a problem picking it up. If I had a girl I wouldn't care if she wanted dresses and skirts they can be comfortable too. It's normal for girls to go through a girly phase to fit in. My son has decided to buck the normal trends for kids his age and likes dressy shirts, some of them are floral. I do also buy him the usual stuff I'd think kids would want like sweats and t-shirts but it's ultimately his choice. He's always been comfortable having longish hair, if he wanted it cut right off I wouldn't care. I find it weird when parents try to force their kids to be something to suit their own agendas.
 

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DD (4 yo) asks sometimes "is that a boy or a girl?" Usually adults but sometimes of kids too. If I know I'll answer but The answer I've decided on in addition, or on its own, is "they can be whatever they decide" Because gender is a societal construct and, lets be honest, I don't know my, or her, or the stranger's actual genotype (XY, XX, XXY, etc). And because if my DD has decided someone is a girl, but I know they are/ consider themselves a boy, my DD Will just argue about it if I give a concrete answer that doesn't fit her vision.
 

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The reason parents avoid gendered clothing is to increase the child's opportunities. If a girl has worn more than pink and glitter and a boy more than blue and tough clothes he/she will know that there are more options available than what society tries to hammer into their brains. My daughter didn't know what boy or girl was until she was about 2,5 and didn't start to understand what society expected of her when it comes to clothes until she was about 4 and she still chooses Spiderman and Cars over My Little Pony and Barbie but not over Dr Mc Stuffins which she adores right now. She constantly asks me if boys can wear pink if they like (oh, absolutely, all colors are for all humans), if only girls can wear glitter (no, everyone can wear glitter), why daddy doesn't have long hair (he doesn't like long hair but plenty of daddies have long hair, just look at x dad), why daddy doesn't wear a dress (He has just not found one that he likes yet. Note: not because he is a man), if all people with female genitalia are girls (most are but not everyone, you know on the inside if you are a girl or not but your bits don't decide which gender you are).

I allow her to be girly if she likes but I don't present it as her only option and I don't strengthen society's message by giving the same answer. When she started asking for dresses she got to wear dresses but only ones that are practical enough to play with which is my number one criteria for all children's clothes. It is a huge difference between forbidding and not encouraging. I didn't encourage typical girl's clothes but they have never been forbidden and it will be the same way for my son. The idea is that the parent offer one or several alternatives to what is seen in society.

I don't think this book can be found in English but there is one in Swedish which title says "Give your child 100 options instead of 2" which is about how to let your child have more choices than "boy" or "girl". It can be wearing jeans and a Spiderman shirt if you are a boy or a girl or wearing pink dress and leggings as a boy or a girl or wear a Spidermanshirt with a pink tutu also regardless if you are a boy or a girl. It can be to inspire games that are gendered for the opposite sex but also to go beyond that. It is OK to pretend to be a ballerina who is also a knight and who trains little dogs to do tricks and all the endlessly imaginative things children will play if they do not feel restrained by gender expectations. I am not saying that a boy who has always worn boy clothes and only owned boy toys will never be imaginative but this type of approach is meant to maximize the child's potential by not upholding society's voice and be supportive of alternatives.
 

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I don't like gendered clothes in babies. I like to put to my baby clothes that fits better to him although I have never put him a pink dress :wink:
When he will be older (now he is only 2 months) I'll ask him what he likes and I'll respect his decission.
 
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