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Pssst… your t-shirt is saying something

Girls Will Be, a clothing brand founded and operated by Sharon Choksi from Austin, Texas, is very clear about what they are not, and that is, exclusively “girly.” Instead, the clothing line aims to let girls decide what they are: dog-lovers, bold and fearless, unafraid of bugs, and undaunted by robots.

Free of the color pink, flowery decals, and capped sleeves, Girls Will Be t-shirts come in reds, greens, blues, and grays, and their comfortable, real-girl fit and unique graphics offer an alternative to the princess-packed clothing market.

Choksi founded Girls Will Be with her sister Laura Burns and her brother David Burns because she was having a hard time finding clothes that appealed to her young, adventurous daughter.

In 2013, Choksi and siblings combined their graphic design, business, and marketing know-how, and seized upon the non-girly gap in the girls’ clothing market. Their bet paid off. The site and brand is up and running, and t-shirts are flying off of virtual shelves.

So, why is it important that girls have the ability to buy and wear girl t-shirts with cool stuff on them like sharks or volleyballs? Clothing is one significant way we define ourselves, and others often draw conclusions about our identity or interests based on clothing choice. Offering girls one-color, one-message (princess, diva, sweet, or sexy) attire is limiting.

What’s a girl who likes to be loud or play outdoors or dreams of becoming a Lego engineer/mountain-biker to do? This fact is a crucial part of the mission of Girls Will Be: “[We] help empower young girls to be themselves and never feel like they need to conform to the increasingly narrow definition of ‘girl’ reflected in far too many of the clothes (and other products) marketed to them.”

Girls Will Be is all about offering girls options and alternatives to the mainstream. And, it’s not just about the t-shirt; it’s about seeing new and different futures for girls based on the way they express themselves as kids.

Girls who are given the option of wearing green t-shirts with centipede designs are more likely to envision themselves as ecologists or chemists when they grow up, which are both more adventurous endeavors than the job of a “princess” waiting for her prince.

Not only is Girls Will Be a clothing brand, but it’s also a blog, a resource site for parents, and a style movement.

Speaking of the style movement fueling Girls Will Be, I’d like to call attention to Style Rule #4: Styles That Let Girls Be Kids. In her book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, author Peggy Orenstein unpacks princess culture in America by delving deep into Disney, American Girl, child beauty pageants, and Miley Cyrus (the early years…).

One important point Orenstein makes is how princess and/or “Barbie” culture is the perfect segue to objectification and sexualization of girls and young women. Even the “next stage” of toys, she stresses, like Moxie Girlz and Bratz, are sexy doll-versions of princesses. This, to me, is a scary and overt way of narrowly and shallowly defining girls and women, much to their detriment.

That’s why Girls Will Be is so very important. The clothing brand catches girls when they are still kids and unmolded by gender stereotypes, and says, “Hey girl, that’s cool you like rockets or popsicles, robots or dogs. Go ahead, show the world how bold and individual you are!”

Meg Kruithoff is a recent graduate of Colby College with a degree in American Studies and a passion for women’s health and girl-empowerment worldwide. A curious, go-getter kind of gal, she plans on pursuing a dual degree in medicine and public health.

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