Gender-neutral clothing store opens in Kirkwood
By Sara Amis, contributor
In the beginning, Allie Friday wasn’t planning to open a gender-neutral children’s clothing store, or any kind of store. She was just trying to keep her daughter Erin happy.
“I was trying to dress her like her older sister. She hated it,” said Friday.
Erin didn’t like the frills of typical girls’ clothing, but going to the boys’ section presented its own problems. Friday said she was apprehensive about her daughter being judged for what she liked. Friday soon realized that she wasn’t the only parent unhappy with the selection offered in most stores, and that’s how the idea for Mini Friday was born.
“The inspiration came just from wanting a happy kid, and trying to find things in the middle, not just for her but for other kids who felt the way she did,” said Friday.
Friday seeks out bright, cheerful clothing without rigid gender divisions, which proved difficult to find in the United States except as individual pieces. Most of the complete lines of clothing that fit her criteria come from Europe.
While the clothes are playful, the intent is more serious. Friday says that in the process of discussing her daughter’s feelings about clothing and gender roles, she encountered other parents whose stories saddened her.
“For Erin it’s not that deep, but for some of them it’s more of a trans conversation, and some [parents] are losing their children to suicide at eight and 10 years old,” Friday said.
Friday believes that clothing can be important to children as an avenue of self-expression.
“For them, it’s appearance because that’s all they have,” Friday said. “We don’t give them a voice a lot of the time. Sometimes I feel that fashion is a voice. It’s being able to say, this is who I am, this is how I want to express myself.”
Friday acknowledges the fears and frustrations of parents who want to balance the importance of that personal expression with the desire to protect their children from the world and from the hostility of others.
“People are fearful of what they don’t understand, and what’s not normal for them,” Friday said. “The cause is bigger for me than the store. I want this to be a safe space. If you’re a little girl who doesn’t want to wear a dress, or a little boy who would like to wear a dress, this is a place where they can come.”
Friday sees a connection between consumer marketing divisions between girls and boys, men and women, and more wide-ranging divisions with long-term social and economic consequences.
“It goes a lot deeper. Men are paid more than women,” Friday said. Erin’s father was a welder, “and of course seeing that she wants to be a welder too, but that’s a male-geared profession. I think things like that just need to be torn down.”
“It’s such a weird thing that we feel we have to separate everyone and put them in this box,” said Friday.
Mini Friday is open seven days a week at 2033 Hosea L. Williams Drive in Kirkwood.