Prior to Harper, I had a combined 11 years of experience raising boys. By this point, I’m well-versed in Boy. I know how they think (rarely), how they behave (sporadically), and how they fight (all the friggin’ time). They’re physical creatures, interfacing with their world one push or pull at a time. I watched Joshua spend the better part of an hour peeling bark off a tree in our yard. I asked him what he was doing, and he responded, “I don’t know.” He continued not knowing the poor tree for another ten or fifteen minutes before deciding to go down the slide a bunch. As I write this, Jack has wrapped himself in a blanket and is crawling along the floor, seemingly pulling along every homeless object he can find like a sad, fuzzy circus train.
I also know things about boy clothes. They’re designed to do exactly two things — make the boy presentable, and keep him from skinning his knees and/or elbows in the course of his daily life. They’re usually better at the former than the latter, though the latter often makes the former irrelevant. They’re mostly shapeless swaths of fabric for young boys, though some make us wonder what gigantic gorilla children were used as models for the over-wide shirts that could also be used to sail a small schooner across the Atlantic. They’re more fitted as the kids age, but in general, they’re utilitarian garments, meant only to make the boy decent from one set of pajamas to the next (and vice-versa). There are no frills, no accessories, and nothing superfluous. Just two sleeves, two legs, and whatever happens in between.
This extends to babywear, too. Baby boy clothes may be festooned with camouflage, trucks, trains, dinosaurs, sports, or any combination thereof, but the actual garment is still just sleeves, legs, and an amorphous middle section that hopefully contains whatever the diaper doesn’t. There are a few exceptions. We once bought second-hand a baby bathrobe made by Christian Dior. This item looked really cool, but its true nature was revealed the first (and only) night Joshua wore it. Then its Byzantine system of straps, zippers, and snaps caused us so much consternation and anger that we never used it again. In my recollection, we threw it out, rather than let some other sleepless parents stumble into its Daedalian snares. Jen doesn’t remember what we did with it for sure, so it’s possible that it’s still out there, luring in unsuspecting moms and dads with its Siren songs of plush terrycloth. Caveat emptor.
But baby girl clothes are from Mars*. Ruffles, lace, and bows abound. Ribbons are like the ante we must pay just to play the game of What Harper Will Wear. Where boy clothing designers simply select one or two overarching themes (see the aforementioned trucks, trains, sports, and dinosaurs), add a color or pattern**, and send it off to the sweatshops for mass production, girl clothing designers operate in an entirely different paradigm.
First, a color scheme must be selected. Pink is de rigueur, but may be swapped for purples or pastels if you’re feeling ornery. Then comes an important choice — cutesy saying or cutesy animal. The standards are things like “Daddy’s Girl” or “Mommy’s Angel” or other flavors of Ipecac. Animals are typically mammals, but can include birds or some fish. Ladybugs are also fairly common, with a smattering of butterflies. I’ve yet to see a reptile adorning a baby girl’s outfit, but I suppose they might be out there somewhere.*** The final choice is which accessorizing details will complete The Look. Fake jewels, ribbons, ruffles, lace, flowers (both printed and fabric), and bows are all fair game, and there seems to be no upper limit on how many of each are allowed. I’ve created a useful tool by which you, too, may design the baby girl outfit of your dreams.
Step 1: Choose a Color
- I guess maybe something in a pastel if you’re not doing pink
Step 2: Choose a Theme
- Cutesy Saying (proceed to Step 3)
- Rabbits (hereafter known as “bunnies”)
- Whales and/or Dolphins
- Kangaroos (with or without Joeys)
- Choose Your Own Animal****
Step 3: Choose a Cutesy Saying (optional if you chose something else in Step 2)
- Mommy’s/Daddy’s Little
- Tax Deduction
- I’d Rather Be Eating/Sleeping/Pooping (choose 1)
- Little Sister
- Cute Like Mommy, Smelly Like Daddy
- Itty, Bitty, & Pretty (Oxford comma optional)
- something about being “Fierce”
- New Kid on the Block
- trendy hashtags about “squad goals”
Step 4: Choose Details (no fewer than 2; more is better)
- Ruffles (preferably on the butt)
- Screen-printed Jewelry (preferably not on the butt)
- Fabric Flowers
- Fake Dress Shoes (usually sewn onto/around the foot)
There you go. You’re ready to make your own baby girl clothes.
Beyond just the clothes, actual accessories exist for little girls. Bows, for example. Despite the general snark with which I sneer at clothing trends, I find myself to be a sucker for bows on baby girls. They have a degree of usefulness, in that baby girls and baby boys don’t really look a hell of a lot different. Pop a bow on that head, though, and the child is recognizable to nearly everyone as a girl.
Perhaps it’s my Southern blood, but I prefer larger bows to smaller ones. The subtlety of the bow is lost on me. I need it to be big, like I’ve strapped a lily pad or a magnolia blossom to my kid’s head. A Christmas tree-topper would not be out of the realm of possibility for me, either. Honestly, one of those bows they put on cars given as gifts is probably about right.
I make no excuses about this. I don’t care what she wears from the neck down, so long as it keeps her decent and suitably warm. But I have a hard time letting her go out without some accretion of satin mounted on her skull. I had a learning period, though. When I first tried to put a bow on her, I put it on like a sweatband, encircling her head nearly parallel to the ground. To make it worse, I also centered the bow on her forehead like a damn cyclops. Jen mercifully intercepted us before we left the house that way. But now, with an adroitness and proficiency uncanny in a man of my years, I can bow my child in the blink of an eye, instantly transforming her from Genderless Baby to Baby Girl. Maybe I’m not yet as skilled at Girl as I am at Boy, but I’m getting there, one ruffle at a time.
*Or Venus. Whatever.
**We have had, by my poor recollection, no fewer than two separate garments with plaid vehicles on them.
***One notable example was an apatosaurus which, of course, was also wearing a bow.
****It better damn well be furry.