We should be able to dress babies how we like, says Sarah Cowen-Strong
When I gave birth to a son after having a girl 18 months earlier I delighted in hunting him out navy vests, cobalt-blue sleep-suits and azure Babygros from the shops.
Some were decorated with tiny tractors and trains while others had designs of planes and builders wearing hard hats.
It was a mere novelty after a sea of pink and pictures of fairies. Nowadays, it seems that sort of behaviour would get me frogmarched out of the baby department and straight into a lesson on political correctness. Just what is John Lewis doing?
The store that is never knowingly undersold is now over-selling a stance that I find both joyless and bizarre.
Its own-brand baby outfits now share the same clothes rails and, are not labelled individually but as ‘girls and boys’ or boys and girls’.
Traditional colours are frowned on and woe betide the addition of a fancy ribbon or a print of anything other than an animal.
Pink and blue are included but in rather subdued tones, and outnumbered by orange, grey and a troubled turquoise.
While I loved dressed baby Susannah in pinks and frills, she was just as likely to be seen in a whole rainbow of colours, and once I got over the newness of a baby boy he was as often as not to be found in my daughter’s old cerise cardie or – in the middle of the demanding night – a coral nightie.
It’s just fun, OK? The fun of dressing up our babies is one of those pleasures that make up for all the sleepless nights, sick and sore nipples. And we know we can clothe our little cherubs in whatever we want. We can choose to go down the baby-blue and powder-pink path, or pick a mellow neutral or something bold and brash. And when you have four children they all wear each other’s clothes anyway.
We don’t need the thought-police of a department store wading in and interfering. It’s enough of a minefield out there already, without fear of offending by saying the wrong thing or knitting politically incorrect bootees. You almost feel you can’t ask a new parent if the little dot in her pram is a boy or a girl for fear they will insist: “It’s just a baby, that’s all you need to know”.
Dressing my mob in whatever came to hand hasn’t stereotyped them or limited their dreams and aspirations, and if one of them had felt they were born to the wrong gender I don’t think wearing a taupe one-piece would have eased their confusions in the slightest.
And if I am made to feel like a bad person because I was after pink netting for a little girl, then the world is a very silly place.