In 1909, children's clothing tended to be somewhat unique. Home sewing, with or without a pattern, was more common and professional tailors or seamstresses made many items one at a time. Mass production of clothing was more rare and even when clothing was made in a factory two pieces might not be exactly identical. Fabrics tended to be primarily cotton, in varying strengths.
Rural and Poor
Most of the photography, catalogues and newspaper articles on children's clothing related to wealthier, more urban clothing. Poor children and rural children might have a good set of clothes for church or formal events but even these might not be the latest fashions. Clothing for poor and rural children was more likely to be homemade and utilitarian. At this time many states still allowed child labour and many poorer children had jobs.
Clothing by gender was not as clearly defined in 1909 as it is currently. Many items such as nightclothes or pyjamas for younger children were designed to be worn by either sex. It was also not uncommon in 1909 for very young boys, up to age 5 or 6, to wear a type of dress. These were designed to be utilitarian and easy to change. The fact that fast-growing children did not grow out of them as quickly was also an advantage.
For wealthier girls or girls who were dressing up knee-length pleated dresses gathered at the waist were the norm. These were usually accompanied by black shoes and stockings. Dresses were frequently embellished with lace or embroidery. Some dresses featured cape collars or yokes which were often embroidered or decorated as well. This period also saw the introduction of short sleeves to some dresses. Various styles of straw boater hats were also very common.
For boys, especially young boys, British navy-inspired sailor suits were not uncommon. Boys also frequently wore school uniforms, in and out of school. Knickerbockers and collarless shirts were also quite common and overalls became popular at about this time. Many boys' suits of the time began to resemble smaller versions of those worn by older men.
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- Historical Boys Clothing: American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: Balbriggan Underwear, 1909
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- "Children's Fashions, 1900-1950, as Pictured in Sears Catalogs By Sears, Roebuck and Company"; JoAnne Olian; 2003