The Psychology of Gender and Clothes Sorting

A few weeks ago our baby girl finally moved up a clothing size.  She’ll be 11 months old tomorrow, but she’s on her own little growth curve, so at 13.5 lbs she’s now moving up from 0-3 months to 3-6 month size.  This mama was excited!! I was excited about not only the growth itself (we encourage that in our kids) but also because I could unpack a whole new set of adorable outfits. Sorting clothes is a special event for a mom, even for someone like me with absolutely no interest in fashion. I can gladly spend a few hours marveling at the smallness of the clothes my kids used to fit into and shaking my head in wonder at the gigantic clothes I have set aside for their future use.

The real challenge is in sorting clothes by gender. As I pack away Rowan’s outgrown clothes, I sort them into boxes based on whether June could use them in the future.  We don’t truly need them as we have more than enough “girl” clothes for June generously provided by friends and family, but we use Rowan’s hand-me-downs as back-up outfits for the diaper bag.  She ends up in them pretty frequently on our day-long hospital excursions though.

When sorting, I find a few that are decidedly boy clothes.

Likewise some of June’s are decidedly girl clothes.

But most clothing falls into a gray area of items that were designed for a certain gender, but nothing truly bars it from being used by the opposite sex. 

These seem pretty gender neutral, but I assume that the simple cut of the clothes and its lack of bright, frilly embellishments give away that it’s a “boy” shirt because invariably when I put them on her, people think she is a boy.  I actually don’t mind her being mistaken for a boy, but the mistaken people sometimes seem very embarrassed so I try to avoid it.

Then there are shirts like this one.  

The blue is certainly intended for a boy, but I have a hard time putting this in the “boy” bin because I am not going to presume that my daughter might not like trains or, more importantly, might not become an engineer like her Dada. (Or like the engineer of a train, same principle applies.) Thanks to increasing awareness and changes in societal attitudes, it’s now possible to find “girl” shirts with monster trucks on them or lighthearted predictions about heading for the predominantly-male STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) but these articles of clothing are still few and far between.  And I wouldn’t necessarily seek those out either- I’d just like to give her a chance to choose whether she likes trucks and trains and sports and science rather than removing all references to these things from her environment by sticking with stuff marketed to girls. Who knew sorting clothes could be fascinating, frustrating, and even a little tricky?  

One thought on “The Psychology of Gender and Clothes Sorting

  1. I've heard people talk about this more and more! I think it's good that people become more aware too of these gender biases. Of course the overly boyish or girly stuff is cute on kids, but it does seem good to have stuff for sale that breaks stereotypes too! So I have caught up on your whole blog!!! Yay!!! It's been so fun and inspiring to read! I did wonder if you were going to post an update to your experiments on using a smart phone less! You hinted that you may give an update on that experiment a year later. That was so cool that you made those changes! I think I could benefit from that too so that I could learn to be more in the moment!


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