Why 100 years ago blue was worn by girls, and pink was considered male

In the fashion magazines of that time, ironclad arguments were given in favor of just such a distribution of shades.

How do you feel about the tradition of buying up all the shades of a Barbie doll for girls and surrounding boys exclusively in blue? If you think it is not too practical, but are afraid to violate sacred rituals, then we offer to understand whether they are sacred in fact …

What if a girl is born? Such a question will one hundred percent drive a pregnant woman waiting for a boy into a stupor because she has already bought up all the incarnations of blue color … Given how expensive children’s things are today, the presence of coloristic frames is a real problem. And if we take into account the fact that the tradition of gender separation of colors that we are accustomed to is not so ancient and rather conditional, for which we suffer, it is generally unclear.

Pink is delicate, so feminine. Blue is serious, so masculine. A hundred years ago, you would have been laughed at with that logic.

If you raised an eyebrow in surprise, preparing to defend the usual logic (after all, “it has always been so”), do not rush to waste energy and first study the issue. “Always” has not been like this, and the logic that seems ironclad today is actually quite fragile. The tradition familiar to us took shape and became entrenched only by the middle of the XX century. And before that, a different approach prevailed. And if we talk about logic, then it is found in it much more.

Blue for Girls

The blue color in your head is firmly fused with masculinity, but can you make an argument if you want to defend the legitimacy of this association? Give it a shot. What comes to mind when you imagine shades of blue? Most likely, there is nothing that would directly indicate a connection with the masculine principle, but for some reason, there is an infallible faith in it in my head …

By the way, it is with faith that completely different interpretations of blue are associated. Since the XII century, the shade of ultramarine has become the official color of Our Lady. In her images, there were always blue items of clothing. Here, of course, there was an association with the sky, but the main thing that I had to illustrate the shade was sadness. Our Lady mourns for her son, so she is dressed in blue. Thus, the shade, being originally a symbol of sadness, became associated with femininity.

"Madonna of Ansidea", by Rafael Santi, photo: Getty Images
“Madonna of Ansidea”, by Rafael Santi
"Adoration of the Baby" by Filippo Lippi, photo: Getty Images
 “Adoration of the Baby” by Filippo Lippi

Blue, which was a symbol of sorrow, became associated with femininity.

If you believe the researcher of the topic of color Cassia St. Clair, then a hundred years ago this logic was quite ordinary. In the book “The Secret Life of Color”, the author cites excerpts from a magazine of 1918, where girls are recommended to dress in blue, as this color is “more delicate and refined.” Obviously, his association with the image of the Virgin Mary could not give other associations.

Pink for Boys

What did the 1918 magazine recommend for boys? No matter how strange it may sound, but direct instructions relating to the choice of color, which today seems to us the most “girly” in the world. A hundred years ago, he was perceived as “determined and strong.” It is these qualities that pink is endowed within that very article. If it seems to you that there simply can be no adequate logic, then you are simply not aware of the background that stretches behind this shade.

“After all, pink is just a pale red, which in the era of soldiers in red uniforms and cardinals in red robes was the most masculine of colors,” explains the coloristic logic of a century ago to Cassia St. Clair.

If you dig deeper, red is associated with aggression, wars, and power. Hence the association with determination. When the white was added to red, it acquired a certain lightness (characteristic of childhood) but did not lose the main quality. At least at the time.

Versatile Solutions

It is important to mention here that there was no fanaticism in the field of gender colorists at that time. Mentions in journals are in the nature of a recommendation, not a dogma. If we study the portraits of the beginning of the XX century, we can see completely different options. Girls are often dressed in blue, and boys often appear in shades of red, but there are other solutions.

Moreover, Cassia St. Clair notes that the main children’s color of that time (until the beginning of the XX century) was still white. And there is neither an esoteric nor a cultural background. Pure practicality. The logic is not very fun, but vital. The fact is that child mortality rates at that time were high and were largely determined by unsanitary conditions. The clothes had to be washed well and clearly illustrate the fact of their unsuitability for further use.

White is the color of purity and innocence. Such associations arise from the fact that dirt is clearly visible on it. And it was this fact that dictated his choice for newborns. The idea was superimposed.

No matter how sadly the above fact of choosing the white color was justified, it illustrates a very important point that is truly worthy of becoming support for creating your own logic. You should be comfortable. And yet, your unique scenario can rely on: personal preferences in the field of shades (like / dislike), color characteristics (psychological, esoteric, etc.), even fashion trends of the season, or your own color of appearance. The main thing is that it should not be the “collective unconscious”, but your personal and quite conscious. By the way, if your eyes are blue and a boy is born, then you will be able to combine business with pleasure.

What colors can be an alternative?

To expand the boundaries of our coloristic ideas, we will study the current Pantone fashion palette (autumn-winter 21/22 / spring-summer 22), excluding everything pink and blue from there. At our disposal will be at least ten interesting shades: purple, green, yellow and brown. You can determine your favorites based on information about what psychological associations they cause.

  • Purple is creativity, mysticism.
  • Green is wisdom and peace.
  • Yellow — cheerfulness and optimism.
  • Brown is calm and stable.

The gallery also has several neutral shades: khaki, beige, gray. They are all universal flowers. They go well with everything and do not strain the eyes. It’s about practicality.

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