Why Do Girls Wear Pink?

pink-and-blue-gender-Mellins-baby-food-ad-7 No, it’s not an immutable law of nature. In the 1920s, retailers began encouraging pink (a strong color) for boys and blue (a dainty one) for girls, before the trend reversed after World War II. For centuries prior, both boys and girls wore white dresses.

In light of hysteria over a photograph in J. Crew’s new catalog depicting a mother painting her son’s toenails pink, Smithsonian Magazine explores how we got to this point:

For centuries, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,’ ” Paoletti says.

The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says.

When the women’s liberation movement arrived in the mid-1960s, with its anti-feminine, anti-fashion message, the unisex look became the rage—but completely reversed from the time of young Franklin Roosevelt. Now young girls were dressing in masculine—or at least unfeminine—styles, devoid of gender hints. Paoletti found that in the 1970s, the Sears, Roebuck catalog pictured no pink toddler clothing for two years.

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  • Ranandar

    FOX News. What do you expect?

  • Ranandar

    FOX News. What do you expect?

  • seinnm

    It’s silly how people think that toys and the color of clothes will affect their child’s gener identity developement. Gender identity has more to do with how the brain is wired. Thus if you raise a boy as a girl he will likely rebel and vice versa. So yes, most boys like masculine play because it comes naturally to them and most girls like feminine play because it comes naturally to them aswell. People like to say that gender roles are only cultural constructs but these are always influenced by biology. As for androgynous children, they are also the way they are because of nature (most science points to hormones in the womb) not nurture. Just ask any parent of a transgender child, no matter how hard they tried to instill in the child the gender identity assigned to their physical sex , it just wouldn’t take.

  • seinnm

    It’s silly how people think that toys and the color of clothes will affect their child’s gener identity developement. Gender identity has more to do with how the brain is wired. Thus if you raise a boy as a girl he will likely rebel and vice versa. So yes, most boys like masculine play because it comes naturally to them and most girls like feminine play because it comes naturally to them aswell. People like to say that gender roles are only cultural constructs but these are always influenced by biology. As for androgynous children, they are also the way they are because of nature (most science points to hormones in the womb) not nurture. Just ask any parent of a transgender child, no matter how hard they tried to instill in the child the gender identity assigned to their physical sex , it just wouldn’t take.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7NSDHXZVKAFK4SVLFWIQQDXURI Dirk Johnson

    No mention of patriarchy, theory fail.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7NSDHXZVKAFK4SVLFWIQQDXURI Dirk Johnson

    No mention of patriarchy, theory fail.

  • art maven

    How about the famous paintings of “Pinkie” + “Blue Boy” – they are English but date from about the time of the American Revolution.  “Pinkie” was a girl and “Blue Boy” . . . you guessed it.

  • art maven

    How about the famous paintings of “Pinkie” + “Blue Boy” – they are English but date from about the time of the American Revolution.  “Pinkie” was a girl and “Blue Boy” . . . you guessed it.

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