You have a baby girl, you get given pink stuff. Your baby turns out to be fair and blue eyed, you get even more. You have another girl, and still the pink stuff keeps coming. This is a scenario so ubiquitous I could have started with ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged….’ but I’ll spare you the Austenisms.
Pink has become something of a battleground in the years since I became a mother of girls – I was aware of Pink Stinks (though their website seems to be rather dormant now), and also more recently the efforts to reclaim pink as an acceptable colour for men, boys and grown-ups, not just small girls.
I didn’t go into parenthood with any strong feelings for or against pink – after all, I like pink flowers (especially the ones in my favourite local front garden, half way down the hill, where the planting beautifully reflects the sugared-almond pink house).
When it came to wearing pink, clothes are just clothes, I thought; my feelings about gender stereotyping were much more engaged by the Let Toys be Toys campaign, perhaps because I remembered my own diverse childhood interests so vividly.
I was devoted to my dolls house and my Lego townscape, true – in pride of place was the 70s-tastic Snack Bar – but I also played with Space Lego, an awesome toy farm my mum & brother made from papier mâché to house our Britains toy farm vehicles, and of course with Star Wars figures. We didn’t quite have Brio in my era but you can bet I would have played with it if we had.
So the world of gender stereotyping toys is one I felt duty bound to challenge, clothes I was a bit more ambivalent about. We were given such nice clothes, it seemed a shame not to use them – and not all of it was pink, (though quite a lot was). It wasn’t so much a case of shying away from pink, more a question of what to buy to complement all the pink clothes we already owned?
My salvation, when dressing the toddler, became H&M, partly on the grounds that it was the nearest clothes shop with a decent range I could get to by bus, and because it met the brief – lots of tops, dresses and leggings in flexible colours and lengths to work alongside pink. The toddler’s wardrobe staple became black, navy or grey marl leggings, hooded tops, and t-shirts in a variety of stripes, spots, hearts and so on, all of which could be made to work with pink. The toddler, it turned out, was even better at a capsule wardrobe than I was.
It was only the other day, when sorting through yet another load of navy, grey, denim and stripy laundry, that I realised what the problem was. I had started to dress the toddler exactly like me! As pink has started to fade from her wardrobe I only seem to have replaced it with dark and plain colours – where is the joy in that? Why should she have to wear a boring ‘mum uniform’ just because I do?
She needs more bright colours, more patterns, more fun – and now that she is 3, the clothes aimed at her do begin to bother me; far more emphasis on frills, garish glittery logos and slogans and cheap looking Disney rip-off designs. 2 year old girls can wear simple easy-to-wear leggings and t-shirts with no fuss, but it seems 3 year olds have to wear crop tops and frilly vests and flouncy lacy skirts and vacuous slogans – and that bothers me far more than the colour pink itself.
I fear we have to extend our shopping range well beyond H&M to achieve that – which means buying online or travelling further.
The baby sister is faring better with her new outfits, though it is hard to find multi-buys without some element of pink in them:
However we had more success at our recent Jumble Trail where I found some strictly non-pink and very bright and not boring outfits for her:
And of course you can’t go wrong with something hand-knitted by Granny.
I feel like, so far, we’ve tackled the challenge of dressing small girls in a way that neither denies nor overtly emphasises their femininity – it will get harder I’m sure, but for now, I will embrace pink, provided it’s part of a rainbow coalition of colours in our lives – and I’ll try to take a break from all that grey, navy and black. Hell, I even bought myself a red top the other day!