Gender Differences in Children's Clothing

by Lauren Corona

Boys and girls are often dressed differently.

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There are some obvious gender differences in children's clothing, such as a tendency to choose different colored clothing for boys and girls, and dresses for girls, opposed to pants for boys. These preferences are known to sociologists and psychologists as "gender stereotyping," and some believe that this impacts the social development of the child.

Color

One of the most obvious gender differences in children's clothing is use of color. Typically, pink clothing is associated with girls, while blue clothing is associated with boys. This color difference tends to be most prominent in babies' clothing, perhaps due to the fact that gender is less apparent in a young baby. Most other colors are seen as gender neutral, but boys are more likely to be dressed in strong colors and girls in pastels.

Skirt Versus Pants

In contemporary times, it is common and acceptable for girls to wear pants and shorts. Conversely, it is not generally acceptable to dress a boy in a skirt or dress. Although girls have been wearing pants for certain work or activities since the 1800s, it did not been commonly acceptable to do so in public until the 1960s.

Historical Differences

Contrary to the above, until around 1940, blue was the common color for girls, as it was seen as daintier. Boys, on the other hand, were dressed in pink, because it is a dilution of the color red, therefore considered to be stronger. In addition, boys were commonly dressed in skirts and dresses up until the age of 6 or 7. It was not until the late 1950s that dresses for baby boys were dropped from the clothing lines in most department stores.

Considerations

The unconscious process of shaping a person to fit in with society's norms and values is known to sociologists as "socialization." Many academics believe that gender stereotyping, via choice of clothes, amongst other aspects, lead to children growing up to fit into traditional gender roles. Others argue that boys used to be dressed in pink and wear dresses, but still grew up with masculine traits and so claim that this theory cannot be correct. There are other points to consider, however, and neither side has been proved or disproved.

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