During the 1900s, children's fashion underwent numerous inventions and changes in style, colours and fabrics. At the start of the century, children's clothing was practical, plain and made for sturdiness; by the end of the 1900s, the clothing was whimsical, eye-catching and more convenient. Clothing companies streamlined their factories to produce mass amounts of clothing at lower cost. This meant that consumers often purchased ready-made clothes instead of making their own clothes.
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At the beginning of the 1900s, children's clothing had buttons, snaps, laces, safety pins and toggles for fasteners. In 1913, Gideon Sunbeck from the Automatic Hook and Eye Company invented a new way to fasten clothes, a device made from interlocking teeth and a slide. In 1923, the B.F. Goodrich Company began to call the device a zipper, reports Annie Levene in "The Zipper," published by the University of Michigan Extension department. Twenty years after the zipper's invention, clothing companies began to utilise child psychologists to suggest to parents that using clothes fastened by zippers means you are a responsible parent, says Annie Levene. In 1951, Susan Deedrick says in "Invention of Velcro," George de Mestral from Switzerland patented Velcro, and a year later started his own company. By 1957, the United States opened its first Velcro factory that soon produced 60 million yards of the hook-and-loop fasteners a year.
In the early 1900s, heavily starched fabrics adorned children's clothing. Girls wore lacy ruffles, while boys wore Peter Pan collars, notes Linda Venekam at Dakota State University; both genders donned cotton or wool stockings. Some common fabric choices included twill, lawn, muslin, gingham, chambray and wool, according to "McCall" magazine. The array of fabrics offered by the middle of the century expanded to encompass newer types of synthetic fabrics like spandex, polyester, and nylon.
Regardless of gender, in the early 1900s young children under the age of four wore dresses. Early era girls' clothing consisted of blouses, jumpers, dresses, stockings, boots or shoes, while boys wore tunics, knee breeches, stockings and boots, reports Linda Venekam. During the 1900s, boys' clothing begin to echo adult male items such as longer trousers and suit jackets. In the 1950s, the denim jean movement began in male clothing, which carried with it an association of rebellion; in fact, many schools banned denim clothing, notes historians at the University of Rhode Island. Girls wore trousers under their dresses or skirts for chores only. Young girls had limited choices until it became socially acceptable for girls to wear trousers, which didn't happen in the U.S. until the 1960s, according to the University of Columbia. Many types of clothing came and went throughout the 1900s; however, some of these items cropped up again during latter portions of the era. For example, Peter Pan collars became a fashionable accessory on girl's dresses, while 1950s Mary Jane shoes were a common style for girl's dress shoes into the 1980s and 1990s.
Labels and Logos
In the 1970s, two brothers from Philadelphia took the smiley face logo and began printing it on T-shirts to sell as a novelty item. The smiley face originated with artist Harvey Ball in 1963 for the use of the State Mutual Life Insurance Company. Iron-on decals for kids' clothing and accessories were fashionable as well as a practical way to cover holes in fabric. During the 1980s and 1990s, clothing companies utilised cartoon images on shirts and accessories for children. Designer labels on clothing for both genders became a highly important fashion statement toward the end of the century. Designer jeans were very popular in the 1980s, according to historians at the University of Rhode Island.
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- University of Michigan Extension: "The Zipper"; Annie Levene; 2008
- University of Mary Washington -- Department of History and American Studies: "Invention of Velcro"; Susan Deedrick
- Dakota State University -- The Campus Training School: "What Will You Wear?"; Linda Venekam
- University of Rhode Island: The History of Denim Jeans
- Columbia University Dept of Journalism: "Body as History Timeline"; Kim Dixon, Tiffany Kary, Dan Maccarone; 1999
- Lone Star College History Dept: American Cultural History 1970-1979--Fads and Fashion; 1999