At least once a year, we learn of some major retail fail when it comes to girls' clothing. A couple of years ago, JC Penney advertised a T-shirt that read, "I'm too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me." This summer, retailer The Children's Place was forced by intense social media backlash to pull its own sexist shirt decorated with a checklist of girls' favorite topics. Shopping, music, and dancing were all checked off, while the box next to math was left conspicuously empty.
Less blatant, but still aggravating, are the aisles of clothing in pink and purple – often embellished with sparkles and satin – that fill most major clothing stores at back-to-school time. Girls who want something a little less-Disney Princess usually end up in the boys' section. The fit may be off, but at least the cuts are more comfortable, not to mention the choice of colors is a little more expansive.
Last spring, Sharon Choksi, a mom from Austin, Texas, took matters into her own hands and launched retail website with her sister, graphic designer Laura Burns, and brother, David Burns, an architect. Her blog calls the site, dubbed Girls Will Be, the "headquarters for girls without the girly." She told the American-Statesman that she was inspired by her 8-year-old daughter, Maya, who rejected all things pink and purple when she was only 3. The name "Girls Will Be" is meant to encourage girls to fill in the blank: Girls will be rocket scientists, marine biologists, opera singers, or whatever it is they choose.
Initially, Choksi curated cool items, such as backpacks decorated with sharks or dinosaur bones, from other companies, but just in time for the new school year, she's launched her own T-shirt line. The designs include dogs, robots, caterpillars, and a giant exclamation point, among others. The look is gender-neutral, but the fit is cut for girls sizes 2 to14.
Choksi isn't the first entrepreneur to sell T-shirts aimed at helping girls to dream bigger and break out of Barbie's dream house. In 2009, another mother, Melissa Wardy, started Pigtail Pals because she was, as she notes on her website, on a "mission to Redefine Girly! I believe girls need to see messages in early childhood that show females being smart, daring, and adventurous. As the saying goes, 'You can't be what you can't see.'"
Both companies are currently limited to T-shirts and sweatshirts, which are relatively inexpensive for a startup retailer to produce. But wouldn't it be great if mainstream brands took notice and broadened their lines to include fun, durable clothing that didn't try to all make girls look like little dolls or pop stars?