Over the weekend John Lewis announced that it would be scrapping its boys and girls labels on clothing and putting all the childrenswear into one section. Their own brand clothing would simply say “girls & boys” or “boys & girls”. No longer would kidswear be defined by gender based on colour or style. Styles hadn't changed - John Lewis was simply proving that children could wear anything they liked - we don’t need shops to tell us what is for boys and what is for girls.
Caroline Bettis, the head of childrenswear at John Lewis, said: “We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear.”
It generated more views and comments that any article I have posted before - and opinions are divided. There are those, like me, who fully support the move, and others who either don’t understand the importance of this move and think it is unnecessary. Those that feel by removing labels the shopping experience will become confusing and our children will grow up unable to buy clothes that suit them. Who knew that childrenswear could be so divisive??
Let Clothes Be ClothesLet Clothes Be Clothes has been around a while and calls on retailers in the UK to support choice and end the use of gender stereotypes in the design and marketing of children's clothes. It is a brilliant cause and great news that a large retailer like John Lewis is finally on board with this.
Let Clothes Be Clothes has been tirelessly on the media circuit since the story broke over the weekend. Responding to tweets, comments and blogs and even appears on Good Morning Britain to ‘debate’ the issue with Piers Morgan.
It's not about dressing girls in boys clothes or boys in girls clothes. It's about creating clothes that are equal. Clarks recently launched it's new school shoes - the boys shoe was called 'Leader' and the girls was called 'Dolly Babe' and this "future footballers wife' hat was recently seen on sale at a National Trust park. Boys t-shirts are emblazened with slogans like "cheeky chappy" or "trouble is my middle name" - reinforcing the gender stereotypes.
But all this talk of genderless kids and boys in dresses just detracts from the real story. That children deserve equal choices. They deserve to be able to choose and wear exactly what they like.
It isn’t a new concept. Unisex and gender neutral clothing has been around a while - but maybe people were unaware that there are lots of smaller companies fighting this fight. John Lewis is just one more string to our bow!
The Best Unisex Clothing
Whilst the world discusses and debates the pros and cons of removing labels from kidswear I want to share with you a few of my favourite brands. These retailers and small business all sit alongside Tutti Frutti Clothing making clothes for children. So grab a cup of tea (and maybe your purse!) and take a look through these great unisex brands...
Tootsa is a gorgeous brand the markets its kids clothing and accessories as “stylish, practical, colourful, hard wearing and designed to be worn by both girls and boys alike.” Their website doesn't have a boys and girls section and what’s more all of their clothing is ethically made too! I adore this otter jumper and their new winter coats are just gorgeous.
Vicky at JJ Jiraffe make awesome, colourful clothes. Like me, she is a work-at-home-mum with a real passion for clothes that are fun and practical. Over on her facebook page she has a great back to school sale on - so grab a bargain before the sale ends! She is also the maker of the best dino hoodies I have ever seen!
I don’t think any list would be complete without mentioning Fred and Noah. Natalie at Fred and Noah makes unisex baby leggings up to age 4 and has recently started manufacturing the cutest leather boots too. Fred and Noah are hugely popular on the handmade scene - why not check them out at https://fredandnoah.com/
One of the biggest names on the list is Little Bird. Designed by Jools Oliver for Mothercare, the range of bright clothing in some super unisex designs has developed an almost cult like following. Rainbow t-shirts and unisex jogging bottoms sit alongside retro wellies and hoodies. There are also some great socks, shoes and undies in the range.
What about me?
As a mum to a boy and two girls and a childrenswear seller, I am full of praise for John Lewis for this bold move. The sea of navy and khaki joggers in the boys clothing sections was what prompted me to start sewing for my children in the first place. Then, as my girls grew I realised that the “Little Princess” slogan t-shirts were just not for me and my range expanded into cool dresses and leggings that every child can easily and comfortably wear.
I made a conscious effort at the start of my small business journey not to separate my clothing into boys and girls. You can shop by age or style on the Tutti Frutti Clothing website but not gender.
The recently re-launched leggings are great for both sexes. One style for all children you can choose from the ever popular organic rainbows or the new lightning print leggings. Our unisex raglan t-shirts prove that you don’t need different cuts or style for boys and girls. I have designed everything I make in practical, child-friendly styles using ethically sourced and manufactured GOTS certified organic or Oeko-tex 100 certified fabric. It is also all currently all handmade by me in my Hertfordshire home.
Onwards and upwards! We need to keep sharing the word that children deserve choice. They don’t need to be pigeon holed into pink and blue boxes. They can wear anything they want and do anything they want - don’t restrict them with slogans before they can decide for themselves.