Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
Sometimes, penning a letter to a retailer about what you want to see more of on shelves (or, sometimes, what should disappear from the sales floor) can actually get results. The latest example of customer feedback really being heard involves a five-year-old and a major retailer: Alice Jacob wanted more gender-neutral options on offer at Gap, detailed in the letter she dictated to her mother, Beth Jacob, who shared it with The Washington Post earlier this month.
Alice describes her affinity for shirts with Superman, Batman, and race car motifs, the former two of which she's seen in Gap's boys' section. She notes that, by contrast, the retailer's selection for girls is packed with "pink and princesses and stuff like that," to her dismay. "Can you make some cool girls’ shirts please? Or, can you make a ‘no boys or girls’ section — only a kids’ section?" Alice wrote in her letter.
Her mother, Beth, describes how Alice prefers to wear boys' clothing, and that her daughter "doesn't mind being confused for a boy, and when asked why she dresses like one, will respond 'I can wear whatever I want.'" Beth explains her young daughter's optimistic expectations about the impact her words could have on the mass retailer: "In her mind, this act of corporate activism is sure to result in a rash of new options, preferably in time for camp," Beth wrote. "I don’t have the heart to tell her differently. I’d rather she believe in the power of her voice to change things: starting now, and never stopping."
Turns out, a pint-sized customer can, in fact, make a difference. Earlier this week, Beth wrote another story for Washington Post about her daughter's quest for less traditionally gendered threads. Gap's CEO and president, Jeff Kirwan, had emailed the Jacob brood a letter addressed to Alice: "At GapKids, we try to always offer a wide range of styles and choices for girls and boys," Kirwan wrote. "This includes a selection of girls’ tees with dinosaurs, firetrucks, sharks, footballs and some of our superheroes." The exec also notes that the chain's recently-released Beauty and the Beast "is also all about the strength and bravery of girls, and that’s something that’s really important to us."
As a result of the girl's letter, there should be more gender-neutral options coming to Gap's racks soon. "But, you are right, I think we can do a better job offering even more choices that appeal to everyone," Kirwan wrote. "I've talked with our designers and we’re going to work on even more fun stuff that I think you’ll like." The Gap exec also sent Alice some not-super-girly items, which she told him "made me feel good" in a response that her mom put together.
Talk about a pretty happy, heartwarming turn of events, and proof that being vocal with your go-to retailers with constructive feedback can sometimes pay off. (It doesn't hurt to be an adorably outspoken kid, of course.) Here's to hoping that other big retailers make gender-neutral children's clothing the norm, not the exception. In the meantime, here are a couple of indie unisex kids' brands doing so already.