When you walk into a children’s clothing store, signs quickly alert you to which side of the store is for girls and which one is for boys. Like most parents of a son, I automatically walk to the “Boys” side. It is what I have been conditioned to do by societal norms. For decades, those social norms have told us that boys can only portray manliness and strength while girls must appear timid and soft. 

“Snips and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails; That’s what little boys are made of… sugar and spice, and everything nice; That’s what little girls are made of.” That is how the 19th century nursery rhyme went. 

This Easter two-piece outfit included a custom graphic. | Photo: Tim Kendra-Dill

This idea has been sewn into the cognitive fabric of our lives, but this story is not about psychology. It is about a decision my husband and I made before we even adopted our son. 

We were not going to raise our son along these societal norms. We would dress him in most things, allow him to play with whatever he wants, as long as it didn’t harm him physically, and let him tell us what he wants. We would not be the type of parents to force anything on him, thus molding him to what society thinks he should be as a boy. 

When it came to clothes, I quickly noticed that all boys’ clothes are hyper masculine, even infant clothes. They portray monster trucks, rocket ships, Marvel superheroes, construction vehicles, tools and the like. Alternatively, girls’ clothes are hyper feminine with rainbows and fairies.

There is a sharp contrast in the words on boys’ clothes too. ‘Heartbreaker,’ ‘Mad Love for Mama,’ All-American Boy,’ ‘They call me trouble,’ and more don boys’ t-shirts. Some of you may be thinking, “what’s wrong with this?” 

It continues the narrative that boys are one way and girls are another. My husband and I believe that every child is unique, including our son. He should have the opportunity to find out what he likes, not what society tells him he should like. Our job is to raise him as a caring, respectful human and his clothes should reflect that joy. 

Making the clothes

This “space dino” shirt was part of an outfit that Tim Kendra-Dill made for his son.

When my son was around 11 months old, I decided to start making him clothes. It makes us all happy and helps us steer clear of the gender roles embedded in retail options. 

I found Brindille & Twig online offering infant clothing patterns. I was like a kid in a toy store. There were so many patterns I wanted to try, but I decided to start with a free one and see how it went. I was surprised there were free options out there. I downloaded it, printed it out on my home printer and cut it out. I found some navy-blue fabric with white and glittery gold stars at my local Joann’s. I can’t leave that store now without some new fabric under my arm. 

Taking the pattern, I used it to cut out the pieces needed from my fabric to make a pair of bummies, which are short shorts that are meant to cover a diaper. I had sewn a little before and had learned some of the skills from my mother. My earlier project had been some pillows about 17 years ago. They were simple but the fabric was quite different from what is used for clothing. Apparel fabric is much softer and has some elastic to it. Luckily, I learn a lot by watching and with the abundance of YouTube videos for everything imaginable, I was on my way to making my son’s clothes. 

The first project was a pair of bummies, or short shorts that are meant to go over a diaper. | Photo: Tim Kendra-Dill

They were fabulous and he looked so cute in them. Since those first shorts, I’ve made shirts, some more shorts and a couple of complete outfits.

I usually decide what I’m going to make by what he needs at the time. Now that summer is here, I will make him some rompers. As fall comes around, I’ll make him some long-sleeved shirts that he will be able to wear all season long. 

My son is only a year and a half right now. At this stage in his life, he doesn’t know where his clothes come from. All he really knows is that he needs to get dressed or undressed. I doubt he ever focuses on what he is wearing, unlike us adults. 

I make him clothes because it makes me and my husband happy. I enjoy doing it, and for me that is the only reason someone needs to do something. I hope that as our son gets older and he sees that I am doing this for him, he will appreciate it to the extent that he will ask me to make him more clothes. If not, like any parent, I will probably make them anyway. 

I hope that through these clothes he will understand that they represent individuality and that they were made especially for him, with love from his papa. 

Tim Kendra-Dill lives in Huntersville, N.C. with his husband and son. He is a UX/UI Design and Research Consultant and designed qnotescarolinas.com.