"You can be anything you want to be when you grow up!" At least that's what we tell our girls and boys from a very young age, right?  But what does our culture tell them?  

Despite “you can be anything” messages from parents, children are barraged with images that tell them otherwise. It’s part of a larger cultural phenomenon that leads to gender imbalances in fields from engineering to nursing. Now Clothes Without Limits, a consortium of independent childrenswear brands, is asserting that if we want to fix the imbalance in careers dominated by one gender, one of the first steps is to change what our children are wearing—and research backs their claim.

In the United States women make up only 11% of engineers and 6% of U.S. pilots, while men comprise only 8% of nurses and 16% of stay-at-home parents. The gender gap in many professions is wide, and researchers say that the messages we send children in their formative years, starting as early as two years old, shape kids’ ideas of what they can become.

“Children's clothing, toys, and media matter,” said Dr. Rebecca Hains, author, children’s media culture expert and the Assistant Director of the Center for Childhood and Youth Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. “Adults sometimes think 'kid stuff' is trivial, but actually, children's pop culture plays an important socializing function in children's lives. From an early age, children look to parents, peers, and products alike to help them discern their place in the world. Today's parents strive to raise well-rounded children, but their efforts are often contradicted by the clichés that dominate children's culture, which teach children that girls and boys are expected to behave in gender-stereotypical ways, with rigidly differentiated interests. This can circumscribe children's play patterns as well as their future aspirations, and unfortunately, as I explain in 'The Princess Problem,' it can be incredibly difficult for parents to compete with billion-dollar brands. For this reason, I advise seeking out alternatives whenever possible. Independent brands like those in the Clothes Without Limits consortium are a great choice.”

“Back to school season often means updating our children's wardrobes and is a perfect time to ask ourselves if their clothing represents their interests and dreams. We tell our children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, but unfortunately children’s clothing choices don't always reflect that sentiment,” said Cindy Tank-Murphy, a spokesperson for Clothes Without Limits and co-founder of Clever Belle. “Do your daughter's clothes reassure her that it’s alright to love science? Is your son’s wardrobe encouraging him to develop his caring and loving heart? We launched the Futures Without Limits campaign to tell the world that children's clothes should keep all kinds of interests accessible to them so children will believe they truly can be anything when they grow up, regardless of gender."

Much attention has been given in particular to the gender gap in STEM fields – something that researchers have found has a lot to do with images and culture.

"Images of computer scientists, engineers, and physicists are often narrow and inaccurate, which can prevent many girls from feeling like they belong in these fields. Providing alternate images that increase girls' interest in STEM fields is a critical piece of the puzzle. Clothes Without Limits exposes girls to images of engineering, chemistry, and coding that are more inclusive than the images they often see in the world,” said Dr. Sapna Cheryan, a researcher at the University of Washington whose work focuses on the perception of stereotypes.

This Back to School season, the Future Without Limits Campaign gives parents a positive way to reinforce the “you can be anything” message – showing boys and girls that equal options are available to them. With positive options like this, our kids might just be the ones to change the equation.

Printing With A Purpose

When we started printing Clever Belle t-shirts last year, we made the decision to use a screen printer unlike any other screen printer in the area.  We are proud to partner with ColorBurst Screen Printing, a division of Little Friends, Inc. ColorBurst is a non-profit, offering job skills training and employment opportunities for adults with autism and developmental challenges; empowering them with a sense of purpose and accomplishment and providing integration into the community.

Our decision to use ColorBurst is reaffirmed every time we are greeted by people like Mike, when we deliver or pick up shirts at the Downers Grove facility. Mike has worked at ColorBurst for several years, starting when he was a student at Bridge High School, which offers a transitional work program. Mike is learning to print and operate the presses and has mastered the tag-press. His pleasant smile and great customer service are just a couple reasons we are very happy with our choice in screen printer.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. In honor, we are donating $1 to Little Friends, Inc. for every shirt sold during the month of April. According to a CDC study last year, 1 in 68 children in the U.S. are identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To learn more about autism and what you can do to help, visit www.knowledgeempowers.net


CASA Clever Belle

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Clever Belle, in an effort to build educational awareness to issues, wants to help the cause, in some small way this month.

By Jenny Tank

Family law was always an interest of mine in law school, but I never had the opportunity to work in that area until I decided to volunteer as a CASA. While I was never the victim of abuse as a child, I did live with relatives for a period of weeks while my parents sought treatment for health issues, and I've always been grateful that my parents had family willing to step in and take care of us while they were receiving care. Not every child is so lucky. I know what it's like to have to leave a home because your parents aren't able to care for you. I also felt the strain of being away from my parents whom I loved very much, and I have felt that pain. My childhood experience led me to begin researching ways I could help children who are in situations where their parents aren't able to care for them, whether that is due to mental health issues, alcohol and drug addiction or abuse occurring in the home. This led me to discover CASA.

CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, is an organization which promotes volunteer advocacy so every abused or neglected child in the U.S. can be safe and have the opportunity to thrive in a permanent home. Last year over 76,000 CASA and guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteers helped more than 251,000 abused and neglected children find safe, permanent homes. These volunteers are everyday citizens who undergo screening and training in their local communities.

While I was a former lawyer, you do not need to be a lawyer or social worker to become a CASA volunteer. You just need to care about children and have common sense. CASA provides training and support by professional staff through each case. To help support this worthy cause, Clever Belle will donate $1 to CASA of DuPage for every shirt sold during the month of April.

CASA of DuPage County recruits, trains and supports volunteer citizen Advocates to effectively speak to the best interests of children, who through no fault of their own, are a part of DuPage County's juvenile court system. These children have been subjected to abuse, neglect or have no one to care for them. CASA believes every child has the right to a safe, permanent and nurturing home, and they work to provide powerful friends for powerless children in our area.  

To learn more about becoming an advocate: 

To learn more about child abuse prevention:


pop-up shop at crush

What:  Experience confidence-building interactive Art & Apparel by local Chicago companies

Who:  Crush, Clever Belle & The Wishcraft Workshops

Where:  Crush on Roscoe | 2138 West Roscoe, Chicago IL | 773-661-9481

When:  Sunday, March 13th  12 – 3 pm

Two Chicago based companies are partnering on March 13th in Roscoe Village to offer girls between the ages of  6 – 14 clothing that depicts who they are; BRILLIANTLY BEAUTIFUL GIRLS.

Clever Belle and Crush on Roscoe partner up to offer a line of apparel that doesn’t shout “I’m 12 going on 20,” but instead defines beauty as the passions women and girls hold dear to them. Clever Belle’s positive images on shirts help girls define who they are and who they want to become. The designs are also images parents can appreciate.

If you’ve ever shopped for a 12 year old, you know it can be difficult to find a happy medium. You are either shopping in the girl’s department with stereotypical “glittery kittens, rainbows & unicorns” or you’re in a sensory overloaded store causing your head to thump and your daughter to look like she’s dressing for a night out “clubbing.” What is wrong with this picture? There is definitely a lack of tween apparel that can make girls feel empowered and beautiful for who they are on the inside.

Clever Belle is the brain child of four siblings originally from Iowa. After having personal experience seeing the stereotypes in children’s clothing and raising daughters who weren’t into pink and frilly styles, this family decided to take it upon themselves to set a higher standard for girls. “Be who you want to be and not what typical clothing companies think you should be, stated co-founder Jenny Tank.

Clever Belle launched its online store in August 2015, after a successful crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter. “We are excited to share our designs in Roscoe Village. My husband and two children lived here for five years before moving to Naperville. I’ve shopped in Crush for my two nieces, who are part of our reason and inspiration for starting a company that empowers girls through apparel and art,” explained Tank. Clever Belle has been growing organically ever since August and is now ready to unveil their products to one of the most popular tween shops in Chicago.  

Crush on Roscoe began in August 2011 to a welcoming reception from the Roscoe Village neighborhood. With three young girls to dress and a passion for fashion, Jodi Hughes realized that there was a demand for tween apparel. “Crush is a store filled with both basic and up-to-trend apparel and accessories. We are thrilled to offer a local company, like Clever Belle, the opportunity to share their product in our store,” shared Hughes. With new styles arriving weekly, there’s always something new at Crush.

The day wouldn’t be complete without an art workshop led by The Wishcraft Workshop. Wishcraft Workshop's focus on self-awareness, builds confidence and respect and grows artists and thinkers of character and curiosity. Wishcraft Workshop will be leading tweens in a confidence-building creative activity in the shop on March 13th. "CRUSH on Roscoe has been a go-to for tween clothing that respects the nuances of this age. For this reason we're proud to bring our summer campers to the shop for onsite learning each year and are very excited about the integrity the Clever Belle products add to that mix," expressed Candice Blansett-Cummins, owner of The Wishcraft Workshop located at 3907 N. Damen Ave.

Together these companies hope to inspire girls and women (Yes, the shirts come in women’s sizes too!) to express their passions and style outwardly in the apparel they choose to wear and the art they create. Come check out Crush on Roscoe on Sunday, March 13th between from 12 – 3 pm and see for yourself! The Wishcraft Workshop will be in the store leading a confidence-building activity and Clever Belle will have shirts exclusively priced for this event. Find out more about their mission to change the world; one girl at a time.

For more information, contact Cindy Tank-Murphy at cindy@cleverbelle.com

Crush On Roscoe

The Wishcraft Workshop

Save and Give

Did you know that out of the money American kids get in allowance—a hefty $780 per year, on average—almost none is saved? We at Clever Belle would like to help those children learn the importance of budgeting and saving their money while also thinking about the importance of finding a good cause to donate some of their savings to as well. This will not only help them build responsibility skills but hold them accountable for their own future of savings even up to adult life making it easier to understand the importance of the value of a dollar.  

In this free educational activity we focus on making resolutions with action plans for children to find ways to help them reach short term goals this year.  Let’s help our children learn the importance of goal setting, budgeting, and giving all together. May this year be one of the best for you and your family!



Clever Belle ClothesWithoutLimits

Every parent knows the best way to set their child up for success is to give them the tools they need to make good choices and develop a strong sense of self. Why not encourage their personal growth through a fun and creative shirt they can wear every day?

Have you ever struggled to find clothing for your imaginative, tree climbing, bug collector who prefers to wear things that aren’t pink and glittery? It’s hard to believe there aren’t more options for girls who like to wear clothing beyond princesses, rainbows and unicorns. Girls are much more multi-faceted than the apparel industry gives them credit. While more companies are trying to address gender bias, there are still too few clothing companies that design imaginative and creative clothing options for girls who want to succeed in a real career instead of marrying into royalty.

Clever Belle has joined a unique organization changing the rules in apparel for girls. #ClothesWithoutLimits proudly recognizes like-minded companies who embrace the spirit of comradery and whose mission is to break down the gender stereotypes in the clothing industry today.

#ClothesWithoutLimits is a campaign founded by ten small businesses who care about the messages kids see when they shop for clothes. There is a definite divide in apparel themes when it comes to boys and girls clothing.  This group believes that the stark differences send a wrong message to children about what it means to be a boy or girl. The group’s campaign is to support children for who they are, who they want to become and not limit them based on the images, themes and styles many big brands routinely support.

To join the #ClothesWithoutLimits campaign and learn more about these progressive small apparel companies, visit online at www.clotheswithoutlimits.com

Another great opportunity Clever Belle brings to young girls is our Educational Material Blog with monthly editions focused around one of our 5 themes: Sports, Nature and Environment, Art and Music, Volunteerism, and Education/STEM.  Activities may include: printable games, arts and crafts, science experiments, girl empowerment articles, surveys and interest inventories, crosswords and puzzles, scavenger hunts, and so much more!!  Each educational themed based activity can be done independently or with a family member(s) too!  We hope these educational blogs will help Clever Belles search for new interests and maybe even a newfound passion in Sports, Nature, the Arts, Volunteerism, or the Sciences.  So stay tuned and make sure to check our website out frequently at www.cleverbelle.com for the latest news, updates, educational materials, and shirts for sale!

Our first educational material is the Matching Card Game: Sports Edition

This fun and interactive game allows girls to explore the endless sports that female athletes pursue.  It gives girls the idea that there is no sport that girls can’t do and if they believe it, they can achieve it!  They will discover birthdates, hometowns, education, accomplishments, personal life, and a fun fact of each female athlete from past and present.  So grab a partner and have some fun!


They were all aspirations of young ladies we met over the past weekend at Naperville's Last Fling! We at Clever Belle were inspired by the many girls who stopped by our tent. We enjoyed hearing their stories and learning about how they are pursuing their dreams. They inspired us to add to our already growing list of future shirt designs! Their passion was contagious and definitely rubbed off on us.

It was a pleasure talking with two girlfriends who were excited to tell us about their passions. One of them showed us photos of her motocross dirt bike, which she races competitively, while the other explained how she just landed her first part in a theatre production. They had such enthusiasm and represent the true essence of Clever Belle.  

The same day, a football player from a local junior high school stopped by to chat with us. We loved her spirit and we're confident she inspires girls around her to do the things they love. She's setting a great example for others.

When we met a mother and daughter who loved our "I Love Science" tee, we thought it would be fun to ask the daughter about her favorite lab experiment. We didn't expect to learn that she loves quantum physics! Super impressed with her knowledge of this subject at her young age.

Many parents were eager to tell us how proud they are of their brilliant daughters. One father purchased the Malala shirt for his daughter, because she writes positive quotes and hangs them on her locker. Her principal has taken notice and asked her to provide quotes for the morning announcements. Another father and daughter were admiring our "Music" tee, when she pointed out that the image uses positive and negative space. She's absolutely right!  

And how could we forget the six year old who kept leaving her mother's side to come spin our prize wheel. "You're her favorite booth here," her mom told us. We could go on and on about the stories shared with us; so many passions from bakers to dancers to writers. Thank you to all our fans!  If you weren’t able to make it to the festival, please check out our website at www.cleverbelle.com  for the latest news, updates, and shirts for sale!

Come check out our tent for fun interactive games and prizes at the Naperville Jaycees Last Fling over Labor Day Weekend- September 5-7th from 10 am-5 pm. You can find us at the Family Fun Land Business Expo at Naper Settlement. We’ll have all of our shirts on display for sale. www.lastfling.org/FamilyFunLand

Naperville Jaycees Last Fling

Family Fun Land Business Expo at Naper Settlement
Labor Day Weekend
Sep. 5 - 7th | 10am - 5pm

We have been busy here at Clever Belle. Back in June, we reached our goal on Kickstarter thanks to all of our fans who supported us. And now onto the next milestone…our website has launched, so now everyone can purchase a Clever Belle tee! Shop now at www.cleverbelle.com

We want to thank all of our Clever Belle fans for all your support and patience with us as we delivered our shirts from our Kickstarter campaign. We are thrilled to begin this new journey of selling our merchandise online. Oh, and don’t forget to spread the great news about Clever Belle to your friends and family too!

Cindy, Jenny, Krisy and Jason