American Studies professor Jo B. Paoletti has announced the publication of her book, Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America. I've been eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a copy. It was from Paoletti that I learned that the idea that pink was a feminine and blue a masculine color was a relatively new invention in American history (one that even now does not necessarily extend to other countries). See, for example, this pink 1920s birthday card for a man (with a pre-Nazi swastika too).
The book asks "When did we startdressing girls in pink and boys in blue?" To answer this question:
She chronicles the decline of the white dress for both boys and girls, the introduction of rompers in the early 20th century, the gendering of pink and blue, the resurgence of unisex fashions, and the origins of today's highly gender-specific baby and toddler clothing.
As an illustration of the changing color norms, she offered a one-minute video (above) featuring a collection of cards sent to a pair of new parents in the 1960s. She notes that many of the cards are gender-neutral and include both pink and blue, but that even the gender-specific cards (this particular baby was a girl) use both colors. These cards, then, reveal that pink and blue had emerged as recognizable baby colors by the 1960s, but the use of blue in the "for girl" cards and the preponderance of gender-neutral cards suggests that the importance of gender differentiation hadn't taken hold.
(P.S.: At her website Paoletti says she has a book planned on "old lady clothes, mother-of-the-bride dresses, cougars and other age-appropriate nonsense." I can't wait.)
This post originally appeared on Sociological Images. Republished with permission.
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