In "the old days" (and even when I was a baby, in the Sixties) it was customary to give a newborn child a baby gift. Sometimes it was at a Christening or Bris, other times it was during the early weeks of a child's life. Certain types of gifts were most popular: cutely-coordinated baby outfits, monogrammed sterling silver rattles or teething rings, jewelry (like an "Add-a-Pearl" necklace for a girl), or baby feeding accoutrements (porridgers, decorated baby bowls, little utensils). Most often, the gifts had a small whiff of luxury about them—something slightly precious or decorative—and were a small but practical indulgence (which a parent may not have invested-in himself or herself). And, very often, the gifts were highly gender-specific: blue for boys, pink for girls (more about this later).
Shown here, a Thirties baby boy's chamber pot, of baby blue enamel on steel, painted with a dancing teddy bear. The original Art Deco presentation box, included, says "Baby" on its lid. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Up until the early Twentieth Century, babies (and children up to the age of five) of both sexes were dressed in similar, unisex white gowns. This made diaper maintenance easier and white was practical and easy to bleach clean. In the later Victorian age, these white garments began to be dyed in pastel colors (as clothes-cleaning technology had advanced). However, at this time, colors were still not assigned to babies by gender. In the 1910's and 1920's, some retailers, style editors and tastemakers began to suggest pink for boys and blue for girls. Pink was the softer form of red—the masculine color of Mars, war, and blood. Soft blue was suggested for girls—a more delicate color, sometimes associated with the Virgin Mary. Then, in the 1940's (the time of World War II), babies and small children began to be dressed like miniature men and women—and pink was assigned to girls and blue to boys. Even today, pink is the go-to color for many parents dressing their daughters.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248