The long and the short of it

I have two sons and a daughter.

I like recycling clothes. My younger son has, each season, a selection of whatever his big brother didn’t destroy at his age. My daughter inherits some of them too – fleeces, wellies, waterproofs – but from an early age has had a strong interest in clothes and a very marked preference for what she likes.

She likes pink. She likes sparkle and glitter and is counting down the days till I will let her have her ears pierced.

There are a lot of days to go.

Pink and sparkles aren’t my thing, but I don’t mind that she likes “girly” clothes. We try to compromise, with me curbing her inner Bet Lynch as far as is humanly possible.

Yesterday, after rummaging through the bin bags of hand-me-downs, I went online to fill the gaps in the wardrobes of all three. My daughter, who is lucky enough to be passed on some lovely dresses and tops from a friend, was particularly short of….shorts.

Tesco, to its credit, let me browse for “children’s shorts” without forcing me into choosing whether I wanted boys’ or girls’. So far so good. But these were the results.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 09.21.05

Sainsburys offered me these

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 09.28.23 Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 09.28.36

Asda (which also has the option of a unisex search):

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 09.30.22 Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 09.30.43

You might notice the main difference between those for boys and those for girls, and it isn’t the colour. It’s that the girls’ ones are cut – not to put too fine a point on it – on roughly the same lines as a pair of pants.

Let me introduce you to my daughter. As a wannabe gymnast, she spends half of her time like this.


When she’s not walking around her hands, she’s rolling around on the floor or clambering up a climbing frame or running across a field. She likes clothes, yes, but during the course of her day she gives no more thought to her body than what it can do. Just like her brothers, in fact. She likes to be comfortable and inconvenienced by what she wears.

And it’s this which gives me the problem with high street retailers’ offer to little girls. I don’t care if the clothes are pink, or sequinned or spattered with flowers. I don’t mind if they have pretty features and are plainly not unisex (whatever that means).

I do mind, very much, that so many of them, worn by a small girl, restrict her behaviour in a way that the boys’ counterparts just don’t. I don’t want my daughter forever hoiking a shorts gusset out of her bottom or rebalancing an impractical strappy top over her shoulders. I don’t want to have to explain to her that she can’t do what she wants to do because bits of her body are bared by her activity when her brothers remain more sensibly covered – and I’m talking not just about modesty, but about safety and comfort too. I mind that the boys’ shorts above are described in terms of their practicality and comfort, while the girls’ are all about being “on trend”. And yes, I could (and do), buy “boys” things for her, but very often that misses the point.

I don’t mind that my daughter wants to look pretty. I just don’t want her to think that that’s the object of each day.


5 thoughts on “The long and the short of it

  1. I totally agree with you! I have had the same problem with my 6yo daughter, where are all the comfy shorts? The majority available are far too short and just not practical! The designers must realise how children play? It’s so frustrating! There are some nice cropped legging type shorts in next but very little choice. Let children be children and design clothes that enable it x

  2. Yup! Been here a lot, especially when my twins (girl and boy) were younger and I wanted them in similar clothing. I found Lidl and Primark and cheaper “non trendy” shops were often better for picking up lovely practical and soft shorts that covered the main parts without being either too long or not worth wearing, as well as being durable. And because I am very penny-pinching, I saved them for the youngest two who are like twins in size. I also tend to buy plain block colours as red and grey are easily worn by either sex. It’s so frustrating that girls’ clothes are so sexualised at such a young age, and rather disturbing.

    I have found that a cute patch will personalise a pair of jeans or shorts too, and can be unpicked later.

  3. Definitely agree with you! The good thing about my little girl (she’s only 4), whatever shorts I get her from the highstreet will still look longer on her compared to other girls her age! The “perks” of being small 😉 I’m actually thinking of cutting off the legs of her jeans and other trousers she’s outgrown of. They still fit her, but are just short on her 😉

  4. We recycle to as it’s the only affordable way for us to be ethical (hate sweat shops) My youngest girl is in the throws of princess worship but loves playing out and worms etc, it’s a struggle to find clothes that are compatible with both interests! Think Bet Lynch in a waterproof onesie!

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