How Pink and Blue were Chosen as Universal Baby Colors

baby shower colors

In North America, the rule these days for colors at baby showers and in clothing and nurseries happens to normally be pink is for girls, blue is for boys. However, this was not always so, and still is not so in some areas of the world. It is important to never assume that one thing is a universal, given all the differences in the many cultures. If you are curious as to how these colors came into vogue in North America as baby colors, however, read on.

How the Trend Got Started

Both blue and red were associated with the genders in North America well before the advent of these colors being colors for babies. Since babies were younger, it was thought they should be dressed in the muted tones of these colors, as they had not yet reached adult age.  Incorporating lighter versions of blue and red led to the the colors we associate with babies today!

Pink was for Boys; Blue was for Girls

Articles from the early 1900s often advised parents in America to dress their boys in pink, and their girls in blue. Historians believe this is because blue was seen as a more dainty and feminine color, whereas pink was seen as the muted color or red, a color most often associated with men in those days. Even retailers endorsed these color choices! Other retailers and articles advised parents to base their color choices for baby on hair and eye color.

Change in the 1940s

Mostly, the modern change we associate today with pink being for girls and blue being for boys comes from that of manufacturers and retailers from before World War II. This trend continued afterward, and the trend became for children to dress a lot like their older gender specific counterparts. Boys begin to dress as their fathers, and girls begin to dress more like their mothers, from birth, onwards. In the 1970s, for example, during the women’s liberation movement, pink girls’ clothing for toddlers is largely absent from catalogues of major retailers. The trend toward unisex clothing continued until the mid-1980s. Since prenatal testing is now able to determine sex long before birth, gender specific clothing has recently come back into vogue, and seems to be a good guide in helping guests at baby showers or hosts of showers pick themes, decorations, gifts, and more, though some parents do still opt for gender neutral events for their babies while expecting.

Heather is an amateur party planner.  She occasionally consults on baby shower etiquette and ideas for PaperStyle, and recently started her own party planning blog at


  1. bonnie holt says

    I had no clue that it was the opposite for the colors for boys and girls. It’s kinda crazy that it was only in the 1940 that it was changed. If you think about it that’s not that fare back. Glad they changed it .

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