Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why the French do it so well

Remember my reaction to the clothes at Talc? Well, I've had that same reaction to a few more baby brands lately and something just occurred to me, which frankly I should I have realized before, all of the baby clothes I am really excited about are...wait for it...French.

While drooling over the many French online baby clothing stores, I've noticed three key trends that separate French baby clothes from all of the rest.

1. Sophisticated use of colour
In North America when you walk into the kids clothing section of store you immediately know where the boys clothing is and where the girls clothing is. Why? Because of the overwhelming use of the colour pink for girl's clothing.

Now clearly I like the colour pink or I would have not named my blog Puddle of Pink, but I am disturbed by the almost exclusive use of pink for girls in North America clothing stores (don't get me started on the (over) use of pink for women, but if you want to know where I stand, read this Globe and Mail article by Katrina Onstad). Meghan Wilker over at the Geek Girls Guide sums up my concern about dressing girls predominately in pink.

This attitude — that certain things are "for" boys and "for" girls isn't as innocent or funny as it might seem. It's a mindset that builds on itself and leads us to treat boys and girls differently, to have different expectations for them, leads them to believe that certain choices are better (read: more appropriate) for them than others and leads us, in adulthood to believe things about women and men that simply aren't true. 
For whatever reason, the French have not subscribed to the same hard rules we have about boy colours and girl colours. Just like clothing for French adults, clothing for French babies comes in all sorts of colours.

 Bonpoint rust and coral outfit
La Petite Luce navy blue dress 

BBK brown polka dot top

La Petite Luce green, peacock-printed romper

2. Absence of cliched graphics and messages
So it's fun to have a little giggle over a silly message or image on a baby's onesie or a kid's t-shirt but it's downright boring when girls always have flowers and kittens all over their clothing, while boys always have jersey numbers and trucks on theirs.

There are other ways to add details to kids clothing! And it doesn't always need to be gender specific nor does it have to be printed on. A few ideas: combine fabrics, add pockets, add buttons and trim, use printed other words, use detailing that you would use on adult's clothing.

BBK grey satin romper with printed cotton trim

La Petite Luce grey velvet pull-over with pockets and sailor collar

Bibaloo cotton shirt with pin-tucked cuffs and gathered neck

3. Range of fabrics
The French have managed to think outside the box when it comes to choosing fabric for baby clothing. They use cotton, cotton blends, wool, wool blends, linen, velvet, brocade, you know, fabric used for adult clothing. Here we use knit fabric (t-shirt material) for almost all baby clothing. Boring! You need to either make something yourself or buy vintage clothing to escape knits.

Of course, I don't have a problem with knits, particularly when it comes to onesies, but I need a bit of variety. Knit fabrics don't lend themselves to the sort of detailing that say, linen or wool does so almost all detailing on knit clothing is graphic prints (see above). Also knit fabrics don't hold shape well, that's why you see a lot oneisies, sleepers, t-shirts, sweatshirts, jogging pants, and leggings in North America where we favour knits.

Bonpoint  corduroy pants with plaid shirt and knit zip-up
Talc wool bloomers with knit button-up shirt 

 Jacadi corduroy dress and pants

The articles of clothing I've shown above are not cheap. I do not mean to suggest that we should all be spending our dollars on expensive baby clothes from France. I can't afford these clothes and I'm not assuming you can. Rather, I look to French clothing brands for inspiration when shopping at second-hand baby cloth stores, or selecting fabrics and patterns for the clothes I make myself. These brands inspire me to think beyond knit fabric, beyond the colour pink, to think outside the baby box.

1 comment:

sabrina said...

I just found your blog and LOVE this post! I'm due in January with my first child, and the ultrasound tech said she's 80% sure it's a girl. While I'm excited, because this means I can make all sorts of cute things for my little girl, I feel very similar to you.

I am NOT a fan of pink, though. I don't think I've worn the color (except for a t-shirt my mother-in-law gave me) or been excited by it since I was 10. I feel there are SO MANY other colors that we could be using for baby girl clothing. And as a retail worker in an apparel department, I SEE all those knit baby items with the obnoxious sayings on them. I am hoping to limit those.

All the outfits you featured in this post are adorable. I am inspired, as well, to whip up some stylish baby clothes. Thanks for sharing!