Children's clothing is a relatively new phenomenon. Until the early 1900s, children were dressed in small adult clothes, mismatched for their active leisure and needs. The inhibiting clothes were strongly criticised by many quarters of society and led to a new type of offer slowly emerging after the industrial era in Sweden. So gradually, people realised that they wanted to offer garments that did not inhibit children but were designed with their specific, active lifestyle in mind.
Today, the clothing design for children plays an increasingly important role, so it is not just about quality and functionality; it is about a durable, practical garment. The purchase of children's clothing also seems to be linked to matters of image, identity and meaning. Children's clothing should ideally have a personal touch and incorporate a type of image that parents relate to and want to associate with, and gender-neutral kids' clothes play an essential role in the decision-making.
How do you define gender-neutral clothes?
Gender-neutral clothes are clothes for everyone, regardless of gender. Gender-neutral fashion – unisex fashion – means fashion that is suitable for both men and women and does not have any prominent gender-typical characteristics. The term unisex originated in the 1960s when society needed something new and different because of the increased demand for aesthetic variety. Genderless fashion is strongly linked to the feminist movement towards an equal society between the sexes and was seen as a way of blurring socially constructed differences between the sexes.
In the 2000s, unisex options became increasingly common among clothes for children as well. The new garments reflected a desire not to draw children into gender roles too early. Unisex is often about stripping away or downplaying things that are seen as reinforcing gender differences and trying to produce a shape that fits everyone. And department stores such as John Lewis and HEMA have become major players in terms of removing boy’s and girl’s labels from children’s clothing in a bid to reduce “gender stereotypes”.
Gender neutrality and children's clothing
As a brand, it is important to reflect on personal responsibility and make design choices that counteract outdated stereotypes. By exploring this matter, a body of knowledge is created that can be considered both internally and externally relevant. Internally relevant as brands and clothing stores gain insight into how gender-neutral prints could be designed and look, externally relevant as the reproduction of traditional, outdated and stereotypical gender norms, which can have serious consequences, can be disrupted. There are those who believe that gender neutrality is about creating an even, grey mass. That children should look the same and not be allowed to like girly or boyish things. For many, unisex is about removing colours and using black, brown and light brown instead. However, that is not always the case: gender-neutral designs can look very different and contain a lot of colours. Just as it would be wrong to say that all children like the same designs and the same colours, it would be wrong to say that all girls like this while all boys like that. In the grand scheme of things, it's about showing that everything is acceptable for everyone to use.
However, there are some prints and colours that stand out as gender-neutral:
Prints with insects
Prints with insects are considered neutral. The motif could be seen as gender-neutral as insects are less used on children's clothing, which is why the animals are not classified as girls or boys yet. However, butterflies are seen as girly, and therefore the choice of an unusual type of butterfly - a dragonfly - can be seen as more of a gender-neutral choice.
Prints with sea life
Prints with sea life could be considered neutral if the animals used are neither excessively cute nor dangerous nor have the characteristics of femininity and masculinity. When creating a "design for all", it is common for feminine elements to be omitted. Unisex fashion rarely consists of prominent gender-typical features.
Prints with ice cream
The ice cream print is neutral because of the colour scheme and the motif. The ice cream print also works well for boys and girls because all children like ice cream. Yes, as simple as that!
Prints with vegetables and fruits
Prints with vegetables and fruits are also considered to be gender neutral. Standing out with its extra fun prints, the design works well for both genders as fruit and vegetable-inspired pieces and prints fit all.
The fact that some colours are seen as gender-neutral could be due to the colour scheme. Meaning that the basic colours in a strong, clear tone can be a good one to use if a gender-neutral expression is sought. The colours should be neither light nor dark – such colour schemes are said to connote femininity and masculinity – so a middle ground can be seen as the solution. Basic, strong colours such as red, green, blue, yellow, black and white are also considered to be neutral. Basic and strong colours have been used in the past to develop unisex designs. However, light blue has been described as working well for both boys and girls in combination with yellow, black and green, among others.
Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing when trying to identify a gender-neutral clothes brand for kids: the brand's approach towards clothing for children. Children should be allowed to be children. They should be able to be who and how they want, and they should be able to express this by dressing exactly as they want, without stereotypical pressures. That's why it's crucial to find a brand that works without labels, a brand that is not making clothes for boys and girls – but clothes for children.
Maxomorra is making clothes for children, and every colourful piece created can be worn by every child, regardless of gender. So we advice you to go to our Store Finder, find your favourite Maxomorra reseller and discover more about our gender-neutral items designed in GOTS-certified organic cotton!