Michele Yulo's daughter, Gabi, was three when she started to pick out her own clothes.
Like a lot of kids just starting to express their independence, Gabi had strong opinions and knew exactly what she liked: bright bold colors. But hold the pink and sparkles, please.
A few years later, when she was five, Gabi told her mom she wanted to wear a tux to her violin recital. (Actually, she called it a "tornado." How cute is that?!)
The only problem? She couldn't find a single tux made for five-year-old girls. So Gabi got a boy's tux. While she wore it beautifully with a pair of white Jordan high-tops, it still didn't fit quite the way it should have because it was made for a boy's body.
That's what inspired Michele to create her own solution: a line of suits for girls!
Several years ago, Michele launched Princess Free Zone, a company that sells T-shirts for girls that reflect the many interests girls have (dinosaurs, sports, and science, anyone?) and personality traits girls possess ("kindness = cool"). She also joined forces with other moms who own similar businesses to create a movement bringing attention to the clothing options girls have — just not at mainstream retailers.
So it's safe to say Michele knows a thing or two about bringing what she calls "gender cool" apparel to kids. This new line, called SUIT HER, could revolutionize girls' clothing by introducing suits for girls ages 5 to 12 — if she can raise the funds she needs through Kickstarter.
And she's already got some incredible help: Michele is working with designer Karen Patwa, who's been custom-designing suits for years. She's also teaming up with a woman-owned, New York City-based manufacturing company called Julie Hutton. That means, says Michele, that all SUIT HER clothes will be made in the U.S.
Check out these sketches for the inaugural lines Michele hopes to create:
"This collection swings the self-expression pendulum to include girls who are not necessarily into dresses or what is considered to be typical 'girl' clothing," Michele told me.
And it's about time. Think about it:
It's not like women haven't been wearing — and rocking — suits for a long time. Celebs even crush it on the red carpet in well-tailored suits.
We can probably all agree that suits don't have to be black and that people other than celebs can sport them. (And that juuuuussssst maybe they shouldn't be cut that low for kids.) But it's pretty clear that suits for ladies are totally an option.
So where are the suits for our girls?!
I asked Michele about the common concern I hear when talking about expanding clothing options for girls: Why are we trying to make boys and girls "look" the same?
"'Gender neutral' does not mean that gender is erased, but I think that is often the knee jerk reaction when we use the term," she explains. "Instead, it simply means having equal opportunity to choose."
As she puts it: "If a girl wants a T-shirt with an airplane on it, does that make her any less of a girl? Or if a boy likes something sparkly, is he less of a boy? Absolutely not. But try and find those items in either department."
And don't forget, says Michele, that it wasn't until pretty recently (just before World War I) that we began thinking of pink as a "girl" color and blue as a "boy" color.
"Pink, princess, and lacy gowns should be an option, but should not be the only option. And it shouldn't define girlhood," Michele says. "Of course it's OK to like those things, but where are the options for those girls who don't? And what is the message that is sent when they do not see themselves included?"
Gabi is 10 years old now and super excited about the prospect of her mom creating the clothing she loves to wear.
"She tells me she'd like to model [the suits] once they're made, so I think that says a lot!" says Michele.
If you're interested in seeing Michele's ideas come to life, you can learn more on her Kickstarter page and even help fund it if you'd like. (The campaign is just about over, so act fast if you're a fan of the idea!)
It'll be a good day when the girls' clothing section offers something for everyone!