Why Boys Wore Dresses - Conservative Parents in the 1940's

Figure 1.--

Dresses and Soakers

I was born near the end of 1942. In my earliest baby pictures I am wearing dresses and "soakers." When I got married, my mother gave me one of my old baby dresses. It had been lovingly hand made and was lightweight, pink, had scallops around the short sleeves and hemline, and hand embroidery around the yoke.

Color Conventions

As far as the color is concerned, I have no reason to believe my mother wante a girl when when she had me. My father was overseas in World War II, and since I was his first child, both my parents wanted a son to carry on the family name. The current color convention of blue for boys and pink for girls, which seems like a law of nature to today's parents, had simply not yet settled down in the early 1940's.


I believe that the reason for the dresses was the "soakers," which I wore in lieu of rubber pants. Since the only people who could say for sure are now dead, I cannot be certain, but I believe my parents avoided rubber pants because they felt they were "unhealthy" and that the diaper region needed to be able to "breathe" in order to reduce the risk of diaper rash.

Soakers were absorbent (frequently woolen) knit leggings that went over a baby's diapers to absorb the moisture generated when the baby wet. Since my dresses were rather short, they stayed out of the way and did not get wet as often as my diapers or soakers, and did not need to be changed nearly as often.

John E.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: January 5, 2001
Last updated: January 5, 2001