With the rise of online shopping and many fast fashion options for people to shop from, the clothing industry has been rapidly growing each year. Clothes for all seasons, in all colours and styles are just a click away. The rise of the online shopping empire has also brought certain problems in clothing to light, making some red flags impossible to ignore.
As children, we are taught to distinguish between male and female. It might not be done formally or blatantly, but children are taught to look for certain gender determining factors – and one of those factors is clothing. Clothing is used to distinguish between the genders, and this is typically done through colour and style. The most common example is the colours blue and pink. Blue indicates a male while pink indicates a female. Skirts and bows are worn by girls, and pants and ties are worn by boys. Girls wear heels while boys wear boots. Such gender-based clothing norms are instilled in our minds from a young age, affecting our idea of what others should wear and how we dress ourselves. Media and clothing brands utilize gender stereotypes while designing and marketing clothing, making it very difficult to escape gender norms in clothing.
Sexualization of female clothing
Perhaps one of the biggest issues in the fashion industry, girls’ clothes are often sexualized. While it is true that after puberty, the physical shape of one’s body changes based on gender, creating the need for some variations in clothing (which is up to the comfort of the individual), children from around 10 years and younger are typically the same size and shape. According to an article by Stanford Children’s Health, children will reach puberty around the age of 10, triggering hormonal and physical changes in their body. But before then, both boys and girls are essentially similar in body dimensions. However, many clothing brands enforce gender stereotypes onto children from the moment they are born. A father voiced his experience of shopping for his newborn daughter on TikTok, which turned heads and raised questions as to why children’s clothes sexualize girls. He pointed out how clothing for newborn girls is visibly smaller than those for boys, even though baby boys are a max of ½ inch taller than baby girls. He continued to question why all the clothing options for girls are hyper-pink, frilly, and sparkly while the options for boys included dinosaurs and functional pockets. Gender specific clothing has allowed clothing brands to print wording on clothes that promote the idea of girl’s being objectified. An example that was given was a shirt for a newborn that had, “sorry boys, daddy says no dating.” Although it may seem cute at first read, such texts bring up some disturbing questions. Why is dating automatically associated with girls? Who is even looking to date a newborn baby? This text pointed out the societal expectation of girls being submissive and obedient – something that negatively harms a girl’s self-esteem.
Another interesting point that this father made was that clothing for girls were form fitting and revealing. A blog writer on Huff Post also wrote about how disturbed she was to find that the shirts made for a girl were significantly smaller and narrower than those for a boy of the same age. Shorts for a girl had 1 inch inseam and the boy short’s inseam was 7 times longer. This idea that a girl’s body is meant to be displayed has propelled the making of shorter skirts, shorts, and shirts for girls. Furthermore, the Pink Tax is implemented on female clothing. Pink tax is the tendency for products targeted towards women to cost more than those targeted towards men. In terms of clothing, statistics show that women’s clothes cost 8% more for women than men.
Breaking societal stereotypes surrounding clothing
As we move towards the future, there has been more pressure on the fashion industry to produce gender-neutral clothing options. Men want to wear skirts and heels just as much as women want to wear ties and boots. There has been a movement amongst celebrities to challenge the gender norms that are placed upon us. For example, Harry Styles, a singer, posed for a magazine cover in a dress which was applauded by many people. Billie Eilish, who is also a singer, is known for her signature dressing style of loose sweats and hoodies, challenging the idea of traditional feminine clothing. Men in the Korean music industry are also praised for proudly dressing in clothing that was labelled as ‘female’, such as skirts and crop tops. All this change is bringing a positive shift in gender norms, straying away from harmful stereotypes. It’s time that the fashion industry gave children and adults the ability to wear what makes them comfortable.