There's Hope, Part 2: Clothes for Girls

About Christina

First, can we please start all posts with this?

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We can? Because it's our website, and we love it? Oh, goody!

Now that that's settled, let's talk girl clothes. By which I mean clothes that girls can wear. By which I mean any and all clothes they want to. By which I mean let's talk clothes.

Although it's harder for little girls in a patriarchal society in general, I think that in the question of clothing there is actually more wiggle room for freedom and personal preference for girls than there is for boys. The performance of masculinity through fashion is far more restricted and policed for boys than it is for girls, although it's still challenging for little girls to defy gender norms via their clothes. For example, on the first day of school in the 6th grade I wore a tie to school. It was kicky and edgy and I loved it, and BOY HOWDY did I catch hell from my fellow middle schoolers for wearing it.* But imagine a boy wearing a dress on the bus to the first day of middle school. Is it near impossible? Did you conjure physical violence in your head? Calls home? Demands to change clothing? See? It's different. This divide in sartorial freedom is the same with even littler littles. My girls are able to shop and wear from the boys' section more easily than a boy can shop and wear from the girls' section. Because our culture allows for the notion of little girls being tomboys (As long as they grow out of it! Scout has to become Jean Louise at some point), but has no real corollary for boys who want to express their masculinity in nontraditional ways, it's easier for little girls to break the rules and wear what they want. Girls in overalls? So sassy! Boys in tutus? Call the doctor!

So, I can (and will!) show you feminist clothing for strong girls and boys, but I'd feel disingenuous if I didn't acknowledge that this particular issue really isn't as germane to girls as it is to boys. Because girls can get away with shopping from the boys' section so much more easily than boys can get away with shopping in the girls section, really all clothing options are girls' clothing options. And, shoot, The Gifting Holidays are a-comin'! So, here are some great shopping choices for your Smartlings, whatever their gender (all photos are owned by the companies respresented in their associated links):


You should all know this website regardless of this shopping post because it's a great resource to find all kinds of girl-postive books, media, gear, and parenting advice. The site's clothing selection is vast and wide-ranging, so there's a ton to choose from. Some of my favorites are below.

Three of a Kind Shirt Oh, dammit. I thought I was finished shopping for Livy, and now I find this. She's always loved Wonder Woman and was Batgirl for Halloween, but only because she couldn't find a Supergirl costume that she loved. And in this shirt, friends, is the Holy Trinity of Livy's superheroine loves. As soon as I'm finished writing this, I'm just going to click "Add to Cart" because there is no better shirt for her than this.

I Know I Play Like A Girl (Try to Keep Up) Shirt

I mean, I don't even play soccer, and I want to wear this.**

Girls Heart Rockets Shirt

It's adorable, and it's true. Girls DO heart rockets, because rockets are cool and girls like cool things. Wear it loud and proud rocket girls!


While it's not specifically feminist or girl-oriented, I'm grateful to Primary as a source for non-pastel, non-pink dresses. It's easy enough to buy shirts for my younger daughter Madeline, whose favorite color is bright Kelly green, in the boys' section. But when she asked for a green dress, and all I could find was mint, I knew I needed to look harder. Enter Primary, which offers high-quality cotton clothing for girls and boys in a rainbow of colors. Green dress? No problem!


I feel a little conflicted including this site in the list because its purpose is to put gender-neutral images or images generally present in boys' clothing onto pink and purple backgrounds. And while I hate the assumption that all little girls only like pink and purple, or are only supposed to wear pink and purple, I also understand that this is simply true for some girls. So, here. If you have a boy in your life who loves pink and fire engines (or police cars, or dinosaurs, or sports), woohoo! You're saved! If you have a girl in your life who will only wear pink, but likes fire engines, etc., then you're set. If she'll wear any other color (and there are so many other colors to wear! Why not encourage that?), then you can easily shop in the boys' section like I do for Madeline's firefighter gear.

It's a pink fire engine. My ambivalence cannot be measured, but if you need it here it is.


We've bought from the science-themed graphic t-shirts available in the Land's End boys' section for years. They're specific and factually accurate, well-made, and some glow in the dark, plus shopping with the girls in the boys' section has led to rich and interesting conversations about gender norms and how science is for everyone regardless of what retailers would have us believe. In response to being called on their gender stereotyping in children's clothing by a better and more socially and politically engaged mother than I, Land's End is now offering better science shirts in its girls' section. So, if it's important to your little girls that their clothing come from the girls' section, you have options here now, too. Some follow below.

Lunar Eclipse Shirt

Planetary Size Chart T-Shirt

Glow-in-the-Dark Rocket T-Shirt


Out of Print Clothing offers shirts, mugs, totebags, and other items with beautiful images inspired by great books. While not oriented specifically toward girls, there is a great selection of books written by women and with female protagonists available. Like, say, this one, which we own...

Madeline Shirt

... and this one, which we also own.

Olivia Shirt, made by Out of Print but currently sold only through Amazon (Did Ian Falconer give his rights to the image exclusively to Gymboree when they launched their Olivia-themed line? What gives?)

There you all go! Some options for girls' clothing that are empowering and well outside the realm of traditional princesses and rainbows. My general advice is to simply shop according to your child's interests (Fire engines! Dinosaurs! Music! Intergalactic Warriors!) across clothing sections until you find what you're looking for. Find your kid's verb, and then use that as a guideline in your shopping regardless of your kid's gender or retailers' notions of gender. But my specific advice, in the absence of time and energy to pursue specifically themed items, for girls is to shop from the resources listed above. It's all good stuff for our awesome girls, which is exactly what they deserve.

*Two of the most outspoken critics of my first-day outfit later asked me out in high school. It was pure bliss shooting them down. Just pure, complete pleasure.

**But I do want to quickly share another middle school memory. On the soccer field one day, all the boys were calling each other pussies, as they always did with a volume and frequency that made one marvel at the lung capacity that allowed them to do it while running. In a rare moment of physical coordination, I stole the ball from one of them and yelled "How's that for a pussy?" as I kicked the ball in the opposite direction. It was a short-lived glory, but a treasured one.