We’ve all seen it. You go to the store to buy clothing for your kiddo, and all of the “boy” clothing is blue and green with dinosaurs and trucks, and all of the “girl” clothing is pink and purple with hearts and butterflies. While there’s nothing wrong with either of those things, it can feel very limiting to box gender preferences into rigid categories, when there is so much room for expression in between. We believe the beauty of “sewing your own” means having the power to break the rules and wear what is authentically comfortable to you, and what may be comfortable for your child.
Talented Belgian seamstress Clio Deprest stops by the blog to talk about how she navigates a gender-neutral wardrobe for her own kiddo, and how to select prints and fabrics that work for all genders. Read along for tips and get inspired by her thoughtful makes.
Do We Still Go by the Rules?
Clio: As conversations expand around the gender spectrum, you can see related changes in fashion, too. Gender-restricted clothing rules based on a binary society set up long ago are fading, meaning that specific colors aren’t only for certain people to wear. As a result, many unisex or genderless brands have emerged and are emerging, and many fashion collections are becoming more and more infused with influences once only reserved for either menswear or womenswear.
In my opinion, we should throw all the old ‘rules’ overboard so that anything goes and there are no limitations. Meaning we can all go explore and play around when we’re looking for clothes and getting dressed! I love men who have the confidence to dress up with pearls, lace and nail polish … like Lenny Kravitz at the Met Gala this year. Did you see his outfit? He wore a black lace train and a corset. The outfit featured feminine fabrics and cuts, but didn’t diminish his masculinity, not one bit. The end result was stunning!
But I understand not everyone may feel comfortable to cross those ‘borders.’ Instead, perhaps there are places where you can be a little adventurous, like, for example, selecting a flower print when sewing a man’s shirt. For more inspiration, take a look at what Norris Danta Ford makes. He doesn’t restrict himself to the men’s section when fabric shopping and the outfits he makes are so unique and refreshing.
Gender-Neutral Clothing: Made to be shared
Instead of making a more colorful statement you could tone things down and look for gender-neutral hues.
This is an economic option for kids’ clothes that may need to be passed on from sibling to sibling. When you order fabric to make something for the whole family, you may choose a pattern or hue that’s gender-neutral too.
To find androgynous pattern and color ideas, try typing a term like ‘unisex,’ ‘gender neutral’ or ‘genderless’ in Google along with a term like ‘fashion,’ ‘brand’ or ‘style’ to find lots of inspiration. Next to jeans, a tailored shirt is often a staple gender-neutral garment. I love a simple long shirt that can also be worn as a dress or open as a long jacket.
This picture was the inspiration behind the pieces that I made for this post. I used the Kalle dress pattern from Closet Core Patterns to create my own shirtdress. The pattern comes with several different design options, and you can even purchase a long-sleeve option as a pattern extension. You can recreate the exact look above with the Kalle pattern.
Picking a Gender Neutral / Non-Binary Print
If you want your clothes to have a gender-neutral look, you may want to stay away from motifs often identified as gendered, such as bows, hearts, tractors, dinosaurs and sports. Abstract prints or designs inspired by traditions found around the world are a good choice and my personal favorites.
In principle, no color is off the table, but many genderless brands tend to use neutral hues like black, grey, beige and blue. While they’re classy and chic, I also love a fun factor and personally can’t resist buying fabric in bright colors. Luckily you can find so many designs that would work on Spoonflower! If there’s a design that you’d like in a different colorway, you could ask the artist to see if they could make a change as some artists are happy to do so. For this project, I stayed somewhere in the middle of neutral and bold with designdn’s Boho Painted Pine on Mint design. It’s very fun, but neither loud nor extravagant.
Other vibrant colors that work well in a gender-neutral wardrobe are orange, green and yellow as well as earth tones, which are popular.
Fabric Choice for Neutral / Androgynous Clothing
I used Spoonflower’s Organic Sweet Pea Gauze™ for both garments; it’s a beautiful, soft and summery fabric that gives both my dress and my son’s shirt a boho vibe. The double gauze is rather feminine, which gives some softness to a men’s shirt. Additionally, for little boys like my 3-year-old son, I love shirts, shorts and overalls in double gauze. Extra cuteness!
Other fabrics that work well for all genders are basics like jersey and French terry knits, cotton and denim. Fine, drapey fabrics like viscose, satin, chiffon and crepe de chine are trickier to turn into menswear or gender-neutral wear, but definitely possible.
Genderless Fashion Creation
I used the long version of the Kalle dress, but you can play around with the length and make a short top or a tunic instead. I love that I can wear my version on its own as a dress, but also with pants (preferably a flared pair) underneath. I wore dresses with pants all day every day in my teens and I’m excited to see that coming back in fashion.
For styling options for my son, I love the idea of a fancy vest on top of his shirt. And, of course, the best way for us to wear our shirts is together.
I want my son to know that he can wear anything he desires.
If he asks me if he can wear nail polish or make up, too, I say yes and we have fun with his selections! We don’t say “no, that’s for girls.” I don’t want him (or anybody else) to feel that he has to dress a certain way in order to be liked or accepted.
Sewing your own clothes is such a wonderful way of expressing yourself due to the love that goes into making the garment. Once it’s finished, you can wear it with pride as your clothing is really an extension of yourself, no matter where you are across the gender spectrum.
Do have a look at my other creations with Spoonflower fabrics: a yoga outfit and swimsuit in Sport Lycra®, a robe in Organic Cotton Sateen and a nightdress in Poly Crepe de Chine. If you get inspired by this blogpost, I would love it if you let me know or show me your creation. You can say hello or tag me on Instagram @cliosatelier.