Why is President Franklin D. Roosevelt Wearing a Dress?

Franklin-Roosevelt-1884For an American parent, it is difficult to buy any item for their child, no matter how young, without running into (meeting) a clear dichotomy (split into two): boy or girl?

In many stores with children’s items, there are separate boys’ sections and girls’ sections for nearly everything, from clothing to shoes to toys. And in the boys’ sections, you’ll find a predominance of (having more of) the color blue and in the girls’ sections, a preference for the color pink.

But it hasn’t always been this way. The photo you see in this post is of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was two and a half years old. Yes, that is a boy.

It seems strange for us now to see a boy with his hair long and styled (fixed) in this way, wearing a dress, and with a big frilly (with a lot of decoration) hat with feathers. But in 1884 when this photo was taken, it was the norm (usual thing to do).

Historian Jo Paoletti says that before the World Wars, children were dressed in white dresses like these with white diapers (cloth or other material wrapped around a baby’s or young child’s bottom for going to the bathroom) for convenience. It was easier to change children’s diapers when they were wearing a dress, and the color white allowed for bleaching (the use of a chemical to make fabric white if it gets dirty or stained).

Both the wearing of the white dresses and the long hair were typical (normal) until age six or seven, when children had their first haircut. Believe it or not, this outfit (set of clothing and accessories) was considered gender-neutral (not indicating whether a person is male or female).

And the color pink for girls and blue for boys didn’t become the trend until just before World War I. Before that time, many people actually considered pink the masculine (related to men and strength) color and blue the feminine (related to women and delicacy) one. Some of the major department stores (large stores with many departments including clothing, shoes, make-up, and housewares (things used in the kitchen or home)) even published guidelines during this period for dressing children, suggesting blue for girls and pink for boys.

Eventually, in the 1940s, clothing manufacturers began making more pink clothing for girls and blue for boys, reflecting (following) what they believed were customer preferences. Who knows how color conventions (what is considered normal and socially accepted) will be in 100 years?

Are pink and blue the colors associated with boys and girls where you live? What associations are attached to these and other colors?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit:  Franklin Roosevelt-1884 from Wikipedia

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30 Responses to Why is President Franklin D. Roosevelt Wearing a Dress?

  1. peter says:

    Jarring indeed
    Hi Lucy ,
    Very strange story
    Well ,As long as it convenient. Right?
    Well, clearly customer preferences ,demand one might say, form the general trend in a giving society. And, it tends to changes from one era to another.
    Still , I m trying to wrap my head around the fact that how on earth people used to dress up a boy like a doll,given people were more conservative and prude back then. Well ,were they ?
    I have no proofs to back up the postulate. But,it must be it.
    Well ,nowadays ,there is a clear distinction between what boys and girls wear.at least , in Canada , I assure you nobody puts a dress on their boys.
    I mean ,the cut and the designs are totally different here.However ,when it comes to color ,the line gets a bit fuzzy. Most clothing colours out there are unisex. No distinction there. U see boys out there wearing red or pink.well,there have never been any limitation to the choice of colors for girls. They practically wear every color there is out there.

    But ,with boys comes limitations.

    Now that I m thinking about it,boys typically don’t wear shocking colors. By that I mean colours that stand out.
    Bold colours ,if u will.

    Well,in all fairness ,there are no much of options for men out there. We are the simpler sex the species :))
    We mostly wake up in the morning throw on whatever is within our reach and we are good to go. Trust me sometimes it happens that I wear the same shirt and pants one week in a row.

    For the female of species :)things are not as simple.
    Boy ,they go trough a long, arduous ritual every morning before the leave their place.
    Guys , lucky us, we get to sleep more 😉

    For kids things are different. It doesn’t really matter what color or style u shimmy them into. At the end of the day ,they wind up muddy ,torn or dirty anyway.still,we go out of our way to make them look pretty. Right ?
    the things we do for our kids ,right ?


  2. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    In Brazil it is customery to dress boys with blue and girls with pink. I personally don’t see it as a rule. What the matter if a boy wants pink and a girl wants blue? He will be boy and she will be girl, no matter if. But you can have your belief. It is yours.

  3. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    I have to say that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nice in that outfit. Nice and cute.

  4. Dan says:

    Hello Lucy.

    I was really surprised to see that the kid in the picture was a male. I really believed it was a female.

    In my opinion when a kid is able to decide for him/herself what to wear they should be able to do so regardless their gender. Pink, blue, black, whatever they want.

    What I find really crazy, is that there are countries, ideologies, religions that dictate what even adults must wear.
    I find that backward and ridiculous.

    I kind of understand that for babies, but for adults, really! In 2015!

  5. Dan says:


    I find these things, I mean how we behave or how our mind works, and why we do so.
    One of the people I am currently following on YouTube is a Evolutionary Behavioral Scientist.
    He sometimes posts videos explaining why we behave certain ways.
    His name is Gad Saad and lives in Canada.

    I find it fascinating how we associate colors to events.
    Like for instance black and purple for funerals or death in general.
    I find myself doing that too. But if I stop and think why I am doing so, I have no answer.
    I do associate pink with all female stuff. Why? I don’t know.
    We probably suck in stuff without even noticing that. Our brains does that.

    Very interesting.

  6. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    That it is, Dan. No matter what they wear, they are people.

  7. peter says:

    I m childless
    I m not an expert in this department so whatever I say here is just assumptions and speculations.
    I have been doing some thinking on the subject at hand.
    Well , I couldn’t think of anything a bit more intellectual than my regular gibber gabber you read in my comments.
    Well , I know you are saying that I am stating the obvious,as u must have found out by now that I m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. :))
    Well , this time around , I decided to step out of my comfort zone and come up with something that sounds more more ntellectual at least.

    To that end , I did some thinking and I realized I need to go out there and interview some mothers with small kids or has raised their little ones already.
    They must be very resourceful.they could provide me with lots of insights, the material I need.
    Well , naturally , I first asked my mom who has raised three boys to give me one or two pointers.
    u know , the first thing she said was that she had never been worried about our wardrobes. She said , all she needed to do was getting some roomy comfy shirts and pants for us so when we were chasing after one another around the house don’t get all chafed :)))
    With three boys , my top concern was how to feed them not how to dress them, she said.:)))

    But , According to my aunt , the mother of one girl and one boy , with girls fashion does come to play.
    “As a mother of a bunch girls , you need to have a good sense of fashion as it is quite a hassle dressing them”, she says.
    She continues “They are very self conscious about the way they look even as a kid. And ,more importantly ,the way they look is a reflection on their mother. ”
    “U know , Fathers never get blamed for a poor choice of clothing for their daughters, “she said smirking
    With boys couldn’t be easier. They can go out in almost anything.
    However , don’t even get me started on girls outfits. It is a nightmare. It is literally mind boggling to figure out which outfit to put on them. Everything must be appropriate and match.
    She adds smiling “U know a little girl should be sugar ,spice and everything nice so it makes all the more difficult to find a proper outfit for them. The big challenge here is that the fashion totally changes depending the event they are going to.

    So , are u saying rising boys are easier? I asked my aunt
    She said with boys is all about being a good cook. 🙂

    So seems like , raising both sex is equally hard.


  8. peter says:

    The weather forecast for this winter in Toronto promising a mild winter with low precipitation which is a very good news for Totontonians. We experienced a streak of long , harsh ,brutal winter for the past few years.
    You don’t wanna know the feel of the chill of a wind gusting 30/40 kilometres by hour on your face while walking rathe running all slouched and shivering to the bus station early in the morning to get the bus to work.

    Well, it was the story of my life for the past few winters.
    No matter how many layers you are wearing they can’t keep the nasty cold out. The cold penetrates and spreads in your body to ur very bone,I m telling you.
    Trust me ,it is not an stretch.by that I mean ,i m not exaggerating
    the news is a welcoming change.it is a break from all the ice ,frost and windchill.
    Last winter for at least three months straight icicles were hanging on the gutter and all the window frames.
    And Above all I m taking a break from snow shovelling.oh my goosh , lots of shovelling. The trick is u need to shovel them off the drive way the minute the snow stops. If you wait, the constant wind chill turns the powder snow into this icy snow.
    Well ,good luck lifting the big lump of icy snow with shovels. I m telling you no amount of elbow greasing can move the damn heavy chunk of ice.
    So, I always keep looking out the window, the split second the snowfall starting to let up I m out there with this big shovel pushing and lifting the snow off the drive way.
    I can’t every begging to tell you that how happy I m.
    Well, u know , the weather is still very nice around here. So , I figured what the hell ?
    U know it is strange and all since every year we would be usually gotten bitch slapped by the windchill several times by now:))))
    Well ,none so far
    That got me thinking. So I ended up checking the weather forecast for the entire winter. It anticipates ” sunny-dappled days throughout the winter.” :))
    I got my christmass gift from Santa already which is a warm winter. The best gift Santa can give to a Torontonian.
    Wait a minute ,Santa didn’t climb down the chimney this year.
    Guys ,by for now; I need to go check my stockings hanging off the mantel. :))))


  9. Diogo says:

    Very nice history and strange…personally, i like all colors. I wear all kinds of wears but dresses.

  10. lili:) says:

    Thank you Dear Lucy for this interesting article. I really like the picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt Wearing a Dress.

    It’s true that people in the old days had to wear anything available.

    Sorry I have been very busy and hardly have time to write. I think Tania is very busy and being quiet recently, but I think she will appear tomorrow. Why? I’ll tell you tomorrow.

    Best Regards


  11. Tania says:

    At last at home again! Our blog is my spiritual home.
    I’ve missed you all.


  12. Tania says:


    HAPPY BIRTHDAY , dear Emiliano!
    Much, much health to you, to Cuca, and to your family.

    Best wishes,


  13. Dan says:

    Hey Pete.

    Good posts. Thanks!


  14. Tania says:


    Interesting topic, the colors…
    Yes, pink for girls and blue for little boys.
    Many years ago it was a curiosity, unusual, to see a man with a pink tie or a pink shirt.
    Today anything is possible. It is trendy a man with red shoes, pink sport shoes,… anything.
    I can’t say that I like a man wearing a pink shirt, but if it is trendy…

  15. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Yes, Peter, rising children is something hard to do. I rised four, one boy and three girls. Now they are grown up, they have children too. So, I am granddad and I am so proud of it. When I die there will be people to remember me.

  16. peter says:

    I m sensing a fierce competition on the horizon :)))
    Once again Black Friday is coming in and with that comes a lot of pulling and pushing not by customers but by business owners for snatching as many customers as they can.
    The competition takes an uglier turn around the U.S. – Canadian borderline.:)))
    businesses owners already started to slash down their process down to 40/50 percents. They are remodelling and redecorating their window displays and put up big banners heralding the big slash on prices ,two buy one fur free ,and other promotions that attract customers in.

    However ,this year around the plot is thickening:))
    The gimmicky window displays ,promotions , and basement prices are not the only tricks Canadian businesses have up in their sleeves, but the weak Canadian dollars as opposed to those of Americans.
    Business owners have high hopes that this time around the falling Canadian currency comes to play in their favour and lure in a lot of customers across the borders.
    Well , sound reasonable to me
    Seems like American businesses are fighting a losing battle :)))

    Don’t get me wrong , I m not taking side here. I m totally impartial. I Hope both sides a very lucrative Black Friday.


  17. peter says:

    Hey Dan
    You are too kind my friend


  18. peter says:

    Happy birthday Emiliano

    How are you doing it ?
    How on earth do u know Emiliano’s birthday ?


  19. Dan says:


    For the first time I have seen on YouTube and listened to the radio
    ads for black Friday here in Italy as well.
    I would say 70/80% of Italians do not know what Black Friday is.
    I know thanks to you guys.


  20. lili:) says:

    I promised to tell people why Tania would appear today, and I guessed it right. Thank you for being with us again, Tania. I know you would come to say Happy Birthday to Emiliano. In fact I checked last year’s post and found you said Happy Birthday on 27th November, so I pretended to be clever and said I predicted you would appear on the 27th November, which is today.

    However, I checked some older blog posts and I found that you said 29th November was Emiliano’s birthday.

    Well, might be Emiliano doesn’t mind, Happy Birthday is just one day, Happy Unbirthday is 364 days. Which is better? It’s a personal choice. For as long as we take it easy, we’ll be happy.


    Best Wishes

  21. peter says:

    Finally ,
    Black Friday is here
    I m a bargain hunter.
    u know , Black Friday and Boxing Day are the best days of the year for a bargain hunters.
    You can go impulse shopping all day long:)
    Well , there is a catch though, you are not the only one who likes impulse shopping.
    U have to wait long lines to get what u like.
    It is a deal breaker for me.
    Well , today is different.

    I took today off.
    Between you and me ,I called in sick.
    U know I have one sick day per month that I can’t bank. By that I mean, If I don’t use it , I will loose it. I can’t save it and get two sick days the next month.
    So ,what would u do ?
    Would u use it or loose it ?
    I don’t need to have it on my conscience now. My time is better spend focusing on the task ahead of me which is purchasing a set of iPad at a dirt price.
    I have been meaning to by a mini iPad for quite long.but the damn thing is quite expensive.
    I have a thing for electronic gadgets with big memory. I m after ipad with 68 GB which is the highest capacity in the market.
    I have had my eye on it for quite sometime. I m driving to Best Buy hoping iPad mini is one of the priced down items on Black Friday. If it is not ,I have to wait till December 26th which is ” Boxing Day “!in Canada. It is the Canadian version of Black Friday.
    It is gorgeous outside which makes for a good shopping day.
    Best Buy is a chain electronic stores that have several location around the city.
    I m going to the closest one to my place.
    Guys cross ur fingers for me.
    Hope I get it.


  22. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Go for it, Pete.

  23. emiliano says:

    Llilli and Tania, thank you so much for your good wishes on my birthday
    that will be tomorrow 29th of November.
    Of course you are invited home if you would like to visit me in Madrid.
    The city will be with Christmas lights and it looks really nice.

    Thank you so much again. emiliano

  24. peter says:

    Thanks for the support Aecio,
    Well , things didn’t play out they way I expected.
    I am the only one to blame.
    I was so positive that it is a sure thing that , lazy that I am , never checked the list of items that were priced down for Black Friday. Well , in my defence ,it never occurred to me.

    Well , it was a long shot to begin with.
    In retrospect , I should have done a bit of searching before hand.
    Well , hindsight is 20/20.
    Right ?
    It is not a complete loose though , I still have “Boxing Day ” to count on.
    Still , 27 days left to Boxing Day.
    I leaned my lesson. This time around, I will go on a cyber reconnaissance first.
    First, I see mini iPad availability and prices in almost all chain stores out there like Walmart , Best Buy , Apple , and future shop on the Internet then I will go for it.
    I mean , I will check their homepage website. They usually allocate a link to the list the prices down items on their homepage.

    You know , I guess , my high school geometry teacher was not much off calling me “remedial,” back in my high-school days 🙂
    I have never been good at planing because I don’t take my time with things. I always rush things.
    And , based on my personal experience , with rush always comes disorder.
    I m telling mate , If u want foil a plan just leave it to me.

    In the ho honour of the latest upcoming star war franchise move.
    I wanna close my blog comment with :

    “May all the forces be with you ”


  25. peter says:

    Dear Lucy
    thanks for the hyperlinks you embedded in the post.
    One of them took me to a short yet interesting trip as to how the changes on the gender perception has been a big influence on the coventionally accepted send of fashion over time. Well , it is just a gyst of what is coming in the soon-out book. I certainly planning on picking up the book.
    As I m interesting in seeing what the author has to say in predisposition ,of course,about it.

    Thanks Lucy
    A no frill yet rich post
    A huge fan


  26. giosoc says:

    On the front door of the house we fix a blue ribbon if a boy was born an a pink one for a girl. So we do in Italy.
    By everyone.

  27. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Great idea to fix a blue ribbon or a pink ribbon on the front door weather boy or girl is born. Good one, Giosoc.

  28. emiliano says:

    Peter, thanks a lot too, it has been a good birthday to me as I have been among friends
    that cook a nice meal and afterward Cuca, my wife, has been taken on arms to a car
    and we have could see Madrid’s Christmas lights.
    Very nice to her that always is inside home, takeen that way and looking her beloved
    city of Madrid.

    A nice full day. emiliano

  29. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Emiliano, long time no talk. Are you okay? I read your comments here every time you write them. I send you my regards.

  30. emiliano says:

    Aecio, thanks, yes I am O.K., who is not o.k. is Cuca my wife.
    That´s the reason I have to dedicate more time to her, just
    to be at her side when she is in the bed so I like to talk with
    her or just read something aloud as she now doesn´t read
    by herself nearly nothing.

    By the way, I would like to say something to you, to Peter
    and to Dan.
    You three are doing a great effort to make this blog survive
    but it seems to me that is like a close site where every one
    of the three talks to the other.
    Doing that may be just a little difficult for other different
    of you three taking part in the conversation.
    I don´t talk for me, I know I can write every moment I feel
    in good suaoiauruib, I have been doing that for years and
    years, beside it is quite easy for me just writing something.

    I think just in other readers that could have some difficulties
    to write or to interrupt your converstions, close circles are
    difficult for lot of people, again not for me, but just think in
    Make general subjects, talk about different items or which
    ever other thing you could imagine to give other readers
    the oportunity of writing something.

    Nothing more, take my words in the good way and don´t
    be uneasy by my advise.


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