Why we’ve removed gender filtering from our marketplace

Our co-founder Louise Weiss explains our thoughts behind why we're waving bye-bye to gender on dotte, and how we're looking forward to our renewed focus on self-expression and individualism within our marketplace and it's community.

Gender identity is, and has been, a hot topic for quite some time. And while the debate is seen from a range of perspectives including hugely important shifts in how we understand ourselves and others, some areas of the fashion industry have been reacting by moving towards ‘gender neutral’ or ‘genderless’ designs.  Genderless clothing provides a more inclusive shopping experience, and provides more choice rather than limitations.  

When it comes to kids clothing however, it’s still all too common to walk into a clothing store and see the bright, sparkly girls clothes on one side, and the sludgy, earthy tones of boys clothes on the other. Campaigns like #LetClothesBeClothes have been pushing for less gendered clothing for kids for years now.

Why does it matter if kidswear is gendered?

As soon as a child is born, they get labelled; male or female. They can actually get labelled even earlier, by chromosomal analysis or prenatal scans, with elaborate gender reveal parties to follow. It’s a BOY, ta-da! (Cue explosion of balloons to reveal blue confetti and a massive cake filled with hidden blue M&Ms).

But that’s sex. Anatomical, biological, physical.  

What about gender?  

Gender is a psychological construct. Terms like boy, girl, man and woman, relate to how we perceive ourselves, and how we identify with others. Not our chromosomes or genitalia. And how we perceive ourselves is not always clear cut, and it certainly isn’t always binary. It’s influenced, incredibly, by the world around us. And this starts from the very beginning. Even during the womb, a fetus can start to learn to identify its mother’s voice from all the others. Everything we experience, even inside the womb, shapes the developing brain.

The period from birth to 5 years is known by neuroscientists as a ‘critical period’. At this age the brain is like a sponge, taking everything in. Experiences literally shape the developing brain. Neurons that fire together wire together, so repeated experiences enhance the wiring of certain functions, ideas, or tendencies over others. And so, gender learning starts early. It is a gradual process taking many years, and passes through various stages. Most children develop the ability to label their own and others' gender between 18 and 24 months. At this time gender preferences also start to emerge, such as the types of toys boys and girls prefer to play with (which is well documented in research).

The environment influences how children come to understand gender, and their own emerging sense of gender identity. This includes their home environment (parents and siblings) as well as broader society (school, books, tv, toys etc). Every single thing a child interacts with can influence their developing sense of identity. Including their clothes. So much of society is gender binary; from going to the toilet, to choosing which section of the clothes shop you go to. Children should not be growing up in a world where there feels like there are only two choices; boy or girl.

Children's clothes should be for children, not a stereotype of how a girl or a boy should look or behave. Children's physical needs are the same regardless of their gender and they should be allowed to express their personalities without limits - Alienor, founder of The Bright Company

Although it’s easy to see kids' clothing as something purely practical - something to keep the little ones warm and dry, we’d argue it’s way more than that. Fashion is an important part of play, and play is an important part of identity formation. Dressing up let’s children put themselves in other people's shoes, and try out different roles.

It’s also hugely important for self-expression. We all have our own style, right? And just like us, children use fashion as a way to explore who they are and who they want to be. Clothing provides children with a way to express themselves that isn’t limited by their physical, cognitive or communication abilities. They choose what they want to wear, and they wear it. From the child who refuses to go to nursery in nothing less than a three layered tutu, two tops AND a dress on top, to the kid who will ONLY wear the same (stained) spiderman outfit for three months in a row. Children can feel very strongly about what they wear.  

Gendered clothing can limit childrens’ choices, in a way that seem unnecessary. There is no need for a jumper to be labelled as ‘girl’ or ‘boy’. Often in kidswear, the cut and fit doesn’t really differ. We only categorise it based on whether we think the colour, pattern or fabric are more suitable for boys or girls. And who are we to say? Genderless clothing provides children with a wardrobe that does not define who they are, but gives them more space to explore who they want to become. 

From a sustainability perspective, gender-free clothing is the best option for making considered consumption choices. Clothes can be shared more easily, and handed down. Parents don’t need to get rid of all their old baby clothes to buy brand new ones if their second born is a different sex to the first born. 

Many of the pioneering brands in our Resale Collective have been designing genderless clothing for years. The Bright Company share “We passionately believe children's clothes should be for children, not a stereotype of how a girl or a boy SHOULD look or behave. Children's physical needs are the same regardless of their gender and they should be allowed to express their personalities without limits.”

At dotte, we felt uncomfortable asking parents to categorise items into binary gender categories, especially when so many of our partners produced genderless clothing. We were asking parents to impose a gender on genderless items, which felt very wrong.

So we spoke to our community, and there was strong conviction that we shouldn’t be forcing parents into a binary shopping experience. And when we looked at the data ourselves, we realised they were totally right. 86% of items being listed on dotte were categorised as ‘unisex’. Parents don’t want binary options. And that’s when we made the decision to drop gender. Some of our advisors were sceptical, no, I’d go as far as saying horrified. They could not imagine a shopping platform could work efficiently if it didn’t include a gender filter. Surely it’s everyone's go to, no.1 filter? Well, it will be if we all keep forcing it down people's throats.  

The first ever meeting Sam and I had to discuss the concept of dotte - before it even had a name - we settled on three core principles to build the business around; be kind, be you, be free. For us, going genderless didn’t feel like a big decision. It felt like the natural next step, and to be honest, long overdue. We’re proud to wave bye-bye to gender, and look forward to a renewed focus on self-expression and individualism. 

Click here to discover genderless clothes for your child on dotte! We have changed our categories so it is easier to narrow down your search, for example you can now separate out dresses and jumpsuits, and you can use the colour filter too to narrow down what you're looking for.

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