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Children's Fashion, pre-1900

For most of the nineteenth century--until 1900--both boys and girls wore dresses until age six, and parents did not worry if others could not distinguish the sex of their young child. Dresses were not merely "feminine" then; they symbolized exclusion from the privileged world of male adulthood. Boys put aside dresses for breeches at about age five. After that age, it became an indignity for a boy to wear "girls'" clothing. The question of how and why color-coding for infants began is not easily answered. With the growth of the social sciences at the end of the 1800s and into the 1900s, people may have been influenced by the new idea that many gender characteristics were learned, rather than innate. Making it easier to tell the boys from the girls might allow for children to be socialized into their "proper" roles beginning in infancy.

 



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