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Monday, February 8, 2010

Dressed For Success

I have been told that I dress you in too much blue and too many stripes. I may be guilty of that, but I also love to put you in orange, green, red, jungle animals (especially monkeys!), spaceships, robots, cars, planes, trains, dinosaurs and monsters too.

As I've perused the baby departments at numerous stores, I have come to the conclusion that I like clothes made for boys better than I like clothes made for girls. It’s not that I don’t like frilly dresses and ruffles, it’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 boy's and gender neutral clothing.

The themes in baby 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 the promote going on safari, hunting, fishing, eating and playing sports.

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 don’t have occupational themes. They also rarely have activity themes outside of shopping or cheer leading. In fact, to me the worst subset of little girls clothes are those that say “princess” or “diva”. Diva is often used in a derisive way to indicate that the girl is overly demanding, and unlike the fireman or construction worker a princess doesn't earn her title – she’s born with it or marries into it. Princess themed clothes also seem to play up baby girls looks – looking like a princess means looking pretty. I've seen a few shirts that have messages about boys being handsome or cute, and then there's the ever witty (dreadful) sayings: “Chick Magnet”, “I drink until I pass out” or “That’s how I roll”, but those are much less common in the boys department.

I believe that 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, it’s often hard to tell what sex the baby is, but that androgyny doesn'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 doesn't seem that baby girls clothing have the same messages.

Today'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 fits....the sizing of children's clothes is still a mystery to me, but that's the topic for an other post.

The best is yet to be.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Leah said...

Whoa, I've never thought this hard about baby clothes but it certainly sounds like you have. Now that I think about it, it's so true that the girls clothes generally don't have real-world professions like the boys clothes do. We should talk to someone about that...hmm..
I love that I can't help but check out baby boy clothes now no matter where I am. Like today for example, I was in Macys looking at house robes and I somehow managed to find myself in the baby department! But no, I didn't buy anything for Lucas because I wasn't sure what he needs now. So, what is he in need of now?

February 8, 2010 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger mamacoreenie said...

Very interesting insight and I agree. But one of the isues I have with boy clothes is the fact that most everything has a theme. Most days that is just fine, but some days it'd be nice to put my son in a plain tee-shirt that doesn't have a pattern or a slogan or some other picture/words/toy/cartoon character on it.

February 9, 2010 at 8:57 AM  

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