Tired of stereotypical girls' clothes, these women did something about it — then banded together.

Because girls are so much more than their appearances.

You might remember this photo that went viral back in April:


Original photo by Jason Y. Evans, shared with permission in this Upworthy post.

It was being sold in New York University's campus bookstore. The boys' equivalent to the girls' "I hate my thighs" baby onesie was "I'm super." (I mean, really?! That's some pretty pointed messaging.) After the photo went viral, it was pulled from the shelves with an apology for the oversight.

Or maybe this one that went viral in 2013:



It was a T-shirt for girls that Children's Place was selling. There was no equivalent in the boys' section. After it was brought to the retailer's attention that it was pretty demeaning, they also pulled it from their store shelves. (Why it was printed in the first place remains a mystery.)

These are just a few incidents of extremely stereotypical girls' clothing. But it happens often enough, and a lot of girls' clothing is biased without being blatantly offensive.

Enter: a bunch of moms who were over it.

Done with it. They believe girls are — gasp — intelligent and capable and should be able to wear clothes that reflect their personalities without having to shop in the boys' section.

Even better, they want to give us clothing options to purchase for our girls that are done right, not just examples of what's gone wrong.

These moms have individually launched small businesses that create girls' clothing that allows girls to express who they are, whatever that may be.

And now, 10 of these small businesses have banded together to start a movement: #ClothesWithoutLimits.

"Over the past few years, multiple stories about kids clothing have gone viral," Rebecca Melsky, co-founder of Princess Awesome told me. "But they tend to focus on the negative. We wanted to let parents know there are more positive, more inclusive options out there for their children. We thought our voices would be louder together than they are alone."

Dress like a girl? Heck yeah!

"The awesome thing about working as a group is that it's shown all of us — and our customers — how many different ways there are to 'dress like a girl,'" Courtney Hartman, founder of Jessy & Jack and Free to Be Kids, shared with me.

The 10 companies that make up #ClothesWithoutILimits. Photo by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

Through the campaign, these women are hoping to not only bring attention to the negative impact that clothing with stereotypical messaging can have on girls, but more importantly, to show the positive impact that positive clothing can have.

The messages sure run counter to the ones that many mainstream retailers have offered — and they're exactly what our girls need.

This T-shirt, for example, is a nice (and totally opposite) option for girls who aren't so keen on acting like they're only good at shopping, dancing, and music — but not math, as with the Children's Place shirt:

T-shirt by Free to Be Kids. Photo provided by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

'Cause here's the thing: Messaging is important. And when our girls are indirectly being told from every angle, including their clothing, that they're incapable of certain things, it starts to wear on them.

Malorie Catchpole of buddingSTEM explains, "When girls don't see dinosaurs, space, and other science themes on their clothing, it tells them that things like science and engineering aren't for them."

Not sure messaging matters? Think again!

A study shared by the New York Times, for example, found that many elementary school teachers have unconscious biases about girls' math abilities as compared to boys' — and it affects how they interact with them:

"The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys' abilities and underestimated the girls', and that this had long-term effects on students' attitudes toward the subjects."

This isn't to place blame on teachers — we all have biases we don't realize about a variety of things. Instead, it's to point out those biases and create change. Because the study also "highlights how powerful a little encouragement can be for children," as the NYT notes.

And that's why clothing matters, too — clothing that lets girls express their interest in robots or dinosaurs or other science subjects, like this one:

T-shirt by Jessy & Jack. Photo provided by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

And this one:

T-shirt by Jill and Jack Kids. Photo provided by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

Clothing that reminds girls they can be into anything they find interesting, like this:

T-shirt by Princess Free Zone. Photo provided by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

Clothing that reminds girls they can actually be anything they want, like this:

T-shirt by Handsome in Pink. Photo provided by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

And clothing that lets girls express many parts of themselves, like this atomic shells dress — because nobody said clothing that's empowering to girls can't also be in a style that's "traditionally" for girls:

Dress by Princess Awesome. Photo provided by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

And there's another message here — one that's less apparent but equally important: the strength of women banding together to empower our girls.

Many of these businesses seem to be in competition with one another, selling empowering girls' clothing. But that didn't stop the women from these 10 companies from joining forces and using their voices, which are louder and stronger as a collective, to get the message out there that clothes for girls shouldn't have limits.

Photo provided by #ClothesWithoutLimits, used with permission.

"This is an amazing group of like-minded women who care deeply about breaking down the gender stereotypes in kids' clothing today," buddingSTEM Co-Founder Jennifer Muhm told me.

"This is an amazing group of like-minded women who care deeply about breaking down the gender stereotypes in kids' clothing today."

"We want all kids to be able to find clothes that fit who they are and what they like, but we're small businesses who can't possibly offer every single option on our own. ... There is definitely room for more than one option for girls who prefer blue, outer space, or dinosaurs. We just want parents to know those options exist, so they can find the one that's right for their child."

"We are ten brands, but behind those brands are more than ten women, and we are all strong leaders and really passionate about what we're doing," added Gina Dobson, founder of Sunrise Girl.

We have to be really mindful of making sure everyone's voice is heard and everyone is happy. The great thing is that our relationships with each other developed organically as we discovered each other's brands, and we have a lot of mutual respect."

"Working with a big group has its challenges but we know we are stronger as a group, and that working together we can have more of a positive impact."

"If one person or company isn't happy with something, or we can't easily arrive at consensus, we pause, get on a group phone call and talk it out until everyone is satisfied with the solution. Working with a big group has its challenges but we know we are stronger as a group, and that working together we can have more of a positive impact."

How's that for the kind of message we want our girls to receive? We're stronger together and we can work alongside one another and be successful. We're in this together.

That's a message, in addition to awesome clothing, that we can all get behind.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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