Today Tesco's F&F Clothing have told Climbing Trees that they have "removed gender specification" from their "new Halloween dress-up costumes which will be hitting stores shortly" - a move that signals some small yet significant changes are finally taking place within the childrens' clothing industry. (Although, online, models still wear specific costumes to "show parents what items look like").
This is the first of a bunch of changes following discussions we had with F&F about reducing limitations that gender stereotyping creates in a bid to provide all children with more choice and improved practicality.
F&F have also told us that "We are considering your views as we develop our ranges, for example longer lengths on shorts for girls and more robust cover up items (cardigans). You will see these come through in next years ranges."
This is a massive step forward and something Climbing Trees is very proud to have been instrumental in changing, as we read out comments from parents who highlighted concerns about the limited practicality of certain girls' clothing, among other issues.
Said, Cheryl Rickman who met with F&F buyers: "The result was promising and positive. Although they couldn't publicly commit to any specific changes, they demonstrated that they are listening and interested in learning as much as they can about the issues that concern many parents today. We discussed a number of potential changes that would make a difference and they DO intend to make a few small but worthwhile changes based on our suggestions."
F&F said: "We're interested to understand more about this and we want to do the right thing by our customers. So we're prepared to give what we've heard today serious consideration as you've made some really good points."
Fast track two months and a lot has happened in retail:
The weekend after the Tesco's meeting, Target announced they would be removing gender signage from their toy department. They chose not to do the same within their clothing department due to sizing differences. (Across retail, sizing is determined and set by Size UK which provides guidelines based on the average size of girls and boys across the nation).
In the clothing department, Next led the way with their new Star Wars range in the girls' aisle, featuring various Star Wars tops and leggins.
With Disney Stores recently announcing the removal of gender signage from their fancy dress items, Climbing Trees and F&F are continuing dialogue to see what other changes can be made.
"In an ideal world retailers would remove all gender labels, provide more unisex options and,if they are going to label clothes by gender, place items that have been traditionally reserved 'for boys only' or 'for girls only' in BOTH aisles, because girls like dinosaurs, pirates and robots (and boys like kittens and butterflies) too!," says co-founder of ClimbingTreesKids.com, Cheryl Rickman.
"That said, we understand that they are in the business of making money, so they will only make changes if they know it will positively impact their bottom line as well as enhancing their relationships with their customers. We don't expect them to remove clothes that sell well, but we hope they may consider adding more choice by removing or, at least, reducing the gender-based limitations that currently proliferate."
The good news is that retailers are starting to make steps in the right direction by providing clothes that have, until now, been marketed 'for boys only' as 'for girls too'.
"That's exactly how Climbing Trees came about - because girls like to play with dinosaurs and pirates, get muddy and climb trees just as much as boys; hence our range of tops featuring those motifs 'for girls too'."
Consequently, Climbing Trees has garnered a good deal of media attention by providing something not previously offered. Now it seems that the larger retailers are catching on. Which, says Cheryl, "is brilliant news!"
"One reason why we launched ClimbingTreesKids.com was because my daughter and I were fed up of going down the girls' aisle and finding nothing that she loved. So we made our own range featuring stuff that had been labelled 'for boys'.
If we can now go into mainstream retailers and find clothes in her own aisle that she will wear, that is brilliant news and definitely worth celebrating."
It's about labelling. Kids are kids. Some boys and girls like stuff that fits the stereotype but some dont. They shouldn't be boxed in and restricted and told what to like before they can even walk. Climbing Trees feels it is important for retailers to offer more choice to provide for the whole spectrum of what it means to be a boy or girl without limitations.
"We don't want retailers to get rid of all the pink princesses and butterflies altogether," declares Cheryl. "My football-loving daughter may be princess-averse but many children DO love those things and retailers are not going to remove clothes that sell. Nor would we want them to, because that would be reducing choice rather than offering more choice, which is what we're all about. We simply want them to add A WIDER CHOICE of colours and motifs to their ranges for both genders, so that girls who love Spiderman and boys who like Frozen can find the stuff they love in their own aisle, (if aisles must be segregated). And, in time, #ditchthegenderlabels altogether."
And, with the changes being implemented by leading retailers and clothing distrubtors here in the UK, it looks like this dream may slowly come to fruition in the coming years so that children can choose clothes based on their interests, regardless of gender. This will further encourage children to be proud to be all that they are and play with/wear what they like, without being dictated to by society and retailers alike.