To identify the need for gender-neutral prints for children’s clothing, it would first be necessary for me to describe the shift in attitude towards gender-neutral clothing for children.
The Bailey Review, Letting Children Be Children, was launched in 2011, the main area of concern was the sexualisation of children’s clothing. “Collections should enable children to be confident about their developing bodies and enjoy play and physical activity whilst maintaining modesty…..sexualised and gender-stereotyped clothing, products and services for children are the biggest areas of concern for parents” (Bailey 2011).
Another area of concern was about the use of gender stereotypes. As demonstrated in the two images below, which show words used in marketing aimed children in the USA. Boys are marketed with strong, aggressive words “battle”, “power”, and “hero”. While the words used in girl’s adverts are “love”, “style”, and “fun”. They are sending a clear message to young children that they should behave different and that there are different expectations.
The boys list:
The girls list:
With the on-going debate about gender-based marketing aimed at children, with high profile campaigns, “Let Toys Be Toys” and their ally “Let Clothes Be Clothes”, it seems that gender-specific marketing is becoming outdated.
As far back as 160 years ago, the stark difference in boy’s and girl’s clothing was discussed in ‘Some Thought’s on Children’s Dress’, with girls being exposed to the elements in their dress, while boys were covered up. And in comparison with the images as shown below from Marks & Spencer, it is difficult to see how far we have come. Do girls shorts really need to be so short, while a boy will get a knee-length short?
The adult-world is also embracing gender-neutrality with luxury department store Selfridges having their “Agenda Project” in 2015. This celebrated clothing that could be worn by a man or a woman, with a focus on casual and easy to wear pieces.
Secondly, there seems to be a backlash against parents dressing their children as a “mini-me”, as seen in the success of Little Bird at Mothercare, with garments rooted in nostalgia, reminiscent of an innocent carefree childhood.
Parents are looking for a more relaxed aesthetic. Stepping away from the celebrity styles and the “over-dressed” style of celebrity children, for example, North West (see image below), and retuning to a more “nostalgic” style, reminiscent of innocent childhood memories.
Parents are willing to pay more for carefully curated and high quality pieces, as seen on parenting and lifestyle website Babyccino Kids, where a keep sake box will cost £120 and a girl’s dress will set you back £85. Babyccino Kids sees “100,000 unique visitors a month” (Craik 2016). Founder, Courtney Adamo, says “While Babyccino Kids is style focused, we also believe in letting your kids climb trees and play freely. Most of the brands we work with are created by other mothers who pour so much love into their products, often making them by hand from natural and organic materials. I’d rather invest in products like this than shell out a bunch of money on a status symbol.” It seems Adamo’s 201,000 Instagram followers would agree (Jan 2017).
Finally, the fashion sector is on the whole struggling, yet childrenswear is one sector that has seen a steady growth. Although it slowed during 2016, due to the continued fall in birth rates since 2012. The average age of first time mothers has raised from 28.5 in 2000 to 30.3 in 2015. First time mothers over the age of 35 has increased significantly. (Mintel Childrenswear 2016).
Supermarkets remain popular, with 28 percent of consumers having purchased in store from a supermarket (Mintel Childrenswear 2016). Yet luxury and premium childrenswear brands continue to thrive. The middle market is struggling and it seems in the childrenswear market there are the two extremes of super value prices against luxury prices.
The childrenswear market continues to grow, be it at a slow pace, under a challenging economic climate. There is a shift in attitudes towards gender-neutral clothing for children and clothes that are age appropriate. Parents are seeking clothes that have a nostalgic aesthetic, reminding them of their childhood and of being a child. Parents are willing to pay more for clothing that has been created with love and not mass produced.
Bailey, R. (2011) Baliey Review 2011. Available from <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175418/Bailey_Review.pdf>
Craik, L. (2015) Children’s fashion; small people, big business. Available from <https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/feb/15/childrenswear-childrens-fashion-prince-george-suri-cruise-harper-beckham>
Merrifield. (1853). SOME THOUGHTS ON CHILDREN’S DRESS.
Sender, T (2016). Childrenswear UK November 2016, Mintel.