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Uncategorized, What Do You Think?

What Do You Think? Dressing Your Girl in Boys Clothes (or vice versa)

June wearing Sawyer's hand me downs (an outfit he chose).

June wearing Sawyer’s hand me downs (an outfit he chose).

Whether it’s because of hand-me-downs or by choice there are girls out there who wear boys clothes and boys who wear girls clothes.  I never imagined it was such a big deal until the topic blew up on one of my parenting boards so I decided to talk about it today.

I remember when I was growing up, I loved getting hand me downs from a very young age and would wear the clothes even when they were sizes too big.   Up until I was in high school I loved dressing like my parents and wearing their clothing.   I remember my dad and I having matching (purple men’s) Mountain Gear jackets that we wore all the time. My mom and I had an entire collection of sweatshirts from Northern Reflections.

I liked dressing like my parents because they were my role models and so of course I wanted to be like them. Secondly, by the time puberty set in I was developing some body issues, so I loved wearing their big oversized sweatshirts that covered everything (both my parents are larger people). I didn’t identify things as a men’s item or women’s item, just I like it or I don’t like it.  Lucky for me, my mom never gave me a hard time about it, she always said it was up to me what I wanted to wear.  Low and behold, I turned out just fine.

I have taken the same approach with my kids.  I had lots of boys things left over from Sawyer and I never thought twice about having the girls wear them.  Since they are twins and girls, I have been showered with clothes for them so it hasn’t come up much.  I do let Sawyer help pick out their outfits in the morning and sometimes they are, well, um, not what I would choose, but who cares?  When it comes to items like strollers etc.,  I did try to choose gender neutral since I was hoping to reuse them, but we had to buy because of the twins anyways.  One of my bundlers was blue so people always thought one of the twins was a boy.  So what?

Sawyer in an outfit he chose.  He insisted on wearing his tie!

Sawyer in an outfit he chose. He insisted on wearing his tie!

With Sawyer, he has never asked me to buy something that was a girls item, but he does like bright colours including pink and I let him wear them (this kid has a better sense of style than I do!)  He often asks to wear my things like sunglasses or hats and I let him.  I don’t think its a big deal at all.  The other day I was painting my nails and he asked if I could do his too, so I drew a flower on his nails with my nail pen.  He was so happy.

When they get older I will continue to do the same.  If the girls want their big brothers hand me downs that’s cool.  If Sawyer wanted to wear something that was girls I would let him.  I am not sure how I would approach it if he asked me to wear a dress since while I wouldn’t have a problem with it, I know other people would, and I would want to protect him from those naysayers.  I do have limits regarding the weather.  So, for example, if he insists on wearing shorts in the winter that’s fine (I do hide them but sometimes they turn up), but if he wants to go outside he has to put snow pants on.

I feel the same way about hair.  If my daughters want to cut their hair short or he wants to grow his long, I think it is their hair and they should be allowed to do as they like.

I think that part of raising your children should be empowering them and building their self-esteem by letting them make their own choices when it comes to getting dressed.  Really, there are so many more important things to fuss over, let them have this one.

For me the problem is not when they want to wear clothes designed for the opposite sex, it will be when my daughters want to wear clothes that ARE sexy.  While I am all for self-expression,  just the thought of it sets of alarm bells in my head.  When they are older fine, but when I see 11 year olds dressed like they are going to club I silently think “thank goodness that’s not MY daughter” (and yes, I do feel bad about judging, I am just being honest).

So let’s hear it.  Would you let your son wear girl’s clothes or vice versa?  Do you believe in letting your children dress themselves (even when you might not approve)?   Feel free to share any advice or experiences. 


About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


30 thoughts on “What Do You Think? Dressing Your Girl in Boys Clothes (or vice versa)

  1. I don’t mind if my boy wears pink…but daddy does!

    Posted by Marissa Bergen | February 16, 2014, 10:04 am
  2. This was interesting to read because I hadn’t given it any thought. I have 2 boys then a girl and I know I love dressing her in pink and it actually pains me to put her in blue lol (never thought we’d have a girl), she gets hand me down gender neutral stuff (sports shirts, Halloween, etc) from the boys but that’s it. Now if SHE wanted to wear boys stuff and vice versa for the boys I guess that would be alright but to be honest I’d probably try and discourage it. They all play with eachothers toys and watch the same tv shows, but the boys wearing a Barbie shirt just feels like too much.

    Posted by JenM | February 16, 2014, 10:10 am
  3. I have 2 boys and a girl. Being that she’s the youngest she wears their hand me downs- especially the shoes and I could care less. Clothes do not make a person who they are. If anyone has a problem with that is more than welcome to buy my daughter clothing. She wears size 2t (wink)

    Posted by Abby | February 16, 2014, 11:05 am
  4. theres too much emphasis on gender stereotyping these days. I felt bad for buying my daughter a fairy tree house for her birthday as I was worried i was stereotyping her. However she has access to enough trains & planes i don’t worry too mud. Id dress my boy in pink i think he rocks it!!

    Posted by Expat Mammy | February 16, 2014, 12:30 pm
    • That’s awesome! Yeah, have you read that letter the girl wrote to Lego? It’s so awesome. Why do we need “girl” lego anyways. Growing up I always thought Lego was a gender neutral toy??? Go pink!

      Posted by Shannon | February 16, 2014, 2:53 pm
  5. My daughter is 19, my son is 12, they are always digging in each other’s closets. It’s never been an issue, then again, the boy has never picked any “girlie” clothes, t’s, sweats, shorts, the girl likes to wear his western shirts, some of which are PINK. Love when guys wear pink! Always say that when a man wears pink, he’s secure in his masculinity.

    Posted by The Farmer's Daughter | February 16, 2014, 12:40 pm
  6. I dressed my son in boy clothes, simply because that’s all I had. I knew he was going to be a boy when I went to my 20 week ultrasound. Was no mistaking him for a girl, so we just had loads of boy clothes on hand. Even though he was dressed in boy clothes, sometimes saying “I’m One Handsome Little Dude!” or something, people always told me “Your daughter is so precious!” Say what? …I think it was because of his very, very curly hair.

    However, my daughter will wear his hand-me-downs. She has a lot of girly things too, but she loves wearing her brother’s old shirts, and I don’t really care. She had blue blankets, black and red stroller. Whatever was left over, we reused.

    I knew a woman who thought she was having a daughter all through her pregnancy. Bought loads of girl items. When she delivered, she had a son. She just used the girl items she had bought until he finally outgrew them because she wasn’t going to rebuy all over again. First 6 months of his life, he wore pink shirts, flowery pants. No one said anything, at least not when I was around her and her baby.

    Posted by loveandothercrap | February 16, 2014, 1:10 pm
  7. I see no problem with my kids experimenting with styles and colors supposedly destined to a gender. A color is a color full stop. In fact I always bought neutral colors for all my kids and the only pink in P’s closet is from gifts and hands me down. She went through a stage around 2 when she only wanted to wear pink and dresses to my horror! And G, her twin boy, wanted all his stuff to be blue. I am flaggerbasted about it considering we don t have cable tv so they have no access to comnercials or gender specific programs . Probably something they picked at the playground . Also people can be so strange, they assume P is a boy because she is sporting a pixie haircut , has no pierced ears, wears jeans and neutral tops etc. and when I say she is actually a girl. Most people continue ‘you have 3 cute boys’ it s like they refuse to accept/see different ways about what a girl or a boy could look like…

    Posted by redlipstickmama | February 16, 2014, 2:54 pm
    • Don’t feel bad. I once got into a fight with a lady who told me my twins were a boy and a girl. No, I said, it’s two girls. But one is wearing blue she protested. It was a blue dress! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | February 16, 2014, 4:05 pm
  8. I have quite of bit of girls’ clothing but our cousin has given us hand-me-downs from her son. I have no problem with the girls wearing his pants, shirts, pajamas, socks, etc. It shouldn’t matter. I have had elderly people stop me when the girls were younger and Juliette’s hair hadn’t grown in like her sister’s and they would comment on how cute my son was…I remember correcting one woman who looked at me incredulously and asked me if I was sure…to which I told her that I was because a) I gave birth to her and b) I change her diaper several times a day.

    It shouldn’t matter the color or structure of the clothing, what matters is the child having a healthy sense of self and confidence which we as parents should facilitate by being encouraging and supportive regardless of stereotypes and social phobias.

    Posted by Krista | February 17, 2014, 12:22 am
  9. I would be fascinated to hear how this issue blew up on a parenting board. Or any issue, really – I never did understand parenting boards. They do not seem to be “reality-based communities”, although I haven’t visited each last one of them, so maybe I just missed out.

    I don’t see the big deal at all.

    Posted by Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist | February 17, 2014, 12:56 am
  10. I love the freedom you are allowing your children to have. This was a hot topic in one of my classes and I was SO ANGRY I ended up focusing on it as my final paper in the class. My daughter always wants my son’s older character T’s.. that’s about as much of a hand me down she gets. My son likes pink, has a “tough guys wear pink” shirt that his friends at school made fun of him for so he won’t wear it anymore… It’s a shame how restricted kids when it comes to clothing choices/accessories.. Look at department stores.. everything gets separated by boy and girl choices.. it’s very CLEAR what’s acceptable and what’s not for your gender.. 😦

    Posted by ninjasinstitches | February 17, 2014, 7:48 am
    • Wow that’s great that you are so passionate about it. To be honest I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get but it seems most people are pretty liberal on the subject. Clothes are just clothes and colours are just colours. We are the ones who assign them specific meaning. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | February 17, 2014, 9:46 am
      • Exactly! It’s one of the reasons I decided to help start up our college’s “Students Advocating For Gender Equality” I don’t think people realize the burden that men have to stay within their specific gender assigned roles in fear their masculinity would be put into question. My class was very ANTI letting boys dress the way they want to.. They all felt that we as parents shouldn’t be allowing our children to do anything that would make them a target for bullying..I tried to explain that their thought process was giving bullies power over their choices but it fell on deaf ears 😦

        Posted by ninjasinstitches | February 17, 2014, 9:53 am
      • I am so sorry to hear that, but I think it’s wonderful that you decided to make a stand. I am lucky that I live in Toronto where it’s very liberal but I know that it’s not like that everywhere. Cheers!

        Posted by Shannon | February 17, 2014, 9:56 am
  11. I see no problems with it. If the little peanut I’m carrying turns out to be a girl, you can bet she’ll be wearing her brother’s hand-me-downs. I actually think it is more socially acceptable for a girl to wear “boy” clothes or “boy” colors than the opposite, but I don’t see why I would limit my children’s choices in clothing just on account of them not being the “right” color.

    Posted by mommytrainingwheels | February 17, 2014, 9:37 am
  12. Hi I’m a kid who is a girl and I wear boy clothes and I see no difference only a few times wearing my hockey uniform I was called a boy. I’m not ashamed at all for my choice of clothing! I love getting hand me downs from my older brother. I get them all the time. My dad is fine with it but my mom…. I wish she would be more happy about it. I never get made fun of or no boys or girls ask why I wear boy clothes. I actually have a lot of girl friends and boy friends!

    Posted by DaKid | August 14, 2014, 9:45 pm

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