A pretty pants shopping trip

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Taking your toddler to buy their first pair of proper pants isn’t quite on a par with a first bra fitting, is it? At two, they’re over a decade away from being aware enough to suffer the same red-faced mortification and spine tingling embarrassment as a teenager. But as Eliza and I approached the shops on a ‘grown-up pants’ buying mission, it still seemed like a sweet rite of passage, all the same.

With the dreaded potty training underway, ahead of the shopping trip we’d decided to bite the ‘no cartoon clothes’ bullet and go for character knickers. After some discussion about which ones she wanted, Eliza named her wish list as Thomas the Tank, anyone from Cars and Neep from Abney and Teal. I figured Neep might be quite niche, but we had a decent shot of getting one of the other two….right?

So we trundled up to the shops, starting at *unnamed big brand children’s retailer.* We located the underwear display at the back, neatly swerved the tempting toy display, and approached.

It was a huge wall of pants. There were three different sorts of Thomas, Cars, George Pig waving a dinosaur, and even new favourite Fireman Sam. Bold, bright colours. Great! I thought. Easy.

But oh wait…what’s this? I suddenly realised. Oh right; These are the BOYS pants. And as much as I normally buy her tops and leggings and jumpers from either department – or preferably online from retailers that don’t make a distinction – I wasn’t sure boys pants would fit well or be at all comfortable.

So bracing myself, I looked in the other direction to locate the ones for girls. And was hit by the inevitable. There was Minnie Mouse. Fairies. Dancing bunnies. A pack of Disney Princesses. Any cartoon character you liked, as long as they were female and you wanted it in pastels and pink.

“Where are the Thomas pants, Mummy?” Eliza asked, as I desperately scanned for something, anything that might fit. But no. So we bid a hasty retreat.

We went in four different stores after that, but it was all the same depressing story. Red and blue Thomas, Sam, Cars, Angry Birds for boys. And pink, fairies and Disney for girls. And the girls pants were all so, well girly. Swirly patterns, and lace, and bows. Incredibly feminine. With a hint of white or purple pastels, if you were lucky.

As Eliza was becoming a dangerous combination of both bored and tearful, I grabbed the nearest and most suitable, a pack of pink Peppas. One pair even bearing the nauseating legend ‘I’m so pretty’, I found out at home. Don’t get me wrong, she loves Peppa. It just wasn’t what she wanted.

I didn’t name any of the retailers in this sorry story, as I imagine they are all much the same. But come on guys, there must be a demand. Eliza loves Peppa and Holly as much as Ben, George Pig, Thomas, and Sam. And where’s the choice for boys? Toddler boys watch and love exactly the same cartoons. And would surely welcome Peppa, or Holly, or someone from Frozen.

It’s not a great situation, is it? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be pink pants for girls, or that lots of girls don’t like princesses. They do and that’s fine. But it should just be one option available from a whole rainbow. What lesson are we teaching our little future feminists if they do have a choice, as long as it’s pink (or possibly white)?

I know it’s not a huge thing to get my knickers in a twist about. But why are we unnecessarily pigeonholing our children with something as trivial as pants, at such an early age?

Why not just let pants be pants, and children be children?

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I'm an early thirty-something new mum writing about pregnancy, babies and life living in our little corner of London.

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27 thoughts on “A pretty pants shopping trip”

  1. I hadnt considered that the fit of boys pants might be different to girls. Totally with you on this one, such a shame thay E couldnt select the ones she wanted :(

    1. I think I’m just going to get the boys ones next time – sounds like they’re not that different. It’s such a shame, isn’t it? If the choice is get something pink / female for girls or blue / male for boys (or something plain) it’s not really a choice at all x

  2. Funny, I’ve been saying this exact thing a lot lately. We are lucky that Thomas was initially highly satisfied with his haul of “Thomas” pants. But then came the day last week that he wanted something else – specifically Peppa (it’s a new thing for him). I was shocked at how challenging finding boys’ Peppa pants was – after all, surely it’s a pretty unisex programme? It’s not just for girls simply because the main character is pink and female! We finally found some in Mothercare, but I was annoyed to discover they all had pictures of George on them – no actual Peppa in sight. Why???

    To be honest though, at this age, I think you’ll get away with boys pants on a girl. They don’t have “openings” yet and the main difference I can see is that boys pants have more robust looking elastic (surely a good thing for toddlers) and seem less flimsy somehow! They may be a bit.. erm… baggy, at the front, but after wearing nappies I’m sure most kids won’t care!

    Perhaps plain pants and iron-on transfers are the way forward?! I know it seems daft to get worked up about underwear, but it’s important if you’re a little person!

    Hope the potty training is going well!

    1. It is so ridiculous, isn’t it – Peppa is surely one of the most popular cartoon characters for both sexes. How can you say to boys ‘no you can’t have Peppa, because she’s a girl = you must have George instead.’ What message is that sending? I’m going to get the boys ones next time I reckon; for some reason I thought they’d be very different and uncomfortable, but it seems not. It is important if you’re little, isn’t it? And it’s important for them to have the choice. THANK YOU so much for all your tips the other night. Going to give it go #2 tomorrow as it’s a non-nursery day x

  3. Same here!! We’re about to start potty training and my boy loves Peppa Pig… He doesn’t love the lame baby sidekick! He loves Peppa!!! Why can’t she be on boy pants?! I hate that our babies are segregated at such a young age :(

  4. I’ve never even thought of this before because despite me always having all choices of toys available Cherry’s always been naturally geared towards anything pink, as in if it’s not pink she won’t even consider wearing it. It’s awful though and something should be done, maybe you should start something?! x

    1. I wonder if Mary Portas would make some?! It’s such short sightedness on the part of the retailers, as there must be a demand and they’re missing out on all the potential sales…x

  5. I have to say, my three have never been bothered, we tend not to buy stuff with characters on anyway, so they jsut pick the pack with colours/patterns that they like!

    1. We’re not big fans of cartoony things, but wanted to make an exception with pants so she’d be really excited about them. I just think it’s really important that they should not be pigeonholed at this age by silly gender ‘norms’ and be able to have the choice, if they want, and not be told ‘that’s only for boys…that’s only for girls.’ x

  6. I never even considered involving Pip in the pants shopping – I did it in my lunchbreak and just bought 15 pairs of plain white. They wash so well. I also got some quite pretty polka dot ones, blue & white, purple & white etc from a supermarket.

    I did almost buy boys ones (plain brightly coloured) but thought they would show through her clothes.

    Sorry, complete bug bear of mine to have any cartoon characters on underwear…

    1. We wanted her to be really involved in the process and get to pick her own so she’d be excited about them – I hate cartoony clothes normally, but wanted it to be her choice (and it does seem to work as she gets very excited about her ‘Peppa pants’ which I don’t think she would with plain ones). If I’m a fan of cartoony clothes or not, it does seem so silly that they are so gendered and there’s no choice – for either sex x

  7. it makes me so sad that there’s so many gender stereotypes in young kids clothes! characters or not, there should definitely be a wider variety of themes and colours and less focus on ‘cars are for boys, princesses are for girls’ type thinking/forcing.

    1. I know, it’s so ridiculous isn’t it? It’s such a silly thing at such a young age. There should be more choice for everyone x

  8. My 3 year old girl has a mix of both boy and girl pants, they’re exactly the same size and there’s no difference between them whilst they’re this small. I guess at some point we will have to buy ‘girls’ pants but I’m in no rush to do it now. Today she was sporting Jake and the Neverland Pirate pants and yesterday it was Minnie Mouse.

  9. I’m so pretty! Uch, gag. I hate that things are so separated for boys and girls, it’s ridiculous. Why are trains for boys anyway? It’s so frustrating. It’s hard trying to stay away from gendered crap, because it creeps into every area of parenting, even knickers!

  10. I am so with you on this one. The first thing I thought when I saw the picture at the top of this post was, “How did she manage to find girls pants in such awesome colours?”

    I had this issue when shopping for pyjamas for Talitha for Christmas in John Lewis. The girls’ options were so samey and uninspiring so I went over to the boys’ section and got some Gruffalo ones instead. It really annoyed me because girls love The Gruffalo as much as boys do and lots of boys love fairies, etc. This is exactly how children get socialised into restrictive gender norms.

    As for pants though, my friend’s 4-year-old daughter wears boys’ pants because they don’t have the elastic which irritates her skin so maybe they’re even more comfortable.

    1. Oh yes, pyjamas too! How can the Gruffalo be considered a boys thing? It’s just a book. So silly. Lots of people have said boys ones should be OK, so we’ll just get those next time I reckon.

  11. Great post – this is something we’ve got coming up, as potty traning isn’t too far away now. And I’ve got a feeling I’m going to echo everything you’ve said.

    I’m not a fan of cartoon characters on kids’ clothes, but I can see how it can help with potty training if you’ve got them on pants – but when the choice is only Minnie Mouse, Hello Kitty and fairy princesses, it drives me mad. Her current favourite film is Cars as well… so maybe it’s going to be boys’ pants for us as well. There’s nothing wrong with pink obviously, but when it’s *only* pink (or lilac), it drives me mad.

    1. Hello, thanks so much for the comment. I’m not a fan of cartoony clothes either but it does seem to help (E gets really excited about her ‘Peppa pants’ after the initial disappointment). I know, and when it’s the only choice it’s not a choice really. Seems so silly as so many girls must love Cars / Thomas etc too – such a missed opportunity for retailers.

  12. I never thought that the pants must be differently shaped for boys and girls! I totally know what you mean though, when I found out we were having a boy (embarrassingly) one of my thoughts where ‘uh boys clothes are awful compared to girls’ but actually I’ve found the opposite in most shops, boys get the nice patterns and girls are full of butterflies! bit crap isn’t it x

    1. Lots of people have said that she should actually be OK in boys ones though, so might buy those next time. Yes, so many butterflies! I always buy from both sections (my mum actually always complains that E looks very ‘boylike’ which makes me laugh) x

  13. Oh that is so sweet she asked for the Thomas The Tanks ones :) I just buy them when doing my food shopping as I know my little man would choose bright pink ones :)

    Laura x

  14. I totally agree with you and always find it so depressing when shopping on the high street for kids clothes and the seemingly hideous blue/pink divide. Only today did I go to a major toy retailer to find as I wandered down an entire pink aisle all that was on offer was fairy wings, microphones, dolls and that’s your lot. even though I have a boy I found it awful to think these are the predetermined choices for girls. x

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