Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies: A Brand That Honors All Children (Giveaway!)

Today, I want to introduce you to the Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies shop. PPBB was created by Melissa Wardy, a mom who wanted better messages for her kids than what was being sold to them by mainstream retailers. So she took matters into her own hands and launched her own indie company, selling apparel, accessories, and other items.

There are two key things I love about PPBB’s messages. One is that their products honor all the different ways of being boys and girls, as shown by these designs:

Girls will be girls, boys will be boys PPBB designs

The other is that PPBB is against gender segregation. Like Let Toys Be Toys in the UK, the brand is very supportive of the ways that girls and boys can play together—disrupting the myth that girls and boys are opposites, that they need completely different, gender-tailored things. Like these designs:

Cannonball for PPBB boys and girls together

The shop has more than fifty designs that honor childhood, and they can all be customized to any color tee, hoodie, or tote. So the images above, and the 46 others in the shop? You can specify what color you want them placed on, to get the perfect item for your child.

PPBB colors

In the years since Wardy first launched PPBB, the company has maintained its indie status, but it’s gone global. As Wardy explained, “People come to PPBB because they know they create something special for the Full of Awesome kids in their life.” And it’s worth noting that they’ve done all of this in a socially responsible way; PPBB products are sweatshop-free, use local materials whenever possible, and are conscious of the materials they use for marketing and shipping.

Note that Wardy’s passion for improving what’s available to kids is not limited to her shop. She’s a co-founder of the Brave Girls Alliance, and her new book, Redefining Girly, is due out on January 1. I am such a fan of Wardy’s writing (don’t miss her blog at blog.pigtailpals.com) that I preordered my copy of her book all the way back on April 26, and I really can’t wait to read it.

SUMMARY: Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies is the perfect alternative to mainstream children’s apparel. It breaks stereotypes in ways that support all children, making it a brand I believe in.

GIVEAWAY: Would you like a $25 gift certificate to spend however you’d like in the Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies shop? Enter below to win by 11:59 p.m. EST, Monday, December 2! One winner will be selected. This raffle is open to residents of the U.S.A., Canada, UK, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Click Here to Enter the Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies Giveaway

Note: I will post a giveaway from another brand I believe in next week. Be sure to check back!

DISCLOSURE: All opinions expressed here are my own and have not been previewed by Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies.

Should clothing prices vary by size?

Aside: Over the next few weeks, as the holidays approach, I’m giving away several great toys and children’s products—all from brands I believe in.

This week, I’m giving away two Lottie dolls with accessory packs to my blog readers. You should enter to win! It’s easy.

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Have you ever wondered why clothing is priced the way it is? Sometimes, people wonder if it’s fair for companies to price clothing of various sizes uniformly. After all, the materials costs vary from size to size, so those differences should be passed on to consumers—right?

For example, someone recently asked me this question:

“As a male who wears a size 50-52 suit, I am offended I ‘subsidize’ those wearing a size 58 suit… all that extra fabric for the same price. My wife wears a size 4-6. Shouldn’t she be offended she has to ‘subsidize’ a size 10-12?”  —Commenter responding to our Lululemon petition

His question seems to be a rhetorical one, but as I’ve heard others ask earnestly about how sizing and pricing work, I’d like to address it anyway.

The most basic answer to his question is: No. The cost of fabric is only a small portion of the cost of manufacturing clothing. Expenses incurred in manufacturing, shipping, and marketing clothing are substantial. So, there’s no need for people to be offended. There’s far less “subsidization” going on than this fellow thinks.

It’s also worth mentioning that this commenter is comparing apples to oranges re: his clothing vs. his wife’s clothing. Men’s clothing items above a size 44″ are generally considered to be plus sizes. In contrast, in women’s clothing, “plus sizes” in the US generally begin with size 14 to 16.

Plus sizes usually do cost more than the “regular” sizes do. So, too, do clothing for “petites” and for the “big and tall”: in most stores, anything that isn’t “regular” costs more.

So, bearing those points in mind, let’s consider the question of how much manufacturers’ costs vary when they produce clothing of different sizes.  Jenna Lourenco is a performing arts instructor at Emmanuel College who was previously a professional costume designer. So I asked her for an explanation: what are the cost factors in the clothing manufacturing process?

“While the difference in fabric use between a 50″ and 58″ suit is fairly significant,” Lourenco explained, “the difference between fabric use for a women’s size 8 or a size 14 in workout clothing is quite minimal by comparison. Fabric yardage is not really a full measure of how price points are determined in retail clothing, as there are several factors of which the public is completely unaware.”

According to Lourenco, the cost of a yard of quality fabric for suiting can easily be $20-$40/yd or more, depending on the fiber blend. In contrast, stretch fabrics are generally in the $10-$20/yd range at retail value, and companies that purchase in bulk receive tremendous discounts.

But, Lourenco insists, the difference in pricing has less to do with fabric than with labor: how quickly a factory can produce units, and how much a company can minimize their pay per worker and per hour.

“Clothing manufacturers use slopers,” Lourenco explained, “a basic pattern that is enlarged or shrunk without altering the original silhouette of the pattern pieces in any way. This is why pants that fit you in the hips & thighs gap graphically at your waist or why your yoga pants wear out where your thighs rub together; size 2s generally are believed in the industry not to have curves.”

She said that the basic slopers for most commercial women’s clothing are designed for a size 2, 4, or 6—but that bodies of different sizes don’t have identical proportions. Once manufacturers get into the “plus” size range, then, these slopers aren’t as transferable. “In the plus-size range, you have to have slopers created by skilled and experienced pattern technicians for every 3-4 sizes,” Lourenco says, “rather than for 6 or 7 sizes. These slopers have to go through extensive testing and adjustments before they can be used to create pattern pieces in each size, so having them created is a significant investment for a company.

“The manufacturing of larger garments does take longer than the exact same garment in a smaller size,” she continues. “It requires more thread and notions, and the larger patterns can, at times, present challenges that require more experienced and higher-paid sewers to handle.

“Really, it’s the labor involved that raises the pricing on larger sized clothing,” she adds. “Your sewers might only be able to finish 6 garments in a size 20 in the same time they could produce 10 of a size 2.”

So, the commenter is correct that larger clothing items cost more to produce than smaller sizes do. But the difference in production cost isn’t just due to the amount of fabric used; it’s about the expense incurred in adjusting the pattern, and whether more time and skill are required for specific sizes. (This is why petite clothing, which use less fabric, cost more than their “regular” counterparts. Whenever it comes to specialty sizes—whether plus sizes, “big and tall” sizes, petite sizes, and so on—there are different costs involved. )

So, no: It doesn’t make sense to charge more for a size 12 than a size 4. They’re close enough in size that the fabric is, in most cases, going to be the only additional expense—which, when purchased in bulk, isn’t likely to be much of a cost difference at all.

It also sounds legitimate for retailers to charge more for men’s sizes 44 and up than for smaller items, as these sizes are above the “regular” men’s clothing sizes that the slopers would be used for. So as far as the commenter’s own sizing goes, he should be less focused on the fact that a size 58 pays the same as he does, and focus more on what he’s being charged in relation to, say, a size 40.

I also opened this question up to members of my facebook community. My colleague Darlene Crone-Todd, a psychology professor at Salem State University, made a smart observation. She remarked: “We would often expect in mass production that the mean is the price we would pay for—and yes, the smaller sizes do ‘subsidize’ the larger sizes. However, the fellow who is a size 50 is just ‘paying it forward’ from the size 42 who subsidized him.”

All this raises another question: Is it right for plus sizes to cost so much more?

My friend Angela Jajko, a professional opera singer, argues that it is not. “Plus-size designs are generally kept pretty simple, and the fabric quality is generally absolutely awful,” Jajko observes. “But women are still charged a pretty phenomenal premium, simply because there’s so little supply. Anytime I’ve accompanied someone to the plus-size section, they walk out feeling terrible about themselves, because the clothing is such low quality that it looks terrible.

“So, anyone who complains about ‘subsidizing’ larger sizes has never experienced the kind of market discrimination that women over a size 18 experience in a mall,” Jajko adds. “Their choices are often either Lane Bryant or the Women’s section at Macy’s. That’s it, and then it’s $200 for a dress that will fall apart after six months. It’s ridiculous.”

Readers: What are your experiences buying clothes of various sizes? How do you feel about the fact that costs are generally averaged out? What are your thoughts on other factors that account for pricing (like branding and style)?

P.S. Don’t miss this week’s giveaway!

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Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

A message to Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson: Stop Shaming Women’s Bodies!

Petition cross-posted from Change.org

Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson: Stop Shaming Women’s Bodies. It’s time to apologize and de-segregate your stores!

ImageDoes Lululemon want women to be comfortable in their clothing, or uncomfortable in our own bodies? Lululemon keeps shaming women’s bodies—and this must stop.

In August, insiders reported that Lululemon stores keep their largest items—sizes 10 and 12—segregated from smaller sizes. Shunning larger women is part of their brand strategy–a shameful thing to do.

Now, founder Chip Wilson is making matters worse: he claims that when Lululemon pants wear out too quickly, it’s because the wearers’ bodies aren’t built right for the brand: The problem is that their thighs rub together.

We’ve got news for Wilson: even though the “thigh gap” has become trendy and desirable among girls and young women, for the vast majority of us, it is absolutely unattainable in a healthy way. Those who chase the thigh gap are at increased risk of eating disorders.

Branding strategies like Lululemon’s are making the world smaller and smaller for women and girls. We are constantly being told we’re not small enough–and with these antics from brands like Lululemon and Abercrombie, there are ever fewer clothing stores that feel safe for women who just want to be comfortable in their own skin.

“Healthy bodies are being shamed so they can glorify skinny ones,” notes body image expert Marci Warhaft-Nadler. “We need to love our bodies into health, not hate them into being skinny. Lulelemon should be about getting all women IN the game, not banishing most of them to the sidelines.”

Media studies researcher and author Rebecca Hains agrees. “During my field research, I have witnessed girls as young as eight, full of self-loathing, blame their bodies when they didn’t quite fit into trendy clothing,” Hains explains. “These negative feelings can last a lifetime. The last thing we need is for major clothing retailers to actively this harmful thinking.”

Mr. Wilson: You owe women and girls an apology. If Lululemon pants wear out quickly with normal use, please acknowledge that there is a problem with your pants without blaming women. And to show your sincerity, desegregate the clothing found in Lululemon shops. Stop acting like only the thinnest of women have value: Keep sizes 10 and 12 with the rest of the clothing.

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Readers: Please sign our petition here.

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Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

At Stride Rite, girls are pretty and boys are active.

A few days ago, Melissa at Pigtail Pals wrote about a conversation she overheard, in which her 6-year-old daughter’s classmate insisted that sparkly shoes are not for playing–they’re for looking pretty:

“Your shoes are ugly,” said the kindergarten classmate.
“No they are not,” replied the 6yo Original Pigtail Pal, Amelia.
“They are. Look how pretty mine are,” the classmate taps her toes for emphasis.
“They are the same pair of shoes. Like the exact same,” explains Amelia.
“They aren’t the same. Mine still have all of the pretty sparkles. I didn’t get them messed up,” boasted the girl, in full sparkle. [...] “Amelia, you should care a little bit about being pretty or you won’t get a boyfriend,” says the classmate.

Where do young girls get the idea that it’s more important to keep their sparkly shoes looking pretty than to play? Let’s consider Stride Rite’s marketing strategy for its play shoes (ie, sneakers), which I recently witnessed at a Stride Rite store near me.

For girls: The instruction to “sparkle with every step.” (Like pretty Cinderella, whose glass slippers were really impractical but helped her find romance.)
For boys: “Look out! Here comes Spiderman!” (Active, energetic, powerful.)

A quick review of StrideRite.com reveals more of the same: girls are meant to be looked at, so their play shoes are a route to prettiness, while boys are meant to be active, so their play shoes are made for play. Excerpts from the gallery below:

  • Cinderella sneakers “transport your little princess to a world of fantasy”
  • Hello Kitty Keds are “the cutest sneakers on the block”
  • Glitzy Pets sneakers help girls “to really shine and steal the show”
  • Spiderman sneakers offer “light-up powers,” “no matter what kind of web he spins”
  • Star Wars sneakers with “lighted technology” are good for “your little adventurer’s feet”
  • Lightning McQueen sneakers, also with “lighted technology,” let boys “be as fast as the legendary Cars Lightning McQueen on-and-off the track”

In other words, Stride Rite’s marketing strategies–like other companies’–reinforce the sex role biases that keep boys active and girls passive. As Colette Dowling has argued, these biases are at the root of the Frailty Myth: Boys learn “to use their bodies in skilled ways, and this gives them a good sense of their physical capacities and limits. [...] Girls hold themselves back from full, complete movement, Although it’s usually something girls are unaware of, they actually learn to hamper their movements, developing a ‘body timidity that increases with age.’”

I’ll give Amelia from Pigtail Pals the last word: as she told her friend, “You should care less about being pretty and more about playing with us. My mom says there’s lots of different ways to be a girl.”

Well said, Amelia! Marketers: You would do well to take this same advice: care less about girls being pretty and more about their play.

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