This past September, Clothes Without Limits, a collective of ten independent, women-led small businesses, joined together to do what mainstream retailers aren’t – give girls a wider range of clothing options that reflect their varied interests. From atom dresses to dinosaur leggings, from longer shorts for active girls to t-shirts with empowering themes, the progressive entrepreneurs are expanding the definition of what it means to dress “like a girl.”
Through this initiative the women are also bringing much needed attention to the impact that messages on girls’ clothing can have on girls, while creating options that allow them to express their passions in everything from science and sports, to engineering and math (until now, subjects found almost exclusively in the boys’ section).
“Look at any mainstream retailer and you would believe girls only like ponies, kittens, and rainbows. But any parent will tell you that girls like so much more – they are also aspiring scientists, athletes, and leaders,” says Sharon Choksi, co-founder of Girls Will Be and founding member of Clothes Without Limits.
After its successful back-to-school launch, the group was bombarded by requests from shoppers clamoring for more stereotype-free clothing. So in an effort to make it easier for interested consumers to browse all of the like-minded brands at one time, as opposed to going to individual sites, Clothes Without Limits just created a Pinterest page that functions as a one-stop-shop for finding clothes that break the mold.
There are more than 20 boards so consumers can browse by category (like outer space or animals) or age (from babies to teens and even adults). The page also includes additional brands that have recently joined the growing collective. Seeing so many stereotype-busting clothing brands together is inspiring indeed!
“We all want to make sure every child can find clothes with the themes and colors and styles they love, but individually none of us can possibly afford to offer all the various combinations,” Sharon told WYSK. “But with Clothes Without Limits, we are making sure kids have the widest range of options possible.”
The women behind the brands first joined forces to help empower kids to be themselves, but by working together, they are now empowering and inspiring each other… and all of us!
Meet the founding members
Malorie Catchpole & Jennifer Muhm, co-founders, buddingSTEM
“From a very early age, little girls are sent a message that there are specific things for boys and specific things for girls. These messages shape how a little girl sees herself and her role in the world. buddingSTEM shows girls that wanting to wear a dress doesn’t t mean you don’t want to dig for dinosaurs or ride a rocket into space.” – Malorie
“The most important thing about starting buddingSTEM is what we have shown our daughters and all girls: that if something isn’t right in the world, you can do something about it. You can be a leader and work to change it.” – Jennifer
“We start pigeonholing our children basically from the moment they’re born. Even the animals on boys’ baby and toddler clothes hold sports gear and wear sunglasses, while the animals on the girls’ versions are glammed up with rosy cheeks, red lips, and long eyelashes. For every ‘Too Cute to Do Homework’ t-shirt telling my daughter that cuteness and brains are mutually exclusive, there should be a ‘Smart Girls Club’ t-shirt that says the opposite. When boys’ sections are devoid of cat t-shirts while droves of pink, glittery cat shirts filled the girls’ section, I want to fill that gap with a really cool cat shirt for my son. And I think messages like ‘Love Is My Superpower’ are the necessary antidote to racks full of ‘Troublemaker’ and ‘Eat My Dust’ shirts that distance boys from their true kind hearts. ”
Sharon Choksi & Laura Burns, co-founders, Girls Will Be
“I knew something had to change when my young daughter kept asking me ‘Why do boys get all the cool stuff?’ That was not the message I wanted her taking away from our shopping trips! But I could see where it was coming from, because the things she loved – like science, sharks, and baseball – only showed up in the boys department. And she had no interest in the pink and sparkles and ruffles and bows that adorned virtually everything in the girls department. I wanted to create clothes that would show girls there is more than one way to be a girl, and, hopefully, give them the confidence to be themselves.” – Sharon
Jo Hadley, founder, Handsome in Pink
“I started Handsome in Pink back in 2007 because my 2 ½ year old son loved pink and my 4-year-old daughter wanted to rule the world. Kids’ clothing options at the time were a bunch of stale, outdated messages that told boys to be smart, tough jocks and told girls to be pretty little princesses. I knew these messages were just a reflection of the older generation and that this fresh, new wave of kids deserved to grow up with so much more! It’s 2015, let’s dress like it!”
Jenn Neilson, founder, Jill and Jack Kids
“When I first started shopping for kids’ clothing before my daughter was born, I found the staggering uniformity within the boys’ and girls’ sections deeply troubling. Not only are the available options extremely limited, they reinforce harmful and outdated ideas about gender, and teach children that there is only one set of interests that are appropriate for either a boy or a girl. But if we want the world to have a bright future, we need more girls who know that they can solve tough, real world problems, and more boys who are interested in collaboration, not just competition. To get there, we need to change the messages that we are sending to kids. More and better clothing options are just the beginning.”
Rebecca Melsky & Eva St. Clair, co-founders, Princess Awesome
“If we want girls to become anything they want to be, then we need to have products that tell them being a girl is compatible with what interests them. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch little girls wear our dresses and say, ‘When I wear my dress, I feel like me!’” – Eva
“I feel strongly that girls shouldn’t have to choose between wearing ‘girly’ things and wearing things with math, science, dinosaurs – or anything! Because topics like that are not gendered even though childrens’ products are marketed that way. I want my daughter to know that she can wear dresses and love frills and also kill it in math class or on the soccer field.”- Rebecca
Michele Yulo, founder, Princess Free Zone
“I started Princess Free Zone in 2009 with a mission of providing greater options for girls after realizing how large companies limit children to specific stereotypes. I believe that both girls and boys need to have the freedom to make their own choices when it comes to how they see themselves.”
Martine Zoer, founder, Quirkie Kids
“When we label something as for boys or for girls, we not only tell kids what they should like, but also what they shouldn’t. I want better for my boys. I want them to be able to go into a store and pick what they like without feeling self conscious. Boys shouldn’t have to shop in the girls’ department when they want something pink or shiny. Just like girls shouldn’t have to shop in boys’ department when they want something with a dinosaur or space theme.”
Gina Dobson, founder, Sunrise Girl
“I see young girls as these amazing powerhouses, full of energy, determination, passion and courage and it’s my goal to create shirts designs that reflect all that so girls will see themselves in our shirt designs and feel proud of what they can do. My own two daughters, their friends, and their classmates were the inspiration for Sunrise Girl. They are the real girls whose wide variety of interests and abilities we’ve featured on our first line of shirts. Sunrise Girl is about highlighting how many different ways there are to be a girl and celebrating all the amazing things girls can do.”