A birthday was looming and a wardrobe needed a bit of a refresher, so I went clothes hunting – not for myself, but for my daughter. I remember when she was eight despairing in the store as she and I had set aside a Saturday afternoon to go clothes hunting. Just the two of us. A precious treat when you have se7en siblings and five of them are brothers. Turns out it was one of our worst shopping experiences ever. Clothes for her age group had a young tv star in the arms of her male counterpart… pouting at each other across what looked like half a t-shirt.
Nothings has changed in the last few years… except maybe girls clothing has become worse. Apart from the flimsiness of girls clothing – and I have several boys that help with the laundry… yes chores are chores in our house. They ask why their sisters have such flimsy clothes compared to their own more sturdy clothes. T-shirts made of skinny fabric, socks that don’t last more than a couple of weeks, if they are actually worn. The question my boys ask, is this: If their sisters are expected to climb the same trees and muck about in the same mud, ride their bikes on the same gravelly roads then why is their clothing so pathetically made? Why is the fabric so flimsy? Good point, clothing for girls is in general… not worth the fabric it is printed on. But I digress… I am not writing about the quality or durability of their clothing here. I am writing about the mixed messages that girls are sent: “You can do anything you like, but we can’t provide you with the necessary equipment…” No rugged gear for you, not if you want to wear clothing for girls that is.
Anyway a couple of weeks back I decided to make a concerted effort to go on a realistic, open-minded hunt for clothes that my girls would like and were rugged enough for day-to-day wear. I had no illusions that nearly all the clothes would be pink… I have no problem with pink, yes my girls like pink – but they like other colours as well… another subtle message sent to our daughters… “You can wear what you like, you can be your own unique and stylish self… as long as your uniform is pink.” Just saying, my one daughter’s favourite colour is turquoise and another loves purple…
But it wasn’t the flimsy clothing that astonished me… or even the amount of “pinkness” that literally hits you… in waves. I was actually shocked by the clothes my daughters are expected to wear… Undies for a five year old, that say… just never mind, I don’t actually want to write that on our blog. Do I want my daughter to aspire to be “owned by someone?” or worse… sorry kids but there is not a chance on earth that you are ever wearing that. Forget about underwear… what about outer wear… we are headed into winter here and in two leading stores the only available clothes for girls were denim shorts that were so short that their undies would show… and the assistant informed me I could buy “underwear to match the outfit.” In the same store there were track pants for boys, corduroy trousers and colourful jeans, dare I say: all for boys.
Okay, just for a moment, lets head for the tween section – I hate that expression seriously, my daughter is a young lady and tween just doesn’t cover that. And I can tell you that the tween clothes that are deemed appropriate for her to wear by major chain stores won’t be covering much either. My ever practical child looks at the t-shirt which had just one sleeve and a slash across the front. I don’t think warmth is what they had in mind when they made that shirt. So we walked the mall and went from leading brand to leading brand and we soon dropped the illusion that we were looking for clothes to wear… we actually were performing a research assignment – a challenge maybe: To find even one item of clothing that was wearable.
When you ask the staff they tell you this is what kids want to wear… but that isn’t the case. These are not the clothes my daughter wants to wear and neither do her friends. Honestly there is precious little to buy for a girl with any taste… I don’t want my daughters to think they are weird and that there is just nothing for them to wear in the stores. Unfortunately the retailers we visited were sending exactly that message. If you are into sweet feminine clothes, polka dots and stripes, flowers and butterfly prints; And you actually want to wear the clothes, not hang out of them… then good luck with that.
In a world full of eating disorders and girls suffering terrible consequences of unrealistic body images, in a world where soft porn has become boring and hard porn a way of life, in a country where sex-crimes against girls are considered (by some) to be “part of our culture”… I have to say that the retailers do not have my daughters best interests at heart… in fact is it quite the opposite. They know that “sex sells” and when they hang their clothing on racks and suggest that this is what everybody is wearing… including children then really, the only thing that they are suggesting is that they don’t give a hoot about the next generation… the mothers, scientists, librarians, engineers, architects, chefs, homemakers, designers or athletes of tomorrow.
It is a typical case of actions speaking louder than words. Young girls are told they can be whoever they want to be, they are told they are full of potential… but the reality is they are being sold clothes that are at best impractical and inappropriate and at worst demeaning. I am not looking for out of this world clothing… But it appears that our hunt for affordable, realistic clothing that my girls would be proud to wear was yet again a bit of a disaster.