Imagine you have twin 6-year-olds, one boy and one girl. You hit the boys’ and girls’ departments of your favorite clothing store in search of summer clothes for them. (After all, last year’s clothes don’t even come close to fitting).
You pick out a girls’ size 6 short-sleeved shirt and shorts for her and a boys’ size 6 short-sleeved shirt and shorts for him. His fits perfectly. Hers doesn’t even come close. And then you hold up these outfits and realize that her shorts are 65 percent shorter than his. Her sleeves are 36 percent shorter and her shirt is as much as 3 inches skinnier than his and 8 percent shorter than his. And yet, your two children are the same age and relatively the same size. Boys and girls are at that age.
What’s going on?
That’s a question Sharon Choksi, the founder of Austin-based clothing line Girls Will Be, has been asking for four years. The message out there, she says, is that “Girls are meant to dress to show their body and be slim. Boys are meant to be active and play.”
If a girl doesn’t fit into those smaller clothes and has to go up a size, the message is clear that there must be something wrong with her.
Last year, she joined the Clothes Without Limits coalition of like-minded clothing designers who are working outside the gender stereotypes. Clothes Without Limits is a one-website stop for clothing lines like Handsome in Pink, Quirky Kids, Clever Belle, Princess Awesome that offer girls and boys different options than they can find in a traditional store.
Clothes Without Limits and like efforts have had some success moving the needle of non-gender biased clothing. You can now find some dinosaurs and rockets in the girls’ section of the big-box store.
“Hoping, with fit, we’ll eventually see more and more retailers start to see a wide variety of fits,” Choksi says. She would love to see that happen. “If they put me out of business, it would be a great thing for the confidence and self-esteem of girls.”