school clothes

Signs that it is late summer:

  • We're bored.
  • We have approximately 2-3 fewer minutes of daylight every 24 hours.
  • We're bored.
  • Judging by the feeding frenzy on my neck and arms and face and all exposed skin every time I visit my garden, the mosquito population appears to have multiplied exponentially in the last week. And taken steroids.
  • The tomatoes in my garden are ripening just enough for the chipmunks to nibble them, the little fuckers.
  • We're getting emails from the school district about online enrollment.
  • We're bored.
  • We've gone to the public pool enough times that now I realize I should have bought us pool passes at the beginning of the summer.
  • We're bored.
  • Unsolicited catalogs featuring "back to school" clothes and uniforms are arriving in the mail.
Ugh. Yes, Lands End, I'm talking about you. Now, I was never a big LE shopper for myself (preppy, suburban, boring) but for a while I was a fan of their selection of kids' stuff. It does hold up better than what you find at Target and I found the designs marginally more appealing. They do have their fair share of pink for girls and blue for boys, but I used to be able to avoid the more obnoxious gender stereotyping in their clothes.

Notice that phrase: used to. The last couple years I couldn't help but notice that LE was trending like every other major retailer by featuring almost exclusively tough, rowdy, adventurous sporty graphics for boys and cute, sparkly ponies for girls. One shirt I bought for Anya had a picture of Saturn on it in sequins. I mean, yes, it was kind of adorable but really, MUST we have sequins and sparkle on every item of girls' clothing that doesn't already feature pink or a unicorn? It seems so.

My frustration with LE and their options for kids' clothes continued to build. A year or so ago when I was flipping through a catalog (their marketing is so aggressive I get daily emails despite the spam filters, and catalogs arrive in the mail every few weeks whether you want them to or not), I noticed that they had several pages of activewear for boys, but none for girls. Presumably, boys run and jump and climb and need stretchy clothing to wick that sweat, but girls do not. Annoyed, I sent an email to customer service:

I just received your LE Kids' catalog in the mail and I'm disappointed to see a 4-page spread featuring boy's activewear and no such category for girls! Surely you know you by now, the year 2015, that girls are active, too. How about some balance in your styles for kids? How about acknowledging girls as strong and independent just like boys by including activewear for girls and styles that aren't all so frilly and cute? My daughter rejects most of the stuff in the girls' section of your catalog because it's too, well, girly.

I received the following reply:

Dear Susan,
Thank you for contacting Lands' End regarding our Girl's offerings. 
We would like to apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause you.  In order to address your concerns, we have to reach out to our product team to provide you with the correct information for your inquiry. This may require a day or so to research, and your patience is truly appreciated.
We value your business, so be assured, you will receive a reply as soon as possible.  In the meantime, should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us again.   

Cheryl P.
Online Customer Care

Thanks but no thanks, Cheryl P.

It took four whole days for Lands End to come up with this response that supposedly actually addresses my concerns:

Dear Susan,

Thank you for taking the time to write and share your concerns.  
I’m sorry that we disappointed you with the description of our Boy’s activewear. I do understand and appreciate your concerns. I will be sure to share your comments with our creative team and I’m sure they will keep your disappointment in mind.  
Once again, thank you for writing to us and giving us the opportunity to respond. Your business is valued and we look forward to serving you in the future.

Jodie M.

I mean. Seriously??! Did they read the message I sent in the first place? Clearly not. I didn't have a problem with the description of Boy's activewear [sic] (Aside: Jodie M. needs a tutorial on appropriate use of capitalization and apostrophes, but whatever, I'm not going to get even more pedantic here). I very much have a problem not with product descriptions, but the complete lack of activewear for girls in the first place. 

The sad thing is, as maddening as this whole situation is, it's not surprising.

I read the email, rolled my eyes, and went on with life. It's just clothes, after all.

But then there was the whole thing with Gloria Steinem and that officially ended my shopping relationship with Lands End forever. (Briefly: LE featured an interview with feminist icon and activist Gloria Steinem in a catalog and were somehow surprised when they managed to piss off a bunch of close-minded conservatives. Then they apologized for running the interview and pissed off a bunch of people like me.)

Look, it's essentially impossible to be a truly responsible clothing shopper. I'm not really taking the moral high ground here because I can't possibly clothe my entire family in ethical fashion without spending either a fortune we don't have or spending an absolutely absurd amount of time hand making our entire wardrobes from the ground up. I'm all for the handmade movement and careful consideration of where our clothes come from, but frankly, most of the people who write those blogs don't sew for anyone but themselves. When you take preteen stylistic taste and your own limited time into consideration it's simply not feasible to make everything like Ma Ingalls.

But the Gloria Steinem was the line in the sand for me. I just can't buy from Lands End anymore. They do insist upon sending me catalogs every few weeks, though. It's getting so tiresome. The latest one had the following highlights:

...becuase what girl doesn't like to get all dressed up every once in a while?

Their whole life is a cardio class. They need gear that keeps up with them.

When you say your "toughest customers" you obviously mean only the ones with penises.

Le. Sigh.

Daniel and Anya are completely aware of this problem. It's nearly impossible finding clothes for Anya because she is particular about what she wears, and the stuff she doesn't like is 95% of what is available for purchase (no pink, no purple, no dresses, no skirts, no leggings, no ruffles). Daniel is less picky but he is newly indignant about gender stereotypes and has declared pink to be his favorite color. 

I'm just so sick of this, in part because despite my having this whole blog dedicated to stuff I make and wear, I don't really like thinking about clothes so much. I want to live my life and raise my kids and grow my tomatoes and do all of that comfortably dressed, that's all. I actually find wardrobe planning to be quite tedious. But the kids are growing and will need new things to wear very soon when school starts and the weather cools down and the very limited choices available make it hard to do that without spending a lot of time and energy finding or making acceptable clothing.

So what do I do?


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