Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Garanimals reborn

When I talk to people about unisex children's clothing in the 1970s and early 80s, I get wistful reminiscing about Garanimals, the mix and match clothing line for little kids. They never really went away, but it seemed that way if you didn't shop at Wal*Mart. But they have now resurfaced with a new ad campaign. I can say for a fact, from the very genderizedwebsite that they have not retained their unisex vibe, but they have one thing right -- rejection of adult sensibilities (and sexuality). My favorite quote, from adman Gardner Nelson:

"How do you make a brand contemporary in the '70s and '80s
contemporary today? Everyone's saying three is the new five. What
we did was say let kids be kids."

Amen to that! Now if they could add a unisex line that recognizes that gender stereotypes are not innate, that would be peachy.


maria said...

yikes--extremely gendered is right. i especially like the female panda with the shopping bags. i also wasn't aware that girls don't play basketball or drums.

i'm actually not sure that these are less sexualized than any other kids' clothes i've seen recently. i guess the girls' clothes don't include halter tops (a step up), but really, to a certain extent, what makes clothes "feminine" is an element of sexuality. they're more revealing (notice the shorter sleeves and closer fit of the girls' t-shirts vs. the boys') and "sassier" (ruffled skirts and shorts, t-shirts that say "cutie"). so-called boys' clothes have been accused of looking "frumpy" on a girl--another way of saying non-sexual. conversely, parents of boys wouldn't want them wearing such revealing or objectifying clothes. i applaud garanimals for trying to make kids' clothes that are more kid-appropriate, but they're kind of missing the point.

Jo Paoletti said...

Your critique is right on; good reading of the gendering of the animals. This comes at a lovely time -- I am just working on a paper on the rise and fall of unisex, and Garanimals (version 1.0) played a big role back in the 70s. Boys clothes tend to project "activity" and "energy" even as girls are meant to be looked at and admired. But I can also get behind the idea of age-appropriate fashion.

jane said...

I did what I always do, out of long habit-- clicked the size chart. Too bad for all the bigger little girls, no Garanimals for them.

What strikes me is that the boys things look to me like ordinary stuff that I would wear myself, while the girl's things look like doll clothes.

Jo Paoletti said...

Hi Jane! I subscribed to your blog; hope you don't mind. Couldn't pass up the gorgeous butternut squash picture. The attempt to "re-frame" Garanimals to capture the nostalgia of 70s kids-become-parents is pretty laughable. They've retained the "mix and match" gimmick, but even that seems more restricted than the original concept.

jane said...

Thanks, Jo-- I'm still getting the hang of how blogging works on my own stand-alone site, so please do subscribe. Now I will be able to ask you what I am doing wrong when things don't do as I thought they would.