Sex Roles

, Volume 12, Issue 9, pp 955–964

Infant clothing: Sex labeling for strangers


  • Madeline Shakin
    • Psychology DepartmentState University of New York at Stony Brook
  • Debra Shakin
    • Albany Law School
  • Sarah Hall Sternglanz
    • Psychology DepartmentState University of New York at Stony Brook

DOI: 10.1007/BF00288097

Cite this article as:
Shakin, M., Shakin, D. & Sternglanz, S.H. Sex Roles (1985) 12: 955. doi:10.1007/BF00288097


Labeling an infant as a boy or girl affects behavior toward the infant. While intimates know a baby's sex label and behave consistently to the baby, strangers cannot unless given a cue. Forty-eight infants and their caretakers were observed in suburban malls to see if clothing normally provides such cues; 90% of the infants were dressed in sex-typed clothes. Girls wore or carried pink (75%), yellow, ruffles, puffed sleeves, and/or dresses. Boys wore blue (79%) and/or red. Observers were able to correctly guess the sex of “labeled” infants only. Surprisingly, simultaneous caretaker interviews revealed that parents do not spontaneously mention sex as a factor in clothing choice, nor do they feel they would be very bothered by strangers' mistaking the infant's sex.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985