The President's Dress


Nothing to fear but fashion.

Intro of the month:

Little Franklin Delano Roosevelt sits primly on a stool, his white skirt spread smoothly over his lap, his hands clasping a hat trimmed with a marabou feather. Shoulder-length hair and patent leather party shoes complete the ensemble.

The lede alone is reason enough to click the link, but the rest of the article is worthwhile in its own right: It's a very interesting history of changing children's fashions.

"For centuries," Jeanne Maglaty writes, "children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6." Gender-coded colors arrived in the early 20th century, but "even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out." Maglaty quotes a 1918 article in a trade journal that declared: "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the 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."

The several shifts we've since then are not a case of corporate chieftains programming consumers, but of evolving consumer preferences being "interpreted by manufacturers and retailers." And those preferences, in turn, are affected by the times:

Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends.

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. [Historian Jo B.] Paoletti found that in the 1970s, the Sears, Roebuck catalog pictured no pink toddler clothing for two years….

Gender-neutral clothing remained popular until about 1985. Paoletti remembers that year distinctly because it was between the births of her children, a girl in '82 and a boy in '86. "All of a sudden it wasn't just a blue overall; it was a blue overall with a teddy bear holding a football," she says. Disposable diapers were manufactured in pink and blue.

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for "girl" or "boy" merchandise. ("The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell," Paoletti says.)

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: Keynes: The Closet Supply Sider

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  1. Can’t be true. This has to be a glitch in the Matrix.

  2. I’m not so sure about that bit about gender neutral colors being the rage under 1985. I remember quite clearly having blue clothes as a kid and girls in the neighborhood wearing pink. That’s back in the 60s and early 70s.

    1. I was there, I also remember, plaid, tye dye and corduroy.

      1. I do, too, but those weren’t the standard baby and toddler colors.

        1. my favorite clothes when I was a toddler in the 70’s was a plaid Nehru suit. Man, did I rock that thing.

          1. I had a black turtleneck and striped bell bottoms. And I rocked it!

      2. Plaid shirt with different plaid pants in elementary school. I did it. It was the 60’s. But, sadly, there were no drugs involved.

        1. Plaid bell bottom pants with plaid shirt for first day of first grade. Too bad the photo is black in white.

          1. Lots of plaid. By the time I was in first grade, I was wearing plaid most of the time. Or brown. Corduroy, polyester, the works. Sears Toughskins, too.

          2. When my kids see pictures of me as a child and laugh, I point out that I didn’t dress myself. Unlike my kids.

  3. I never really thought about it liek that before.

  4. I was born in ’85 & grew up surrounded by so much pink that I swore off the color until about a year ago.

    I wanted all the cool blue & green shirts the boys in the neighborhood had, with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on them!

    1. Maybe your parents were thinking of that Molly Ringwald film.

      1. Given my Mom’s love for that movie? Probably. Ugh.

  5. “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the 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 even worse than a future where Command personnel suddenly go from wearing gold to wearing red. What will be up with that?

    1. I assume it was a desire to kill off command crew instead of hoi polloi? Perhaps there was an insurrection after Kirk’s ridiculous and impossible death.

      Does anyone know why the show made the change?

      1. Supposedly, it was because the makeup department thought Frakes and Stewart looked better in red than gold.

      2. Actually, I think the wardrobe people did it because Patrick Stewart in beige was creating a damping field around the entire franchise.

        1. Yet if he’d stayed in Kirkian command colors, the course of the series would’ve been much tougher.

      3. Well because by the time TNG came out the Uniforms had already been significantly changed at least twice, to a white/grey and then later to an all red color scheme in the movies. In these installments your branch was indicated by insignia on your uniform and not color coded. With TNG the restored the Color coding of the original series but with some changes. Primarily “Command” moving from being clumped with “Operations” over to with “Security”, which probably makes sense as Star Fleet is primarily a military organization.

        1. Then why did the insignia no longer denote department? And why were all starships suddenly using the Enterprise insignia? Answer me that, smart guy.

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