baby proof: kids’ clothes plain and simple.

July 17, 2018

Last week, while eavesdropping for the public good, I overheard two parents of young children lamenting the dearth of simple kids’ clothes available. I came directly home, opened my browser, and pecked out the title of this post. Because what felt too nosey to say to strangers in public, but what is absolutely true, is that despite many not-so-great options out there, there are lots of folks making simple, sturdy clothes for babies and kids. 

Like lots of parents, I like to make getting my kids dressed as painless as possible. I like when they look neat and clean and put together. Despite my best efforts, they still sometimes look like ragamuffins. They’re four and one and a half. What else could I possibly expect? In all things parenting—and in dressing small children in particular—I do my best to respect imperfections, my own budget, and big personalities in small people. If Faye wants to wear an enormous ribbon in her hair, or parade around the neighborhood in a tutu, or put her shorts on backward, I don’t stop her. But I provide a backdrop of simplicity. For me, a small and nimble wardrobe of basics feels best. Mostly because—and more to the point—I don’t want the clothes that I dress my kids in to reinforce someone else’s outdated notions of what a boy or a girl should look like.

Perplexingly, this is a hot button issue. In an age when gender fluidity is increasingly being embraced and accepted and acknowledged to be true, a majority of clothing retailers perpetuate gendered stereotypes when marketing to young kids and their parents. Shops are still separated and arranged by gender. Girls are sugar and spice (and cropped and fitted). Boys are snails and puppy dog tails (and oversized and baggy).

And at the risk of ruffling feathers, and with acknowledgement that exceptions abound, I’ve been surprised at how often these same gendered constraints are perpetuated by parents themselves. Folks can’t imagine that a baby boy might be wearing pink or have his hair clipped back with a barrette and they’re only moderately more comfortable with a little girl wearing board shorts without a tee. (To be clear: The boys undoubtedly get the short end of the stick when it comes to other people’s perceptions of what’s acceptable for them to wear.) Dress a baby, and you’ll quickly learn that all manner of seemingly neutral items are, in fact, deeply coded according to gender. Fruits and polka dots and stripes of a certain width are all for girls, I’ve been told. Anything on wheels or in outer space, well, those are for boys. Horse? Girl. Dinosaur? Boy. Hedgehog? A rare case of anything goes. It’s as ridiculous as it is exasperating.

In my family, I’ve chosen to mostly keep things plain and simple but also to flout convention whenever I—or my kids—would like. I don’t, for instance, forbid dresses or florals or other things that get read as feminine, but I don’t stop myself from dressing my little boy in them either. There’s a much longer piece—book?—on the subject that needs writing, but for now I’ll stick to the basics: Simple clothing options for kids feel scarce. People’s opinions—and assumptions—about kids’ clothes are many.

If you find yourself yearning for simple clothes for babies and kids, here’s a pretty hefty list of simple alternatives. (What kids will do with them is anyone’s guess.) All of these shops peddle wares that are simple, mostly unadorned, and most importantly, comfy. You won’t find characters or logos, though you might notice a preponderance of stripes. I’ve tried my best to limit the list to folks who are making thoughtful choices in terms of the environment and workers and wear, but I’ve also been mindful to include choices in a range of price points. I hope there’s something in here that’s helpful.

Arq: I adore the underwear (great colors! no wedgies!) from Arq, but they also have a sweet collection of classic tees cut from vintage deadstock and vintage blue jeans. Comfy, hardwearing, and undeniably kid-like.

Babaa: I love the cotton sweaters from Babaa for kiddos (and for myself). They’re so soft and lovely and cut in such a way that they can last for far longer than you might expect. Buy a bit big and they’ll fit for at least two years, if not more.

Billie Blooms: Billie Blooms have sponsored this site since Faye was in their bloomers. We’ve since passed the bloomers along to Silas, but if anyone else is partial to sticking a summertime baby in bloomers and calling them dressed, their collection is worth a look. They’ve also recently started making simple tees.

Burt’s Bees: For affordable organic cotton basics, I’ve often turned to Burt’s Bees. Like other shops on this list, their clothes are still separated by gender, but poke around and you can find a solid selection of classic, simple tees and tanks for building a small wardrobe of basics.

Chasing Windmills: I love these merino wool basics. My kids have been wearing their shortjohns all summer (and I swear by their longjohns for winter months).

Colored Organics: If you’re looking for basic baby goods, you might have luck here. We have a handful of their long-sleeved ivory onesies for Silas and I’ve really liked them—they’re thick and soft and they’ve held up beautifully through many (many) washes.

Go Gently Nation: I don’t have personal experience with this label, but everything looks beautiful and like it’s made with care. Organic cotton, beautiful colors, and sweet shapes in sizes ranging from baby to kid.

Goat-milk: We’ve loved Goat-milk since they had a little shop across from sister’s place in the East Village. Their kids’ underwear and cotton basics are all beautifully made and classically shaped.

Gray Label: If you’re a fan of the softest jersey and fleece cotton you can find, look no further. We have a hoodie from Gray Label that is truly excellent, no doubt everything else they make is too. This Amsterdam-based label can be found at US-based Over the Ocean and other boutique retailers.

Hanna Andersson: I love Hanna Andersson’s organic cotton pjs in grays and oatmeals, but for folks who are partial to brighter colors for basics, there of lots of those available, too. On a personal note, I’m so hopeful we’ll soon see a catalog that stretches the limits of gendered color choices from Hanna Andersson. 

L’oved Baby: This is another baby-specific option that we really liked. Because Silas was born in the middle of winter and Faye was born in the middle of spring, we lacked newborn cool-weather options when Silas came along. I loved their footed overalls in calm and quiet colors for his first few months.

Les Gamins: Everything from these folks looks so soft and comfy. Their clothes are colorful without being garish and the cuts look comfortable and roomy without also looking sloppy.

Little Winnie: These organic cotton longjohns from Australia come in sizes for the whole family, but I especially love how they look on kids. The colors are terrific and the classic cut looks comfortable and cozy.

Mabo: Full-disclosure: My kids are dressed in Organic Cotton Basics and other simple gems from RMTL sponsor, Mabo, a vast majority of the time. I love the stripes on the cotton basics and that they mix and match so effortlessly. For slightly dressier occasions their overalls never fail to make me smile. Both kids are in overalls (Faye and Silas) from Mabo’s summer collection in these shots.

Misha & Puff: Faye has worn the same size 18-24 month popcorn sweater from Misha & Puff since she was 18 months old. What started out roomy is now snug and every bit as loved as the first time she put it on. The merino is super soft and the popcorn knit sweaters in particular are simple but not somber. This summer, we’ve also really loved their new swimsuits

Nico Nico: Everything from Nico Nico is beautifully made, but I’m a huge fan of the rompers and coveralls in particular. We’ve had a summer and a winter version of their rompers for Faye and she’s loved both. Best of all, they make for a complete outfit in just one step. No mixing or matching required.

Petits Vilains: Faye has a set of organic knit essentials from these folks that are really excellent. The fit is snug but not stifling.

Primary: I’ve never owned anything from Primary, but lots of parents rely on these colorful basics for graphic-free kids clothes.

Red Creek Kids: If you love linen for kiddos, head here. I bought Faye two pairs of Red Creek Kids linen pants when she was 18-months old and she wore them until she was nearly three. I had to patch the knees once Silas was in them, but I love them even more with a tender patch job.

Rudy Jude: The best crew-neck sweatshirts for kids (and parents) out there, plus lots of other simple and comfy stuff like cotton track shorts and plain tees.

Soor Ploom: The seasonal collections from Soor Ploom are always exquisite, but I’m particularly fond of their beautiful organic cotton essentials. Both Faye and Silas sleep in their beautiful night dresses.

Winter Water Factory: For parents of little guys who are anxious for clothes with a little more visual intrigue than a solid stripe, Brooklyn-based Winter Water Factory is a sweet option. I especially appreciate that their dresses come in a huge variety of prints: chemistry sets, bicycles, and dinosaurs included.

What did I miss? Please share your favorites below.

PS. If you haven’t read Sarah Rich’s truly excellent piece on boyhood and masculinity from The Atlantic, here it is again. It’s one of the best things I’ve read on the topic of kids and clothes and about boys in particular.

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  • Reply laura serino July 17, 2018 at 10:49 am

    My son is mostly dressed in island hand-me-downs but for clothes I’ve purchased, I’ve picked pieces that would work should we have another baby, regardless of gender. I am also not opposed to florals or trucks and think both boys and girls enjoy picking petals and watching construction vehicles in action.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 10:52 am

      Hear, hear! It’s the strangest thing to me how frequently I hear folks imply that one or the other activity would delight only children of a certain gender.

      • Reply sasha l July 20, 2018 at 10:28 am

        Me too Erin, I just scratch my head.

        • Reply Liz August 14, 2018 at 9:17 pm

          Totally! So glad I’m not alone in thinking this way — wish the rest of the world (and it’s many retailers) would get on board.

      • Reply M August 6, 2022 at 8:11 pm

        I agree with your sentiments about kids clothing and I was wondering if you knew any more articles about this topic.

  • Reply Amy Chen July 17, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Thank you so much for this, and all your other baby/kid posts. At 30 weeks pregnant, I’m so glad to find resources and suggestions that fit my perspective. I hate the kitsch of kids’ clothes as well as how gendered they are (which to me is all kitsch). Cute is showing off the child, not the outfit, which is exactly what these retailers do.

    I wonder how this will go when the kiddos are older.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Taking this and everything one day at a time!

    • Reply Trish O July 18, 2018 at 11:44 am

      I may be able to shed some light on the older kids…I have two teen boys. I have always said things (clothes, toys, activities, etc) are not inherently boy or girl. I would say they are very comfortable in their skin and embrace what feels natural to them and discard what they don’t care for… For example, I have one son who HATES sports. He is a tall 14 year old with broad shoulders and often is asked “do you play football?” He always shrugs no, and says, “I am in indoor cat and don’t sports.” He loves comics, and movies and anime. I think in some ways the middle school/ high school kids I know are more accepting to these personal preferences than their parents. I also have a son (16) who loves to be a Boy Scout, to watch hockey, play the piano, do stand-up comedy, and wears a very ugly Christmas t-shirt he bought himself at Target ALL THE TIME. I say, you do you to both.

  • Reply Amy July 17, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Enjoy dressing your children to please your own ascetic while you are able! Despite my best efforts to keep my daughter’s wardrobe “gender-neutral” and simple, she expressed her own (very strong) satorical perferences beginning around age six (she is 10 now) It it sparkles and pink! Sigh. I dress in all neutrals and sinple styles so maybe it is to differentiate herself from me. Maybe she will come back around or maybe not! 🙂

    • Reply Jennifer July 17, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Heh, my clothing choices are definitely too boring for my daughter. On occasional days I motivate her to get out of bed and dressed by her getting to pick out my clothes for me, but I did need to put down a few ground rules. That sequined lace cocktail dress is just not suitable for working in a lab.

    • Reply Gail July 17, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      I am in full agreement here. We are an incredibly minimal family with an aesthetic very similar to yours, Erin. Our home is white and earthy. We live fairly simple in NYC and relish in nature when we can. Our kids attend a Waldorf school and don’t watch Tv. But as it turns out, my older daughter is obsessed with girly clothing. Even worse, it’s the tacky, cringe-worthy stuff found in shopping malls. Everything pink, sparkles, unicorns, super feminine. Wont wear pants or shorts, only skirts and dresses. We don’t know where she got it from as we don’t provide these clothes for her or even shop in these types of stores. But slowly it creeps in. And It’s a daily internal struggle for me because of course I want my children to selfishly look Instagram perfect or just like I desire them to. But I know it’s best for them if I let them express themselves. And I do.

      And frankly I’m so bored of seeing children on social media day after day dressed within their mothers preferred color palette (especially when it’s purely about creating revenue/sponsors). Clearly these choices are yours and not your children’s…at least not yet.

      Why is it ok to pat yourself on the back for allowing boys to wear pink linen, or for letting our girls wear rustic dungarees, but then in the same breath not ok for a girl to wear overly girly clothes if she wants to?? You admit that you let your daughter reluctantly wear a tutu or bow (I’m sure they are still perfectly hand-selected). But why do you even have a hesitation? It seems super hypocritical to me!

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 9:00 pm

        Hmm. I think we’re on the same team here, Gail. I agree that kids should be able to express themselves and I do my very best to let that happen, too. I’m not at all reluctant to let Faye wear a tutu or a bow! (I’m not sure where you got that idea!) Of course she’s four and I am her parent, so I buy most of her clothes. It’s indeed *because* of a hope that my kids might be able to express themselves that I provide as blank of a slate as possible. In the case of both tutu and bow, I was utterly uninvolved with the selection. One was a gift from a dear relative and one came on top of a gift, not meant to be worn at all, but it was, with great enthusiasm, for a week running. Who knows what the future might hold—I too might have a child who chooses to conform to gender norms, all I’m hoping for is to provide a solid foundation that makes it clear that the choice is hers (or his, as the case might be).

        • Reply Jen July 19, 2018 at 11:06 pm

          I’m so with you on this, Erin! I struggle with where the middle ground is between teaching my son (and any future kids) that he doesn’t have to be gender-normative but at the same time not wanting to push him away from gender-norming if that’s what he wants. Especially as a tomboy myself. It’s hard when they’re not yet old enough to choose what they like, but somehow avoid reinforcing stereotypes before they’ve developed their own sense of self. I think basic neutrals are a good starting point.

    • Reply Alice July 19, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      I agree with Gail on this one. Even putting your kids in simple, neutral clothes is a demonstration of your own taste, not necessarily theirs. I’m not sure how neutral clothes create a blank slate if we’re talking about dressing as the form of self-expression in this case. Furthermore, as much as we may try to cultivate gender neutrality, most (of course not all) children will gravitate to what we consider stereotypical gender norms. Different and/or gendered does not mean better or worse, and to me that feels like an equally worth thing to teach kids. There is a fuller consideration of these ideas here:

      Most of all though, what struck me about this post is how much the recommendations here can only be relevant to the thinnest slice of our society. I am your neighbor here in Brooklyn, am definitely privileged, and I couldn’t contemplate spending $30 on a romper that my child will outgrow in a blink of an eye. For the vast majority of families, these shops wouldn’t even be an option. If the goal is simple, neutral clothes, there are plenty of those from H&M or Carter’s or plenty of other places. Perhaps not small / independent / sustainable and certainly not insta-worthy, but practical options for most people.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 19, 2018 at 5:00 pm

        As I always do, I’ve shared a list of largely small, independent, and environmentally responsible brands. With full acknowledgement that it comes from a place of privilege, that’s the niche of this site and this list is representative of all of the work that I do. That said, I also wish that there were far greater options for simple, and, to borrow your phrase, gender-neutral options at all price points and from all retailers. Unfortunately, the reason parents so often lament the dearth of simple kids clothing is precisely *because* these larger retailers don’t make it easy to find them. Walk into a Children’s Place or a Carter’s or a Walmart and you are not in fact met with a wide variety of gender-neutral options. Indeed, most kids’ clothing is more gendered now than ever before.

        But beyond that, you’ll get no argument from me that making the choice to dress my kids in as simple clothing as possible is anything *but* a reflection of my ideals and taste. I have no expectation that my infants or toddlers would be able to voice their preferences in these matters. That’s the whole point! We live in a gendered society. None of us are able to exist outside of that. And yet, it’s possible to teach the youngest among us that there might be room for them to exist and thrive in spaces outside of the binary.

      • Reply sasha l July 20, 2018 at 10:34 am

        I compare the idea that however you dress your children follows your aesthetic to however you feed your children follows your values. You have to pick something – vegan, vegetarian or not…. You are picking for them, as is your job as parent. One choice is not the default. I think Erin is giving us some encouragement to reject the insanely gendered clothing of this generation as the default, and to be thoughtful about hidden meanings and harms in *pink is a girl color*.

      • Reply Danielle July 24, 2018 at 6:46 am

        I wanted to put a thought in here; something I’ve heard in the last couple weeks. This is a paraphrased quote from a man named Ian (he has a blog called the “The Knitting Monk”) who I met at a “slow fashion” retreat.

        Yes, it is more expensive to buy clothes that are made conscientiously (with an eye to both other humans and nature), but when you buy from these companies (or make your own from well-sourced materials), you are paying the true cost.

        When you buy cheaper mass-produced cost, you are only paying a fraction of that cost, but other humans and the environment pay for the rest. I really appreciated his perspective!

        And of course, there are ways to budget while still being responsible with our purchases. Erin promotes many of these ways! Some include thrifting, hand-me-downs, making your own, buying a slightly bigger size for kids, mending what you do own and more importantly changing our expectation of how many clothes we (or our kids) need to begin with.

        • Reply Danielle July 24, 2018 at 7:54 am

          Edit: Ian calls himself “The Knitting Monk”, but his blog is called “Grounding in the Spirit”.

  • Reply Stephanie July 17, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Ah, such a good list with so many favorites! I don’t generally consider myself a fierce person, but when I see many of the clothes marketed out there for my sweet son I feel so angry because I can see the world at work actively trying to narrow him down into a particular sort of boy. I am committed to letting him be himself; these days, that means that he loves flowers and trucks and bright colors (he couldn’t care a fig for dinosaurs or anything with “scary” teeth). As he has gotten taller (and he is tall for his age) the styles and colors for his clothes get more and more limiting (I miss the comparative oasis of baby clothes). It’s become a part-time job finding non-spirit-crushing (and affordable) options—it feels like such a problem to me that more affordable and easy-to-find clothes are often so highly gendered. And why is it too much to ask for florals for boys?! We just found a pair of green, white and yellow daisy-print jammies (in the girl section … eyeroll) at Hanna Andersson on sale that he adores (I vehemently second that wish for a more gender neutral Hanna Andersson catalog … )

    Anyway: solidarity! Everyone gets to wear what they want!

    It feels like such problem to me that the cheapest clothes often tend to be the most extremely gendered.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Yes, agreed entirely on all fronts.

      • Reply Christie July 17, 2018 at 11:59 am

        My oldest son is, as they say “all boy,” in that he fits the gender stereotype of rambunctious, sports-loving, and loud. But my second son, while also rambunctious and willing to play ball, prefers to grow his beautiful hair long, wear purple pants and kitty-eared headbands, and run around the house in ballet slippers. We don’t know who he will be when he is older, but for now we are so happy that he has the space to be whoever he is with love and without judgment. Sometimes (most of the time) people think he’s a girl, but, thus far, he doesn’t seem to care. We have tried as hard as possible to be gender-neutral for our boys. In fact, it wasn’t until my oldest was in elementary school that he “learned” that pink is for girls; to which he scoffed and said — that’s crazy, my brother loves pink. (It was a surprise for us, though, when we finally had a little girl, the amount of pink, ribbons, and frills we received. We still dress her in the boys’ old onesies. )

    • Reply Jessica July 17, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      I just reached out to Hanna Andersson to express my desire to see them eliminate their gendered organization of clothes in favor of organization by clothing type. Maybe we can change minds by encouraging them to change the way they do things!

      And I second your comment about the cheapest clothes being the most gendered! I remember walking into a Carter’s store with a giftcard and feeling nauseated by the extremity of their gender assignments. I ended up donating it because I just couldn’t pick something.

    • Reply Nicole Andrews July 17, 2018 at 11:22 pm

      This is not terribly helpful on the gender-neutral front, but I love Boden for my super-tall boy. He’s five and already in 8-20 clothes, which means most brands isolate boys to animals with teeth, footballs, etc. He wants cheery colors with kittens and dogs in funny hats–not scary teeth! Because Boden stocks all the same shirts in all boy sizes, he can find more prints that suit his very big, yet very little boy personality (although he is always on the lookout for more pink). We ignore Hanna’s gendering of pajamas too–my three year old daughter adores her spider jammies.

  • Reply Shauna Solomon July 17, 2018 at 11:21 am

    I didn’t realize how strong the opinions are about children’s clothing until I had my son (he has 2 older sisters). Just putting his hair in a tiny ponytail to keep it out of his face received so many negative comments (including that I may have neglected to cut his hair short or that I want to turn him into a girl). This conversation has been brewing for awhile and I think it is important to address it as you have.

    I have had a great experience with many of the brands that you have listed above. Petit Vilians has become a favourite this summer for my kids who are very hard on their clothing . The light fabrics are perfect for hot and humid summers and wash up well. I have purchased some nice basics from Mini Mioche, a brand based out of Toronto, as well.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 11:29 am

      Yes, it’s remarkable isn’t it? So glad you’ve had luck with Petits Vilains! Will have to check out Mini Mioche!

      • Reply Chelsea July 18, 2018 at 7:37 pm

        Mini Mioche is great! Their infant sleep gowns are the softest ever.

  • Reply Jessica July 17, 2018 at 11:31 am

    It makes me so sad when kiddos are immediately judged based on their clothes instead of their personalities! We were stopped by an older gentleman recently while my daughter was climbing big rocks (wearing a blue shirt and pink pants), who said “ah, a boy, right?” And when I said “a girl,” he said “oh, well that’s ok.” Maybe this was more about the climbing than the clothes, or more about the clothes than the climbing, but here is a little pledge I make:

    When I’m looking for clothes in a new shop, I notice whether or not the clothes are gendered and email the retailer to either thank them for not gendering their clothes (Winter Water Factory!) or ask that they consider not gendering their clothes, since there is nothing biological or physiological that prevents my kiddo from wearing a ruffle-less dino tee!

    We also love Red Caribou, which makes cute little non-gendered tops, bottoms, and rompers, among other items, with a conservation theme. Lots of gentle colors and understated patterns.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 11:36 am

      Agreed. Recently at a park a couple remarked on how well Silas was kicking a ball. They thought he was a girl because he was wearing a pink shirt. When they realized he was a boy they said, in front of Faye and Silas both, that “that explains why he was so good with the ball.” It’s preposterous. Will check out Red Caribou! Thank you!

      • Reply Jessica July 17, 2018 at 11:43 am

        Doesn’t that just make your stomach turn? I’m still working on how to reply. It’s the beginning of a lifetime of working out how to model good behavior (however it’s definined in this situation, which I still don’t know). I swear, there are days I seriously consider moving far away to a remote and simple farm where I can raise strong, confident, kind KIDS. =)

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 11:47 am

          Ha! I get that impulse, but I also think it’s so great for them to see us demonstrating an alternate way of thinking. In this case, I immediately piped up, “You should see his sister dribble that ball!” Later, before bed, I revisited the incident with Faye. We chatted about how lots of people think that boys are better at sports than girls, but that it’s just not true. We don’t get it “right” every time, but I think the more our kids see us challenge outmoded ways of thinking, the better!

          • Jessica July 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm

            Totally agree. Even though my kiddo is only one and a half, I just model, model, model the language that I hope she embraces when she’s able to articulate her own feelings and experiences. In the situation above, I told the man about how about how much she loved climbing anything she could, and as we walked away, I told her about how people think things about boys and girls that aren’t true (etc., etc.). She most definitely had no idea what I was talking about, but one day she will!

            I sometimes wonder if I should directly confront those attitudes. I do with people I’m closer to, like my parents, but with strangers, I feel less confident in that choice. I’m still figuring it out! But what a great opportunity to think about these hard questions!

            I’m so glad you’re having this conversations! What a great community you’ve built here!

          • Christie July 17, 2018 at 12:51 pm

            This is so important! We have this discussion All. The. Time. And we have done it with our older son since he was small. I think it has been helpful, though, that among his small group of friends, the girls were/are the fastest and, one in particular, is incredibly strong and athletic.

    • Reply Lauren July 17, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      I think my favorite response when someone says something biased is to say, “Why do you say that?” with a smile on my face. It makes them think about what they’ve said. You can keep asking why until they realize that their option isn’t shared. Or just call them out on what they’ve said depending on your mood. ha

  • Reply Rose July 17, 2018 at 11:36 am

    My sister in law accidentally got my nephew some “girl onesies,” and he looks adorable in his ruffly sleeves. I love that returning or exchanging something took a backseat to just dressing your baby lol.

  • Reply Jennifer July 17, 2018 at 11:40 am

    My daughter is now almost exclusively in hand-me-downs, so she chooses from what’s available, and it is more girly than I might have chosen on my own. But I definitely remember in the days before this was a possibility shopping for almost all of her shorts in the boys department because a 1 inch inseam on shorts is not long enough for anyone, let alone a kid with pasty-white skin who needs as much sun protection as possible. One summer I finally caved and traced off a pair of shorts, lengthened the inseam to something reasonable, and sewed up 4 or 5 pairs. Because she was then at the stage that kids grow more up than out, she wore them for 3+ summers. She loved her lizard, robot and rocket ship clothes as much as the unicorn and floral ones.

    Sun protection is still my number one concern for kids clothes. So many girls clothes are spaghetti-strapped or sleeveless. At least I now have my daughter (perhaps unfairly) trained that the beloved spaghetti-strapped sundresses she inherits from friends are all nightgowns, which satisfies us both!

    • Reply Maryann July 17, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Jennifer – I hear you on girls shorts! You might try to the City Gym Shorts pattern from Purl Bee for your daughter. I have made 5 pairs for my daughter (who is 9) this summer alone! And one pair for me. 🙂 It’s a great pattern, comes together quickly, does not require a lot of fabric, and layers well over leggings if you need more sun protection (or its cold). My daughter likes “sports shorts” and these fit the bill perfectly.

  • Reply MissEm July 17, 2018 at 11:45 am

    It’s certainly been easier with my girls than I hear it is with boys, though a family member was once irritated with me for dressing my daughter in a shirt with cars on it (“but everyone will think she’s a boy!” “So?”). I’m familiar with a lot of the these beautiful brands (though can’t afford most), but I wish there was more for kids over 7 – I’m running out of options as my oldest ages out of most of these but isn’t big enough for the adult sizes yet. Haha, maybe I should start a business?

  • Reply Rae July 17, 2018 at 11:51 am

    This is a wonderful post Erin, thank you. Off topic, but I’m on the lookout for two headboard pillows and the flax-colored ones in the photos here look so great — would you mind sharing where they’re from?

  • Reply Samantha July 17, 2018 at 11:52 am

    I remember once when I was shopping for my girl when she was a baby there was a woman that commented my little boy was cute. I gently corrected her that she was a girl and she blew up at me that I had too much blue and gray clothes for a girl. It baffled me then and still baffles me that someone would think a girl can’t wear blue.

  • Reply Gilly July 17, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Great list! Thank you! Do you ever dress your kids in vintage clothes? I find that to be a cost effective way to find well-made clothing.

  • Reply Crystel July 17, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks to you, we discovered and love Pact. In addition to great undies and basics, they also make wonderful basics and pjs for babies and toddlers and are apparently launching a new collection early next year. We also love Burt’s Bees (because of your first baby clothes list) and Primary. Thanks for continuing to introduce us to wonderful brands that are making a difference in this world!

  • Reply Jennifer Odle July 17, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve purchased a lot from Primary — the quality is great (comparable to Hanna Anderson) but on the site you can see EVERY COLOR AND SIZE OPTION on either a boy or a girl! And nothing is gendered! I think it’s a fantastic company. Certainly not as special as the smaller labels you’ve listed (for us, those are special occasion pieces) but great for everyday play clothes. My kids have been in their swimsuits all summer. In fall and winter I dress my two girls (1 and 2) in denim carhartt overalls (boys section) with leggings and sweatshirts layered underneath for extra warmth. Side note — do you have a few favorite shoe brands? Or a slightly fancier “special occasion” shop you like? I need to find some nicer outfits for an upcoming wedding and the ivory color from Wren & James is too white!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 12:45 pm

      So glad you’ve had good luck! I’ve only ever heard good things, but haven’t seen anything in person myself! Love Carhartt overalls, too! A few of the names on the list—Mabo & Soor Ploom in particular—have some sweet “fancy” options, though fanciness is subjective no doubt!

  • Reply Emily July 17, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks, Erin, for making me think a bit. I’ve got two kids, 3.5 and 1.5, and thus far at home we’ve avoided gendered words – all men and women are “grown-ups” and all boys and girls are “kids.” I’m a little apprehensive about sending my oldest to preschool, where I’m sure he’ll encounter some gendered thinking. And perhaps a little surprise from his teachers when they find he can almost read and count past 100 but doesn’t know what a girl is!

    All that said, you’ve pushed me a little in regards to their clothing. My kids pretty much exclusively wear garage sale finds or clothing they’ve been given by relatives, so I don’t exercise absolute control over the clothing design. I do try to steer clear of a lot of shirts with words on them, since they’re often very strange and gendered slogans, so the kids have a lot of stripes and the odd animal or spaceship. But I was still surprised to hear you say your son wears a night dress. And when my oldest was younger I wondered what to do with his hair that kept getting in his face, and your solution of a barrette somehow didn’t seem possible to me. These gender norms are so ingrained, even when we think we’re fighting them!

    Anyway, thanks for the gentle push in the right direction, and thanks for the resources. I do buy the kids new underwear and socks and such, and you’ve given me a few new companies to try.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      Hi Emily! We rely on some hand-me-down’s, too, but I also try to edit those selections a bit and supplement to fill in the gaps with basics. And while we do discuss gender in our house, we also take care to use “adults” and “kids” and “parents” as often as possible! Sending you lots of well wishes with the transition to school! Faye heads off to public pre-k in the fall, too (and Silas will begin an out-of-the-house Montessori program as well)! No doubt they’ll be introduced to all sorts of things that they haven’t necessarily encountered before, but my general philosophy is that that’s a great thing! Here’s to a smooth transition!

  • Reply kris July 17, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Think I once read that Angelina Jolie dresses her young children in neutral-colored clothes that are also gender neutral. She said that it makes packing for trips easier if they all can share clothes. (And this brings to mind that one of her daughters, Shiloh, likes to dress like a boy and has short hair. Nice to know that her parents apparently support this.)

  • Reply Kirsten July 17, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    For any would-be sewists out there: I really love the look of Mabo/Soor Ploom/Red Creek Kids clothes but they are sooooo far out of my budget. Turns out there are a few very easy patterns out there if you’ve got a sewing machine lying around. My favorite’s are:
    Wiksten harem pants:
    Whitney Deal’s baby bloomers:
    Elemeno Patterns romper:

    The best part is you buy the pattern once and the sizing goes up until 6 years old in some cases!

  • Reply Kristi July 17, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    A friend of a friend started a company called Princess Awesome. Their site is more feminine and features a lot of dresses (it was inspired by the founder’s daughter who loves all things “girly”) but they’ve expanded to include some shorts and t-shirts, so there’s a little something for everyone’s style. Their clothing is super colorful and has all kinds of neat prints.

  • Reply India July 17, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    I noticed recently that although Boden mostly plays into gendered stereotypes they have lately offered a few dresses with dinosaurs and sharks which is a start I guess. Another thing they do which a lot of parents of girls would probably appreciate is that lots of their girl’s clothing go up to 16yrs. It seems to be that finding age-appropriate clothing for preteens, especially girls is quite difficult. While the brand offers mostly bright colourful clothing, and I’m not sure of their ethics, they seem to offer some things that many other brands don’t offer at the moment.

  • Reply Aja July 17, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    I have purchased many things from Primary. I love them! The basic colors make it easy to keep things neutral. Thanks to my stocking up with my daughter (mostly neutral colors, a couple of pink things, but again, I have no problem with boys in pink,) I have a nice starting point for my next kiddo (which will be a boy, due in December!) I’m so thankful for your post, as I wasn’t sure where else I could buy neutral clothing!

  • Reply Emily July 17, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    My 22-month old son wears neon pink water shoes, has some pink/floral clothing items, and a gender-neutral name. He has been mistaken for a girl several times, and when it seems appropriate, I try to correct the stranger politely. Usually I just let it go. He goes wild over construction machines and lies on the floor pushing all his wheeled toys around, so we get the “he is all boy!” comments from family and friends, which I hate. He also says “excuse me flowers!” to any plants in our path when we’re out walking, and his face lit right up when his hot pink water shoes arrived in the mail. “Piiiiink!” he said. I just hope I can continue to mix up his wardrobe and playthings so he has a full childhood, not pressured to be any certain way. All these coded messages we send to little kids and the strict binary of acceptable emotions are absolutely contributing to our toxic masculinity problem. I f*cking refuse! Thanks for this post.

    • Reply Olivia July 17, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Agreed- saddest day for me was when my oldest boy came home from school and sadly said that pink couldn’t be his favorite color anymore. It’s a ‘girl’ color. So he decided to like red. Broke my heart.

      • Reply Nicole Andrews July 17, 2018 at 11:37 pm

        Oh, Olivia, I know. My son’s favorite color has always been pink, and his teacher told me that he had told his pre-K class that his favorite color was brown. He cried on the way home that day–he said that he knew his real favorite was different than the other boys, but felt like he couldn’t say pink out loud.

  • Reply Jessica July 17, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    After thinking more about this, and commenting above, I decided I should go through some of my favorite brands and reinforce the message about not gendering kids clothes. I emailed all the brands we own to either thank them for not gendering their clothes, or to encourage them to stop separating their clothes by gender. In case anyone else is interested in doing the same, here is the message I sent:

    I’m writing to urge you to consider eliminating gendered organization of your clothes. Boys and girls should have the opportunity to choose their clothes based on what interests them, not based on what society says about what boys and girls must wear. In addition, it can be stereotyping and oppressive to assign gender to clothes. I’d love to see more kids’ websites organizing clothes by type or color and allowing parents and kids together to decide which items are the best fit for each kid. Thank you!

  • Reply Theresa July 17, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    Polarn O Pyret is a Swedish children’s clothes company with many gender neutral options (you can pick boy, girl or unisex on their website). Not cheap but very high quality.
    Similarly, H&M has some gender neutral clothes at a lower price level, though obviously not a small local manufacturer.

  • Reply Chris Saunders July 17, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I have to ask where you got that floral pillow case- I love it! Thanks, Chris

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      We got it from local shop, Collyer’s Mansion. It was the last one they had at the time but we love it so dearly! Got Silas a little peach one to match! Will share more soon about a few other room updates we’ve made for the kiddos!

  • Reply Tonke July 17, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    What a lovely list! I know some of these brands but there are a few I have yet to try. I would maybe add a few more, especially Marlow and Mea. An Australian brand with beautiful organic cotton basics and linnen rompers, all equally beautiful. I also love ‘little cotton clothes’, not as basic or gender neutral but their clothes are very sturdy and always make me smile! Perfect for special occasions (or just an average tuesday around here) . Maybe you’ll like these brands too!

  • Reply Whitney July 17, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the great list! When buying clothes for my infant son been amazed at the outwardly gendered options and how interesting it is to see peoples responses to “girly” things when used for him – when I didn’t think they were at all feminine.
    I wanted to add another great shop to the list: Kate Quinn Organics. Her clothing is more print based (think koi fish and bunnies and trees – similar to Winter Water Factory) but most of her products are decidedly gender neutral and beautifully made. Also when she ships there is no plastic involved which makes me doubly happy. 🙂

  • Reply Catherine July 17, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    You can only find cats on girls clothes with lots of ruffles. Because boys don’t have cats? Like cats? Beats me. Everyone in my family was on the lookout for cat clothes for our cat loving kid. I ended up making my own cat pattern featuring our own cats and made leggings, towels, pillows and a pencil case for my son.

  • Reply Aya July 17, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    “I don’t want the clothes that I dress my kids in to reinforce someone else’s outdated notions of what a boy or a girl should look like.”
    YES! I’m fiving you an ovation over here in my living room, a thank you for the list and a sigh of relief in feeling in solidarity with you, even miles apart. Thank you!

  • Reply Susan Magnolia July 17, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    I totally hear you. Just like my daughter, in my family we like to be comfortable and not be a walking advertisement. Sensible clothes for play, some pieces that make us feel dressed up and with no regards to gender. My partner suggests we all wear Jedi robes or kimonos perhaps. 🙂

    I thrift all my child’s clothes and am lucky to find children’s consignment shops all over in the Bay Area. I find that the more like pajamas the clothes are the better. Cotton shirt /tunic/dress and leggings. Soft warm layers. If she were a boy child I am curious how different it would be. Shorter top perhaps.

    Totally want to buy everything from Primary. So easy peasy!

  • Reply Alyse July 17, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Great post! We are like-minded where dressing kids is concerned, though my 5 year old daughter has enthusiastically embraced Disney princess dresses and has received many from relatives. I don’t make a thing about it, even though they make me cringe! I think something else your post highlighted, along with the need for simple, gender neutral kids’ clothes, is the need for simple, gender neutral, inexpensive kids’ clothes from major retailers. Many people, especially in rural or suburban areas, rely on Walmart, Target, and other such places to get their kids clothes and they are mostly out of luck (though Target is improving in this area–you can get Burt’s Bees there and I think they carried a gender neutral line recently that was stocked in both the boys and girls depts).

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 17, 2018 at 9:23 pm

      Yes, I wish there were more widely available and affordable options. Burt’s Bees (and plain white onesies) have been so helpful to us, but I wish there were more similar alternatives!

    • Reply Trish O July 18, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      As the mom of two boys, I totally get it…but who decided that ruffles are just for girls? Or something is only gender neutral if it is simple in design? Why is it a girl shirt? or a boy shirt? Maybe target could just have “children’s clothing” with all of the exact same stuff they have now and let the parent and kids decided what is for a boy or girl. Mix and match as they like.
      That is the bigger question that needs to be asked of society. Why are we assigning gender to fabric? This is not about a personal preference to simple design, this is about still making the assumption that it is not gender neutral if it is a glittery, ruffled, Disney princess dress…. All people can wear all clothes. Some people like a little bling (or a lot) …Some people like to wear a shirt with their favorite sports team, movie character, comic hero, fruit or flower on it. I am partial to a Bowie shirt or a Harry Potter t. Some like to wear very basic design. These people can be boys or girls. Anyway, I think it is more about changing society rather than clothes. Now, if Target needs to stock more simply cut, unadorned basics for people, that is another issue of style preferences they may want to look at.

  • Reply Sommer July 17, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    I was picking up backup disposable diapers for grandmas house (she’s resistant to the cloth diapers I use 90% of the time but such is life) and the only pack in my son’s size had cherries and I thought “oh those are girl diapers” and then caught myself – how are cherries innately feminine. We do sexualize cherries but then why would that be on diapers!? I bought them bc I needed them and didn’t want to fall into the “those are for girls” trap but I kind of regret buying them and supporting the sort of creepy virgin/cherry thing. Another reason to love my cloth diapers – way less gendered than disposables.

  • Reply Catherine July 18, 2018 at 12:01 am

    I love this list and there are a bunch of cute options for my four and six year old, but my (almost 11) and my nine year old – it’s practically impossible to find clothes to fit them that aren’t “fast fashion”. If I had a sewing bone in my body I’d start a label JUST for “older” children. There’s a market there. I’m constantly searching. I read somewhere that environmentally conscious brands believe people come in three sizes; baby, toddler, and adult. I have to agree here. While my younger children benefit from the hand me downs from big siblings, the older ones are both picky and difficult to find clothing for that either fits or is anything they’d feel good wearing (our secondhand stores are rough here). I tried discussing fast fashion/ethical fashion with my oldest son and was met with a blank stare. As well, my children have a dress code at school and the options are limited to chinos and polo shirts – very difficult to find anything remotely eco friendly there! I dread the day they all grow out of Hanna Andersson and Tea as that’s the closest I can get to anything my older kids still like. Thank goodness we never go to the mall for if my daughter ever walked into a Justice – it would be a bad scene.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 18, 2018 at 9:14 am

      I’ve heard a lot of this! Will report back if I learn of any great older kid options!

      • Reply Julie July 19, 2018 at 7:46 am

        Thank you, Erin! I second everyone on this front. Shana at The Mom Edit linked to this kickstarter – Jackalo. It’s trying to do everything we want here for big kids. And I wish they truly existed NOW.

        Please update us on yours or any readers recommendations for a big kid list of brands above. Thank you for all the peace and beauty you bring to our lives.

  • Reply Jean July 18, 2018 at 1:26 am

    New aunt success was being sent to buy some premie sized onesies for my niece and flat out ignoring the gendered store layout. Because my niece was a week old. A week. The colors of my niece’s room were black and white and grey but those colors and patterns were only in the boys section. Also in boys, waves, boats, and lions. All those things are adorable on my niece, who also rocks a big hair bow or headband each day.

  • Reply Rachel July 18, 2018 at 6:50 am

    What a lovely list of shops and clothes! I adore dressing my son (22 months) in a simple palette of colours (grey, white, pale / dark blues, black), and like simple clothes (not overly patterned, branded, themed or with characters), and loved so many of these shops! Just a shame I’m in the UK! But you’ve inspired me to look a little harder for these great shops and clothes. 🙂

    • Reply Lenka February 17, 2019 at 6:30 am

      Frugi does lovely organic clothing in the UK. Can be gendered but not as bad as other brands and above all really bright and cheery children’s clothing.

  • Reply Amy July 18, 2018 at 8:08 am

    This is a wonderful list, and the commentary around it has given me much food for thought. When I was a little girl, my family didn’t have a lot of money. The three, four, five year old me would have wished desperately to have a mother with tastes like yours, Erin. And yet, that was simply not in the cards. What little we did have, my parents put toward activities for my brother and I. Thus, all my clothes came from my boy cousins. Even at the age of three, I hated it – and this despite the fact that I was the kid who played in the dirt and ate ants. Part of it was aesthetic. Even then, I didn’t like certain colors and certain cuts. Part of it was comfort – boys clothes are often made differently than girls clothes. This grew especially difficult when I started to develop early, and at that age of ten, was still wearing my cousins’ old clothes, so that my parents could afford piano lessons and could put me on the soccer team. Either the pants were too tight in the bum, or lose all the way around. And then, I grew up. I had more money, bought more mindfully, and now have a closet with clothes I love in basics, flattering in shape, limited in number, etc… All that to say, it puts the human story around my ‘I wonder.’ I think purchasing ethically made, sustainable clothing is incredibly important! But often times, it really is such a luxury. Kids who get to benefit from parents who are more affluent, or who prioritize their money in such a way that they can purchase this kind of clothing, really are blessed. And yet, allowing a kid to be who she is seems to me to go so much more above and beyond clothes that I wonder how much import anything beyond the ethics of the clothing itself should play. The thing about gender stereotypes that I struggle with is that I love the idea of being ‘mother’ and that this is part of the fact that I am a woman. I’d love for my sons to enjoy being boys, and for my daughters to enjoy being girls. I guess, beyond being themselves, I’m not quite sure what that means. And I think adding the ethic of gender neutrality into simple, ethical, and sustainable clothing for kids (something I feel strongly about) can, honestly, feel like too much… I suppose, in the end, all I really want out of it is that my kids will be able to think about these things some day, and be able to look back on being a kid and not think about what they wore, but to see that they learned to be kind and to be able to look at the time they spent in childhood with gratitude… Anyway, it really is a great list of shops and clothes, Erin!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 18, 2018 at 9:12 am

      I grew up wearing almost exclusively hand-me-downs, too. No doubt that what’s talked about as “choice” is heavily dictated by resources and what what’s a choice for some might not be remotely possible for others. In regards to gender stereotypes, it’s funny because part of the reason that I like to dress my kids simply is precisely so that the importance of clothes *is* secondary and not a distraction from just being a kid. It’s astonishing for me to note how much more Faye gets noticed when she wears a dress or has her hair styled. Kids—and adults—get rewarded for performing gender roles. It’s no wonder that little girls like to wear princess dresses! I think what I’d like most for my kids is to enjoy being a kid and to get the chance to celebrate whatever parts of that experience they want to and to emulate whatever adult behavior they’d like to, regardless of expectations around gender. What does it really mean, after all, to enjoy being a girl or to enjoy being a boy?

      • Reply Amy July 18, 2018 at 10:25 am

        It’s a very interesting point, about Faye being more noticed in dresses or styled hair! I’ll have to pay attention to that… I suppose one thing I love about a smaller, simple and longlasting wardrobe is that clothes become of secondary importance. It makes sense that choosing simple clothes for a child will help preserve that place. It is so very true that we get socially rewarded for conforming, and that can be damaging. I’m glad that you often confront this in your work!

    • Reply Trish O July 18, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      very beautifully put. I also want my boys (now more adult than child) to be strong men…based on how they define being a strong man to be. Maybe traditional, maybe not….mostly a mix i bet. just as I want the liberty to define what being a woman is. I am a woman, so if I am that then I guess that is how a woman is. my sons are boys….so however they are that is how a man is. That is the world I want for my children.

    • Reply Alicia July 19, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Wonderfully said, particularly about it sometimes just being too much. I grew up a tomboy and was often asked if I was a boy and never thought twice about it really. I have two small boys and if either of them wanted to wear pink or florals or dresses then so be it! But I struggle with parents who are purposely putting pink floral pants on an infant or toddler. These choices do not reflect the personality of the child. They are entirely a statement trying to be made by the parent. Most two-year-olds are lucky if they can properly communicate their biological needs let alone choices about clothing.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 19, 2018 at 12:48 pm

        Hey there, it’s not clear from this comment: Are you saying that purposefully putting a *male* child in pink or florals or dresses is too much and not reflective of the child’s personality, or are you advocating that *all* kids should be dressed in neutrals until they can choose for themselves? I’d love to hear your thoughts. For me, it seems that most *any* choice that parents make in dressing their children are statements of one kind or another. Dressing your kids according to what’s most culturally acceptable is no less of a statement than making a choice that goes against that grain.

      • Reply Trish O July 19, 2018 at 4:03 pm

        I think putting a blue truck shirt on a boy is a statement by the parents, too. At that age EVERYTHING we put on our kid is our statement…

  • Reply Jean July 18, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Second hand (mainstream) clothing is the route I go to clothe my two young boys. The abundance of clothing bought and quickly disposed of is astonishing. And when my preschooler’s favorite color was pink, I just had to head over to the girls section and make my choices from there.

  • Reply Maggie July 18, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I appreciate your commentary and nod to the special troubles of boyhood these days! While there may be a mixture of feelings regarding this post, I get the sense you’re simply not afraid to discuss a topic that many fear. From prior posts I get the sense that you’re aware that when your kids are old enough to buy their own clothes, then you will have to accept what they choose! Haha. For now you’re giving them a foundation that you support (and they support) and that isn’t as confusing as people may think and thats what matters. I don’t have children yet, but its nice to know that you and others are not conforming to society even though its easier to ‘go with the flow’ and act like everything is fine. Conforming is easier in the sense that people may not make sharp comments. It is way more difficult when boys don’t embrace femininity as fully developed adults and of course, the same goes for girls and masculinity. 🙂

  • Reply Anna July 18, 2018 at 9:50 am

    I found this book about the history of gendered clothing fascinating. I really recommend it if you’d like to dive deeper.

  • Reply Trish O July 18, 2018 at 11:56 am

    I have always noticed folks think it is ok to put a girl in “boy clothes”, but watch out if you put a boy in “girl” clothes. Crazy. But it does not stop with clothes. The Atlantic article was very well done.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 18, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Yes, totally agreed.

  • Reply Trish O July 18, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    And another thing…. who decided what is a “girl” thing and what is a “boy” thing? I really what to reframe. I don’t have a boy that likes to “dress like a girl and that is ok” Or a girl that likes to “dress like a boy and that is ok” I think it is just a person who likes this or that….they are dressing like themself, and that is the BEST. Clothes and colors and prints don’t have genders. As an adult, I was once told by a sunglass sales person while trying on a pair of glasses , “Those are the men’s glasses. These are for women…you want to look here not there.” Um? How about I decided what glasses look best on me? Crazy

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 18, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      Yes. One hundred percent. It’s wild how much kids (and adults) police each other. Literally yesterday, when I came home from work Faye told me that at the playground earlier that day a little boy had told her that Silas was a girl “because he’s wearing a dress.” Faye was mostly incensed because Silas was wearing overalls, not a dress, but also because, in her words, “boys can wear dresses, too!” So much work to do!

  • Reply Cynthia July 18, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Such a great topic and reference list…thank you. When my boys were growing up, we did not have these choices. Because they were enrolled in a Waldorf school which prohibited words or characters on clothing (b/c they are a distraction and inhibit free play) I would fill their drawers with solid color cotton shorts, sweat pants, short and long-sleeve tees and turtlenecks in a variety of hues. It was always fun to see the color combos they chose! It certainly made getting dressed easy and appropriate for a day of physical activity and comfort in and out of the classroom.

  • Reply Elizabeth M July 18, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    Reading this article reminded me of another great brand of kids gender neutral clothes. mrly is a fairly new brand out of Columbus, OH. I worked with the owners previously and the clothing is adorable!

    • Reply Elizabeth M July 18, 2018 at 4:00 pm

      It’s actually
      I miss-typed!

      • Reply Lauren July 19, 2018 at 11:19 am

        My kids love MRLY! Especially the simple dresses and hoodies– so soft and comfy!

  • Reply Chelsea July 18, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Great list! I especially love Mabo, Nico Nico (for me too!)and Rudy Jude. My son has two Rudy jude everyday shirts he has worn since he was 6 months and he’s 23 months now- their stuff is expensive but their sizing is very versatile and the quality is amazing. Another few brands that I like a lot are Concious Clothing, Telegraph Avenue which i believe are both made in LA and Spanish brand Bobo Choses for interesting prints.

  • Reply katie July 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Yes to all of this! My daughter wears whatever she pleases (she’s 9). No one has ever commented much on her dress (even when it’s been “boy-ish”). However, now that I have a son (1 year old), I get asked ALL the time if he’s a girl, based on what he’s wearing. A stranger asked me once recently if it was a girl and I said boy, then she commented “oh I didn’t know because of the necklace”.. it was an amber teething necklace!? haah. Anyways, he has a pair of hot NEON pink swim trunks for this summer and he’s adorable in them. He routinely wears lighter pale pinks also. We shop from ALOT of the shops you listed above and agree with all of them. They are great! And LOVE Mabo 🙂

  • Reply Anna B July 18, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks for this list! It was on my mind as my kids both go through a growth spurt this summer. I try to keep one step a head of the game with consigned clothes. Are there any online kids consignment shops that lean towards this list? That would be lovely. When I do buy my son (2) and daughter (5) new clothes I do my best to go organic and simple. We have the most trouble with grandparents giving really gender conforming gifts. I definitely try to support my children’s gender expression when buying them clothes, my daughter and son both like fun colorful clothes. It’s a line we walk together, but I think gender expression is an important part of identity development so I try to listen to them and follow my own beliefs in what’s best for the planet.

  • Reply Doe July 19, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Maybe no one needs an 81st comment on this post, but it is fascinating–and complicated.
    Just yesterday, I visited an exceptional two-venue exhibition called “Text and Textile” at the Beinecke Library at Yale and at the Haas Arts Library at Yale.
    At the Beinecke was a display case featuring materials from the 1913 “Manifesto of Men’s Clothing” by Italian futurist Giocomo Balla, who “envisioned the body as shapes in motion, force fields, and vectors.” His Manifesto “condemned traditional clothing and urged the abolition of all fabrics patterned with lines, checks, or polka dots, or otherwise ‘pretty, ‘ ‘gloomy’, or ‘neutral.'” He advocated for “futurist clothing” that “should instead be dynamic, simple–and”… “above all they must be made to last for a short time only in order to encourage industrial activity and to provide constant and novel enjoyment for our bodies.” Brilliant, ‘muscular,’ ‘energetic’, ‘aggressive,’ ‘shocking,’ and ‘electrifying’ colors and patterns [he argued] ‘will lift wearers’ spirits and brighten street life, lifting collective gloom, and spreading happiness.'”

    The exhibition featured a keynote talk by Valeries Steele, a curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology, who edited an upcoming book that is sure to be fascinating as well. Look for Pink: The History of a Pretty, Punk and Powerful Color, coming in Sept 2018.

    An exhibition on the color pink will open at the Museum at FIT in NYC in September 2018

  • Reply Anna July 20, 2018 at 5:04 am

    I love poudre organic, Fabelab, mabli, fub and macarons fashion!
    And I live in Europe, as you can tell by my selection;-)

  • Reply sasha l July 20, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Erin, thank you so much for this thoughtful post. Letting go of these stereotypes for children is a loving and kind act.

    As a preschool teacher (5 children, in home), I daily encourage my little ones to be themselves. I hear very often that *pink is a girl color* and I gently help children question that. Because we are outside most of the day, I bought the kids rash guard sun shirts, to save time on sun screen app and to better protect skin. I bought from the boys’ Dept at Target, bright orange with cute campers on the front (4 of 5 are girls). Am I subversive? I guess so. Know what? When we go to the splash park that bright orange makes it super easy to spot my kiddos in a sea of blue stripes and pink and purple ruffles.

    My biggest request about clothes for kids at our school is practical – please send kids in clothes that are fun. That’s leggings, not dresses. That’s tshirts, not complicated strappy tanks. That’s sneakers not pretty dress shoes. That’s always clothes than can stand getting dirty in our garden. And no one is pretty here. You are either *ready to play and have a fun day!* Or *fancy!*

    Honestly, I just want our school to be a refuge from the ridiculous expectations for gender conformity we place on children.

    And don’t even get me started on gendered toys.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 20, 2018 at 10:55 am

      Yes! Thanks for the kindness here, Sasha, but especially for the reminder of comfort being key! I think about this so much, and honestly, often in regards to little boys wearing big shorts and oversized tees on very hot days! May we all be free (and comfy!).

    • Reply Kirsten July 20, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      Ugh, I was just coming down to the comments section to say the same thing, Sasha! The thing that makes me most insane about the “girl” clothes my daughter receives from well-meaning, excited relatives is that so much of it seems so disrespectful to her needs as a baby. Dresses are explicitly designed to impair movement. In fact, I read somewhere that baby dresses were explicitly used in the 16th century to PREVENT infants from crawling because that made them seem frighteningly “animal.” Why anyone puts a small child who is focused explicitly on mastering movement and later running around exploring is beyond me. I’ve also received so many little t-shirts with giant rhinestones and stuff on the front and I’m just like ‘whyy would I put this on my baby who spends 90% of her awake time slithering around on her tummy?!?” So much of “girl” clothing seems specifically tailored to make kids self-conscious and aware about their body in non-productive ways (looking at you, tights) at such small ages and it drives me crazy. End rant. So glad there are educators out there like you trying to spread this message to parents.

      • Reply Melissa July 25, 2018 at 12:56 pm

        Especially when my kids were small, but even now, I hate “doodads” on clothes. Why does there have to be a 3-D flower, or patch, on a perfectly good dress or t-shirt or jeans? My daughter did enjoy some hand-me-downs that had an embroidered ice-cream cone on the leg, I guess to make sure they looked like girl clothes. She would have worn more of her brother’s clothes if he didn’t destroy them – even so-called “iron knee pants” were no match for my son!

    • Reply Kathryn June 16, 2019 at 11:21 am

      Super late to this comment but love the “fancy” terminology instead of pretty!!!!!

  • Reply Alexa July 22, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    I wish I had time to read all of these comments as this is such an important topic. I appreciate that you’ve compiled a list of beautiful and simple clothes and addressed this challenging issue. My kids expressed opinions as early as 2 and many things went unworn so I’ve learned to be careful about my choices and expectations from early on. I’m glad for consignment and sharing of clothes with friends and other ways to make outfitting children more sustainable. Even in a fairly high earner, two income household, I still can’t get behind a $30 tee shirt, mostly because it will get ruined at day care. I think perhaps this works for a parent who can monitor their child’s activities at home, or those wealthy enough to throw away $30 (or more) left and right, but unfortunately there are few for whom this would work. I wish there was a way to make sustainable options more accessible for a larger chunk of the population so I appreciate the post. This is great stuff.

  • Reply Heather July 23, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Hi Erin,

    We have clothing from a number of the companies you mention. However, my daughter is now wearing a size 10 and the availability of clothes between a size 10 and womens’s sizes is extremely limited. Do you have any suggestions for companies that follow the tenets you talk about that offer clothing for children in the 10 -13 age range?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 23, 2018 at 9:30 am

      Hi Heather—You’re not alone in this search. A number of readers have commented similarly. There’s such an opportunity for clothing designers here! Unfortunately I’m not in that world yet myself and I didn’t expand this research to include that age range, so I don’t have tons of places to point you, but one reader mentioned a label currently in it’s funding stage: Jackalo. Could be something great to watch for.

      • Reply Tania July 26, 2018 at 10:27 pm

        Thanks so much Erin for including our brand. I hope all is well.

    • Reply Melissa July 25, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      I know that Land’s End isn’t gender-neutral, or a small company, but I find that there clothes for girls aren’t trashy/cheap/sexualized. For example, they make swim shorts for girls (not a lot and limited pattern choices) but they are cut like old school gym shorts, and my daughter prefers these with a swim shirt instead of typical girl swim suits. I also find that things like t-shirts are more substantial. I’m guessing even a woman’s small or extra-small would also not be inappropriately “adult” looking.

  • Reply Holly July 25, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Just to note that Carter’s has a “Baby Neutral” section on their website, and in our local outpost. Our baby boy is often in shades of navy blue, which is my own favorite color, but we have been able to find clothes that have sweet animals or stripes once we dig past the “tough like daddy” logos which I can’t stomach (especially when we were buying preemie sizes — same thing with camo in newborn sizes!). I understand the niche of this blog’s featured brands, but just to offer encouragement to other people that are wading through this and trying to balance the need for baby clothes that are not financially prohibitive with the desire to allow babies to just be babies, without the baggage of gendered stereotypes , that even big box stores like Carter’s have great options, at least that fit my aesthetic.

  • Reply Julie August 1, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for this great list! I haven’t tried these yet, but the onesies and rompers look like all I need for my littles. (Boy and girl):)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 1, 2018 at 11:04 am

      Yes! I’ve long admired these guys but never seen them in person! (Have to look into whether they ship to the US!)

  • Reply Su September 21, 2018 at 7:58 am

    Great list! Do you have any recommends where to find nice kids bathrobes?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 21, 2018 at 9:03 am

      We snagged a very sweet one for Faye from Rudy Jude on deep discount at the end of the summer!

  • Reply Melanie November 5, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    These are some really nice choices. I especially liked Burt’s Bees. Unfortunately, it is all way too expensive for us. We bring home less than $40,000 a year and none of these are cheap enough to buy our clothes from. I’ll have to stick to thrift stores and Walmart clearance and (very regrettably) designs and pictures and sayings that are awful, but at least cheap.

  • Reply Angela July 4, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Thanks so much for your work on this, Erin! Any ideas for less-toxic options for children and toddler SHOES? I’m having the hardest time!

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