I spent an entire day shopping for clothes

PTSD doesn't just keep you up to date with happenings in the cartoon world, football stuff, the trials of going to physical therapy or the dearth of British actors but also goes off and does mundane things like shopping. Or, part of it did so today.

I had a busy day today, shopping for baby clothes. I realised what a scary world it is out there for baby clothes-shopping. It's not like I am new at this: Due to various friends having progeny in the past few years, I have shopped for baby clothes exactly three times in the past but this time, it was a lot more difficult.

The first time I had to shop for baby clothing was in Nepal. I got the baby (a boy) a T-shirt with “Proud to be Nepali” written on it. The way it works in Nepal is that you can buy a T-shirt and ask the tailor (usually resident in the T-shirt shop--we are nothing if not efficient) to draw/write specific things. This one was a pretty "cool" T-shirt since the words circled a picture of the Himalayas (sorry, I just couldn't resist that). I figured it's never too early to start increasing the Nepali community. After all, with India and China on either side and with heaps of locals departing overseas, Nepal needs all the help it can get. I'm not sure whether the families of the parents (Australian and Indian) were too amused.

The second and third times were when I was in Thailand. On the first of these occasions, I bought a Chinese dress (trousers, top and a little hat. Upon retrospect, I have to admit that the hat was probably a bit too much but babies don't care, do they?). This was for a girl, who lives partly in the Maldives and partly in Australia. When I sent off the gear, I hoped that she would not get beaten up by other babies for being different since I doubt many Maldivian kids run about in Chinese gear. The parents, in this case, were amused.

I was also in Thailand for the third baby. This kid, the child of an anthropologist who spent a year in PNG and sent infrequent postcards detailing the time that had passed without access to bathing facilities, received a tiny Liverpool jersey with her name inscribed on the back. I don't think the Liverpool Football Club got any royalties from the sale of this jersey since the bloke who sold it to me assured me that he could “put any word you like” on the back. The kid is now five years old and has graduated to a larger Liverpool jersey. Her dad, a full on Manchester United fan, remains convinced that I corrupted his child from birth. In this case, I am amused (and can't wait to experiment upon other kids in the future).

This brings me back to today and my shopping trip to get clothes for another baby. It was the first time I had actually gone to stores which had baby-only sections or even baby clothes-only stores. One thing I found was that baby clothes seem to be very much divided according to the colours (blue/grey/white versus pink/yellow/awful pastel colours) and images (baseball/football/pictures of deer and tigers versus princess/darling/pictures of princesses). Since I hadn't had to actually go to baby stores or the baby sections of stores in any of my past shopping, I was rather surprised. Adults have a wider range of colours or so I reckoned (though this might well be a misconception based on how little I do shop).

The way space was organised in all the stores (seven. Yes, count it—seven. I went to practically all stores within the Metro-accessible area in search of baby clothes) was such that pink and fluffy clothes (I presume for girls) occupied about three-fourths of the space and the rest (blue, grey, etc) was for boys' clothes. Within that logic, one would assume girls need/use up more clothes than boys do and that can't really be right since both sexes would probably use up the same amount of clothes, depending on where they are growing up. In any case, after giving up on the 7th store, I ended up buying a too large T-shirt with “Washington, DC” written on it. It will work as an old-fashioned night shirt (though, based on reports from its parents, the baby is refusing to acknowledge anything similar to night, a time to sleep, actually exists now that he's managed to escape from the womb). The T-shirt is fine but it wasn't as much fun finding it as it had been with my earlier quests for baby clothing. If gender roles are inscribed in children's clothing in the design of the stores and in the colours used, then parents will probably have a fairly tough time helping their kids figure out that pink or red does not automatically equal girl (or navy blue is not only a boy's colour). Personally, I'd recommend a few months in South-east Asia (well, Thailand actually), where blokes were (and are) metrosexual before David Beckham swanned about in a sarong and made it socially-acceptable to be one.

In the end, I don't think clothes (or the colours thereof) make much difference to how kids perceive the world. I grew up wearing a wide range of colours from pink and green to mauve and black and so did my brothers and sisters. It's more about us adults and how our notions of difference are inscribed in the society we live in. Kids' clothing seem to be divided into conventional notions of gender-specific colours and pictures with little option for anything else. I would say that such divisions reinforce the differences we are used to seeing and describing about gender roles but I am well aware that this is a generalisation based upon my not-very-fun experience of trying to find clothes on a day when I already had loads of other work to do. As academics, when faced with stuff we need to do, we find ways of analysing other stuff (at least I do). Spending an entire day looking for kids' clothing and then blogging about it is probably an avoidance tactic. E, I owe you a paper. You shall, hopefully, have it by tomorrow :-)


At 3/16/2006 9:33 AM, Anonymous serena said...

wow that sounds like too much work for only t-shirts...LOL

yeah I often end up confusing children and by girls boys clothes and vice versa...LOL

At 3/16/2006 9:35 AM, Anonymous serena said...

p.s. you PNG link does not work!

At 3/16/2006 12:30 PM, Blogger Priya said...

I know it was a lot of work...read the end bit about avoiding paper-writing :-)

The PNG link does work for me. Maybe try again?

See yous in SD, I presume! Unless E hides you all away :P

At 3/16/2006 12:36 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Nah, just look for us in the closest bar.

The thing about baby clothes is that they must be bought at places other than baby-themed stores. Target is good, as is Old Navy.

But the best place to get them is in stores that are for other things--museum shops, sports stores, etc. Their clothes are usually much more colorful and less gender-themed than the stores that are there just to sell things to people who have been invited to baby showers.

If I have to buy something from a baby-theme place, I try to make sure it's online--there are some great places out there for punk, feminist, and geek baby stuff. I think my favorite was a t-shirt that said on the front "Who's my Daddy?"

All of that said, I'm not sure how I ended up with a nephew who loves to wear the color orange. I mean, honestly. He doesn't even look good in orange.

At 3/16/2006 2:08 PM, Blogger Priya said...

Excellent choices, thanks E. I also ended up finding an absolutely marvellous book (with pictures! I want to keep it!!) made of cloth and another one made of plastic in B and N so the kid (growing up in N. Oz, right by the Great Barrier Reef) can splash around with them in hand.

I was in a bit of a rush or would definitely have shopped online.

At 3/17/2006 10:08 AM, Anonymous serena said...

I doubt E will hide us all away! LOL It will be fun to all hang out in the wonderful world of CA

At 3/18/2006 2:36 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Sun, surf, drinking, and rat choice. In that order.

At 3/18/2006 9:04 PM, Blogger Priya said...

I just checked the weather and it's going to be raining and 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) max all week.
I guess it's good I will be working on my second paper, then. That is, if I can a non hostel place to stay (now that I need to work on my paper and my hostel of choice is full)


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