My parents recently moved out of my childhood home, which meant that we inevitably had to sort through and organize 30+ years of memories, treasures, and junk. As I started sorting through a pile of very old articles & photographs, I was taken aback by a picture of a baby boy in a white dress. At first, I assumed it was for a Christening, and then quickly realized he was just in regular, everyday clothes. Was this normal, or did my conservative family decide to dress their son in drag? Anyone today who put a boy in a dress, regardless of the age, would probably get some funny looks from strangers.
I looked into it and found out that for centuries all youngsters used to be clothed in white dresses for a few very practical reasons. Kids make huge messes and it was easy to bleach out stains in white garments. Those white clothes could be reused for children of any gender, which saved money. Plus, dresses made it much easier to change diapers. Any new parent who has had to count the pee & poop diapers over the first 6 weeks of having a newborn would probably really appreciate the convenience of dresses, so what happened to cause the change?
The answer - a very successful marketing campaign. For families with multiple children, apparel manufacturers would not make as much money if the parents can simply reuse the same baby clothes for each gender, so they very decided to do something about it. Pastel baby clothes were introduced in the mid-19th century. At the time, the Ladies’ Home Journal advised that pink was for boys, and blue was for girls, “The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." That’s right - pink for boys, blue for girls! The blue/pink phenomena switched back and forth multiple times over the decades, since what better way to get parents to buy an
Pastel baby clothes were introduced in the mid-19th century. At the time, the Ladies’ Home Journal advised that pink was for boys, and blue was for girls, “The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." That’s right - pink for boys, blue for girls! The blue/pink phenomena switched back and forth multiple times over the decades, since what better way to get parents to buy an entire new set of clothes than to keep changing the societal norm? Our current mantra of “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” seemed to stick for good in the mid-80’s when prenatal gender testing became common and manufacturers successfully created a fad to convince parents to buy an entire set of new baby products for each child, before the baby was even born.
My Svaha business partner, Jaya, is Indian and recently shared a picture with me of her family member’s daughter. The little girl’s dress had a car print on it, and she stated this was very normal for children over there. In the US, we claim to be so progressive and on the forefront of modern thinking, however in India (which we consider a developing country), they dress their children in whatever they want to without these strict gender stereotypes. Why do we have such a close-minded view of femininity and masculinity in the US? My 4-year-old son loves purple - or at least he used to until he ‘learned’ that purple is a girls’ color. Now his reaction to anything purple is, “That’s girl stuff!” What are we doing to our children?
When I joined up to start the Svaha apparel line, our intent was to create a world of options for children. We don’t want little boys or little girls to feel isolated because the design/theme/color/etc. they love is not available to them. We don’t think it’s fair to allow these stifling gender stereotypes to be continuously marketed to our children. We don’t want kids to get bullied for liking things that aren’t ‘gender traditional’. Our kids should be able to decide for themselves what they like! We think it’s time for parents to put their foot down and not teach our children these bizarre gender stereotypes that exist within our culture and demand a change!
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