Childhood: A Time for Development

Chapter 1: Section 2: (Childhood) A Time for Development

Childhood is not a new concept, but the childhood experience has changed greatly over the past 125-ish years. One way we can see this is by their clothing.

  • In the 1900s, children dressed in what we would now call a “Sunday-best” or “Going to Dinner” sort of outfit.
  • In the 1800s, and earlier, children were dressed like tiny adults. A study in the history of fashion will actually tell you a lot about how people lived.
  • Today, clothing is bright, colourful, comfortable, and easy to clean. And what you see children wearing typically is not what you’d see on an adult, or even an older child.

Children in 2000s: Notice how the girls are wearing outfits that would allow them to run, jump and play. The legwarmers, which have been the fashion in children’s clothing for the last 10-ish years, can be added on a cool morning, removed as the day warms, and then added again in the evening; they also work as a cute accessory. Bright colours that children are naturally attracted to seem to make up the bulk of children’s fashion these days. Boys clothing is equally fun and functional.


Children in 1900: (Flicker image) In this photo, notice how the clothing is not as considerate of children playing. In this era, children did run and jump, climb trees and sit on the ground. But there were also social restrictions around being seen and not heard when around adults. The technology didn’t exist to make clothing that was easy care and comfortable. And children would have had only a handful of outfits at most.

1900 children (flicker)

Children in 1700s: (source: Notice how the children in this painting are dress like little adults. There is very little difference between the mother’s outfit (blue) and the toddler’s outfit. Due to this being a painting instead of a photo, we are unable to accurately determine the age of the middle children. In today’s society, clothing would give a hint as to whether they are teenaged or pre-teens. In the 1700s fashions were nearly the same for all ages, and the differences in styles, colours and fabrics were due to class distinction.

1700s children


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