Speaker Feb. 21 to discuss clothing and gender

Clothing as it relates to gender is the topic of a presentation Feb. 21 at Shippensburg University. The event, at 4 p.m. in Grove Hall Forum, is sponsored by the Shippensburg University Fashion Archives and Museum.

Dr. Jo B. Paoletti, associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland in College Park, will present a lecture based on her book Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America.

Paoletti’s journey through the history of children’s clothing began when she posed the question, “When did we start dressing girls in pink and boys in blue?” To uncover the answer, she looks at advertising, catalogs, dolls, baby books, mommy blogs and discussion forums, and other popular media to examine the surprising shifts in attitudes toward color as a mark of gender in American children’s clothing.

She chronicles the decline of the white dress for both boys and girls, the introduction of rompers in the early 20th century, the gendering of pink and blue, the resurgence of unisex fashions, and the origins of today’s highly gender-specific baby and toddler clothing. Her work incorporates consumer studies, cultural studies and material culture, drawing on primary sources ranging from cartoons and paper dolls to vintage clothing and baby books.

Paoletti teaches courses related to everyday American life, including popular culture, fashion and consumerism, and material culture. She earned a bachelor’s degree in clothing design from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in textiles from the University of Rhode Island, and a doctorate in textiles from the University of Maryland. Her training is in the history of clothing and fashion, and she has published many articles on gender differences in American children's clothing.