- Piper Phillips said an employee at her local Joann Fabrics store told her son that boys shouldn’t wear dresses.
- Phillips said her son became interested in wearing dresses a year ago, adding that it made him happy.
- The has since been employee terminated after Phillips made a viral TikTok.
A mother said in a now-viral TikTok that a Joann Fabrics employee made several derisive comments about her son while they were shopping for fabrics to make him a dress — prompting the company to fire the worker.
Piper Phillips, 37, a dressmaker of four years who also goes by @Palousedressco on TikTok, took her 7-year-old son to their local Joann Fabrics store in Moscow, Idaho on September 7 to pick up materials for his dress.
Phillips said she wanted to cheer up her son after she received a call from his school’s principal saying bullies taunted him for wearing a dress.
At the store, Phillips and her son picked up a Spider-Man patterned fabric. At the counter, the employee asked Phillip’s son what he was making — to which he responded a Spider-Man dress. The unnamed female employee expressed confusion about why Phillips was making a dress for her son.
“She just stopped what she was doing,” Phillips recalled. “She stopped measuring and asked us more questions. And I tried really hard to stop the conversation several times, and she just kept going.”
The employee then began to lecture the two and told her son directly that boys can’t wear dresses, according to Phillips. The employee became irate and would not stop lecturing the two even after the store’s shift manager came over to tell her to stop, Phillips said.
“I was seeing red, and I was just trying to stay calm, and I didn’t want to… I was very aware that my son was watching and listening and that I needed to model the appropriate behavior, and that’s really hard to do in the moment,” Phillips said.
“So I just tried really hard to stay calm, and to speak bluntly, and to the point, and clearly put up a boundary. I told her, ‘Stop.’ several times.”
Phillips told Insider that her son took an interest in wearing a dress about a year ago after watching Frozen.
“So, I bought him an Elsa dress-up kit, and he put the dress on, and twirled, and smiled so big and just loved it so much,” Phillips said. “And then a few months later he found this fabric in my sewing room that was pink with butterflies on it, and he was like, ‘Mom, I want to dress out of this.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, you came to the right spot.’”
A week after the incident, Phillips posted on TikTok about her experience at the store and amassed more than 4 million views.
A spokesperson told Insider in a statement that the employee was fired after making the “inappropriate, judgmental and derogatory remarks.”
“JOANN absolutely stands for inclusivity and creativity for all, and we are proud to support our thousands of customers and Team Members who are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” a company spokesperson said. “We do not tolerate discrimination, disrespect or harassment in any form and terminated the Team Member immediately upon investigation.”
Phillips, who was also a former shift manager at that Joann Fabrics story, said she recalls working with the employee who would occasionally proselytize while working.
“I’m glad to see that she’s no longer there,” she said. “But it’s a reflection on the culture of that store and the company, how that kind of thing slips through the cracks and how that was able to go on for so long, at a supposedly inclusive diversity-oriented company.”
“I’d like to see a little bit more done, I think, before we go back,” she added.
Phillips told Insider that she spoke with her son after the store experience and told him that people would say rude things but keep being himself and proud of himself, and offered advice for other parents upon reflecting on her experience.
“I would say that your child is gonna learn from you how to think and how to feel and how to act, so if you model the behavior and you model the love and the confidence and the support that you want your child to have — and it’s like magic — your child will receive that message,” Phillips said.