If your parents have ever humiliated you by showing embarrassing photographs of you as a child, then rest assured, you have something in common with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States, more commonly known as FDR. As a young boy, FDR was coddled to the extreme by his mother, and one of the unfortunate ways that she showed her affection for her son involved years of gender-neutral costumes.
As gender-neutral garb was all the rage in wealthy American households of the day, FDR’s mother kept the future president dressed up in this unfortunate garb until the poor chap was six years old. She had him trussed up in dresses and kept his hair long—see the picture above. Even though this style of dress was fairly common for young children from wealthy families of the time, it still might have been a bit awkward if Roosevelt’s political or foreign rivals found one of these old photographs. FDR eventually outgrew his gender-neutral dresses when he reached six years old and was introduced to a new wardrobe consisting of kilts and the dreaded sailor costume. Additionally, another childhood ceremony he had with his mother continued—she personally oversaw his daily bath until he was around nine years old.
So, if your parents have embarrassing stories or pictures of you from your childhood, don’t despair. Despite being photographed in dresses with curled hair and elaborate hats, FDR went on to become one of the most widely acclaimed presidents in the history of the United States.
- The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Ken Burns, ep. 1. PBS, 2014.