I’m getting close enough to the finish line with this pregnancy that I’ve started sorting through all my stored baby stuff to get it ready to go before the big day. I have tons of great gear stashed away but I’m wofeully understocked in baby clothes. I gave all my newborn sized clothes to my sister who has two kids younger than mine and we have discovered that the lifespan for most newborn clothes is three babies worth. The clothes are all shot, never to be salvaged.
My mom, upon hearing this, heeded the Grandmother Distress Signal and went to some outlets to get me a stash of onsies and footie jammies to start this kid out right. Picking outfits for little, tiny babies is always a fun prospect but my mom ran into an obstacle: a shocking dearth of gender-neutral newborn clothes. I don’t know the gender of my baby so the pre-birth shopping list doesn’t include pink ruffles or blue dump trucks. Unfortunately, that left my mom with very few choices. She actually headed for the exit of one store less than a minute after walking in, prompting the clerk to ask if she needed help finding anything. Mom said “No, I found the baby clothes but they’re all gender specific. And they all say dumb stuff on them.”
The issue of dumb slogans on baby clothes is another subject for another day but the relentless genderizing is just plain frustrating. I was at a big mall this weekend with a girlfriend trying to find one super-adorable outfit for bringing the baby home and hit the same obstacle my mom did: stores have maybe three or four yellow and green options and the rest is a parade of clothes that scream BOY or GIRL. Even colors that aren’t pink or blue seems to have been factioned off into the girl and boy camps. Red has gone Team Girl with a plethora of berries, cherries and flirty-eyelashed lady bugs. Orange is Boys Town and is coupled with blue stripes and appliqued trucks. Brown and turquoise swing both ways but they get paired with colors like pink or images of sporting equipment to make it clear who they’re going home with tonight. Only white, green and yellow are allowed to play the field. And they’re only given a small rack in the center of the baby section from which to meekly state the case for parents who either don’t know their baby’s gender in advance or don’t care to succumb to every stereotype possible.
I was a little shocked at how small the yellow-green-white sections were. I didn’t find out the gender of my son before his birth either and but I remember plenty of happy shopping trips where I sifted through multiple racks of unisex newborn clothes and I had stacks of stuff waiting when we got home from the hospital. I’m not sure what’s happened since that pregnancy in 2007, but apparently retailers have decided that there’s no profit in ambiguity anymore. Either they’re banking that parents like me will buy just a few things before birth then go nuts once the gender is revealed or there aren’t enough families skipping the genital-reveal at 20 weeks to make it worth catering to us.
When I complained about this on Facebook, a few friends sent me links to online retailers who had better selections of clothes that stuck with the theme of Baby instead of Let Me Tell You What Gender My Baby Is. And while those clothes were really cute, they were also a lot more expensive than the mainstream stuff I was seeing. I’m willing to splurge on maybe one expensive outfit but not a whole layette. Not for my last baby who will outgrow everything before I can even blink. I’d rather put that money into a 529 for college than pricey newborn outfits that will just get poop-stained.
Well, the joke’s on the mainstream retailers because pre-baby is the only shopping I’m likely to do. If I have a boy, I have clothes sized 6 months and up already. And boy or girl, I have friends who are done having kids and are happy to give gender-specific hand-me-downs to me. My baby shopping after the baby comes with just be diapers and wipes. The big retailers’ only window of opportunity with this customer is closed, with its pink and blue curtains drawn shut.
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