At Playtime & Kid’s Hub, we value inclusion, acceptance, and mutual respect. In support of May 17th, which is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, we wanted to dive into the trend of gender neutral kid’s fashion. Continuing to grow over the past few years, this trend is surely not going anywhere! As varying gender identities become more widely accepted with each new generation, parents are changing the way they raise and shop for their children. Let’s dive into the history of gender neutral kid’s fashion, explore the reasons behind its return to popularity, and what the parents of tomorrow will be looking for in the brands they shop for their children.
Though gender neutral kid’s fashion seems like a modern trend, its origins go back to the beginning of fashion. When people first started wearing clothes, resources were limited. This made it essential for materials to be used for as long as possible. Continuing in ancient Egypt and the Roman empire, this necessity remained into the 19th century. A matter of practicality above style, both boys and girls were dressed in gender-neutral white dresses into the 1800’s. This silhouette allowed kids to move with freedom and ease, made it easier to toilet train, and adapted more easily to growth spurts, making it the perfect garment for both genders. The undyed fabric was also cheaper and easier to clean, as it could simply be bleached.
At the start of the 1900’s, clothes began to be more gendered. Dresses were reclassified as feminine and boys started wearing trousers at an earlier age. Around the 1940’s, pink was established as a girl color and blue was said to be proper for boys. One societal shift that led to these changes was industrialization. Mass production stepped in to meet the needs of parents that no longer had time to make clothes. As the kid’s market grew, companies started to sell separate clothes for boys and girls to increase their revenue. Especially prevalent in department stores, they could capitalize further on kid’s clothes by offering selections that were gender specific. The general public’s mindset had changed. Little boys became mini-mes of their fathers and girls of their mothers at an earlier age.
As women’s movements began to critique the rigid gender norms that had become the societal standard, there was a spike in gender fluid silhouettes and prints in the 60’s and 80’s. The pendulum then rapidly swung back to heavily gendered silhouettes and colors in the 80’s and 90’s. As we entered the 2000’s, there has been a steady increase in popularity to return to gender neutral clothing. So why the shift back to the unisex looks?
There are several forces driving the shift back towards gender neutral kid’s fashion. One component is a strong push towards more sustainable practices. Unisex clothing generally features looser silhouettes, meaning children can wear them longer as they grow and develop. Unisex collections are less likely to follow fast fashion trends, instead favoring timeless designs. This means they can remain desirable for longer, to be passed down for generations regardless of gender. Along with this reason for genderless clothing, these brands also tend to favor more eco-friendly processes like the use of organic cotton or natural dyes. All of these values tend to be important to the brands and customers that also care about the social shifts driving the market towards unisex fashion as well.
From Caitlin Jenner’s transition to Harry Styles’ gender fluid dressing, society has begun to see there is more to gender. As LGBTQ+ people become parents, the struggles some of them faced as children is influencing how they raise their kids. They are trying to break the cycle of stereotypes inflicted on them as children that made many feel isolated. Many parents today are starting to change the way they talk about gender with their children. Some parents are not using gendered pronouns at all. Instead, they’re waiting until children themselves decide which pronoun they feel corresponds with their identity. Far from being confined to members of the LGBTQ+ community, parents that identify as straight and their birth gender are also following this trend of raising children to explore and discover their identity themselves.
This decision to allow children to select their own pronouns also impacts how these parents shop for their children. One of the terms to describe this new parenting style is “gender-creative.” The idea behind gender-creative parenting is to avoid defining kids as male or female from birth by shopping toys, clothing, and other products that are gender neutral. These parents are either shopping across both categories at gendered retailers or brands, or exclusively buying from brands in line with their views that design unisex collections.
At it’s core, the shift towards gender neutral kid’s fashion is an attempt to set children free of stereotypes to express themselves and explore who they are. Along with the trend of Montessori parenting that is centered around increasing children’s independence, we’re seeing more parents choose to raise their kids in new ways. By letting children dress themselves and shopping unisex fashion, parents are trying to avoid confining their children in stereotypes that had become the norm. An argument for this style of parenting is that it encourage children to imagine any career or life for themselves, free of the gender-based social expectations.
It is so important for children to feel supported as they grow up and explore who they are. Gender neutral kid’s fashion is a great way to encourage them to express themselves and feel comfortable to be who they are. With the added benefit of being more sustainable and economical, unisex products are becoming increasingly popular with each generation. We are so proud to welcome many gender neutral brands to our shows in Paris, Shanghai, and New York this summer, and year round on Orderwizz.
Get your pass to come discover new collections from incredible labels like OXOX Club, Tom & Boy, Letter to the World, and more. If you can’t wait till summer, create your free buyer account to shop gender neutral kid’s fashion on Orderwizz now!