Israeli fashion writer Dafna Lustig has debuted a very nifty blog featuring online selections that meet her standards for dressing toddlers: well-made, good value and -- if possible -- favoring unisex over stereotyped designs. In an interview with Haaretz.com, Lustig explains her philosophy, including anticipating her daughter's future demand for the shiny and sparkly. It pains me to see this desire accepted so readily as innate and inevitable. True, most children go through a stage of preferring highly stereotyped clothing in other to feel more secure in their assigned gender (usually around 4 or 5). But the exact nature of those stereotypes is culturally and socially constructed, and one of our responsibilities as parents is to help children move through each developmental stage to the next.
How have you successfully negotiated a comfortable balance between the 4-year-olds' fixation on the extreme poles of feminine-masculine child culture and the reality of a world where mommies use power tools and daddies wear pink shirts?
Dafna's blog, http://babyfashion.co.il/ is in Hebrew, but the pictures are lovely and Google translate is your friend. My favorite part: the cure little ice cream cone links to "not recommended", "recommended" and "very recommended".
Yesterday, February 12, would have been my mother's 90th birthday. In her memory, I decided take a close look at children's fashion in the year of her birth. As the third child born to a young German Lutheran minister and his wife in rural Canada, I doubt if she ever wore any of the fancier styles shown here, but family photos certainly confirm the rules of appropriate clothing for children under 7.
Babies from birth to around 6 months: long white gowns, ranging from minimally embellished to elaborately trimmed with lace and embroidery.
Babies from six months to a year or slightly older: short white dresses and one-piece rompers. Again, these could be plain or fancy, depending on the occasion and the family's budget and needlework talents.
Gender differences were introduced between one and two years, with little boys exchanging dresses for short trousers, often attached to their shirts or blouses with buttons at the waistline. Little girls stayed in dresses, but in an array of colors.
"Pink or Blue? Which is intended for boys and which for girls? This question comes from one of our readers this month, and the discussion may be of interest to others. There has been a great diversity of opinion on this subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the poy and blue for the girls. the reason is that pink being a more decided and stringer color, is more suitable for the boy' while blue, which is more delicate and dainty is prettier for the girl”
Infants’ Department, June 1918The first time I encountered these words, paging through a heavy, bound issue of Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department, nearly thirty years ago, I stopped and re-read it several times, at least once under my breath. I was following up a minor sideline in a project on babies’ clothing during the Progressive Era -- the seemingly trivial question “when were pink and blue introduced as gendered colors?” At that point, the white rabbit darted into its hole and I dove in after it. Years later, I am back to tell the very complicated tale of how American baby and toddler clothing went from completely devoid of sexual hints to almost completely separated into “his” and hers” camps.
boy's button-on suit, 1920s
Pink and blue symbolism is so firmly embedded in American popular culture that it’s hard to believe that their gender associations are relatively new, and have changed with each generation. Before 1900, babies in the United States wore white clothing that signified their age but not their sex, consistent with cultural norms. Toddler clothing (up to age 4) was more colorful, but hues were assigned according to complexion, season or fashion, not sex.In the 1920s and 1930s pink was the preferred color for little boys in many parts of the United States.