I have been told that I dress my son in too much blue and too many stripes. I may be guilty of that, but I also love to put him in orange, green, red, jungle animals (especially monkeys!), spaceships, robots, cars, planes, trains, dinosaurs and monsters, too.
As IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve perused the baby and children’s departments at numerous stores, I have come to the conclusion that I actually really like clothes made for boys better than I like clothes made for girls.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t appreciate pink, frilly dresses and ruffles, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just that I prefer the bright primary colors that are more common in clothes marketed for infant and toddler boys and the themes used in both boyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s and gender neutral clothing.
The themes in boys clothing celebrate predominantly male (and mostly working class) occupations such as firemen, construction workers, mechanics, pilots, and soldiers. Activity themes seem to be popular as well, involving clothes that promote going on safari, exploring, hunting, fishing and playing sports (case in point above).
Even as infants, we start to socialize baby boys into occupations. You rarely find occupation themed clothes for girls. Little girls clothes have flowers, frills, and occasionally animals (i.e. butterflies, dragonflies and lady bugs), but they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have occupational themes. They also rarely have activity themes outside of shopping or cheerleading. In fact, to me the worst subset of little girls clothes are those that say Ã¢â‚¬Å“princessÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“divaÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Diva is often used in a mocking way to indicate that the girl is overly demanding and unlike the fireman or construction worker, a princess doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t earn her title Ã¢â‚¬â€œ sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s born with it or marries into it. Princess themed clothes also seem to play up baby girls’ looks Ã¢â‚¬â€œ looking like a princess means looking pretty. We know this is a slippery slope and not necessarily the message we should be sending our daughters
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen a few shirts that have messages about boys being handsome or cute, and then there is the ever witty (dreadful) sayings: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chick MagnetÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I drink until I pass outÃ¢â‚¬Â,Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how I rollÃ¢â‚¬Â, “iPooed”, etc.
One of the reasons that baby clothes are so strongly gendered is that babies themselves are often androgynous. If you put them only in a diaper, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s often hard to tell what sex the baby is, but that androgyny doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit well into our gender polarized society, so this is where the clothes come in.
Those clothes have underlying and blatant messages. Baby boy clothes say: be active, be bold, enjoy the outdoors, and get a respectable paying job. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem that baby girl clothing has the same messages.
Here’s something to think about: Parents used to clothe their boys in dresses because pants symbolized an accession to manhood. The day a young boy received his first pair of pantsÃ¢â‚¬â€an event known as “breeching” to early AmericansÃ¢â‚¬â€was a critical moment in his life. This usually occurred between ages 4 and 7 for 17th-century lads. Boys made the switch to pants younger and younger until the early 20th century, when they stopped wearing dresses altogether.
TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s parents have a seemingly infinite choice of where to buy baby clothes and also the particular style they want, as long as you can find something that fitsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ the sizing of childrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clothes is still a mystery to me, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the topic for another post.
Am I reading too much into children’s fashion, or do you agree with me?