Different societies define childhood within certain parameters but the general parameter is age and since the start of the 21st century and the advent of social media those parameters are increasingly similar and high in standard. From infancy to adolescence, there are societal expectations throughout the various stages of children’s development concerning their capabilities and limitations, as well as how they should act and look. Clothing plays an integral role in the look of childhood in every era, from babies to toddlers, tweens and teenage years. An overview history of children’s clothing provides insights into changes in child-rearing theory and practice, gender roles, the position of children in society, and similarities and differences between children and adult clothing.
Before the early twentieth century, clothing worn by infants and young children shared a distinctive common feature-their clothing lacked gender distinction. The origins of this aspect of children’s clothing stem from the sixteenth century, when European men and older boys began wearing doublets paired with breeches. Previously, both males and females of all ages had worn some type of gown, robe, or tunic. Once men began wearing bifurcated garments, however, male and female clothing became much more distinct. Breeches were reserved for men and older boys, while the members of society most subordinate to men-all females and the youngest boys-continued to wear skirted garments. To modern eyes, it may appear that when little boys of the past were attired in skirts or dresses, they were dressed “like girls,” but to their contemporaries, boys and girls were simply dressed alike in clothing appropriate for small children.
Unlike boys, as nineteenth-century girls grew older their clothing did not undergo a dramatic transformation. Females wore skirted outfits throughout their lives from infancy to old age; however, the garments’ cut and style details did change with age. The most basic difference between girls’ and women’s dresses was that the children’s dresses were shorter, gradually lengthening to floor length by the mid-teen years. When neoclassical styles were in fashion in the early years of the century, females of all ages and toddler boys wore similarly styled, high-waisted dresses with narrow columnar skirts. At this time, the shorter length of the children’s dresses was the main factor distinguishing them from adult clothing.
With the start of the twentieth century, clothing items like trousers that were formerly male-only became increasingly accepted by girls of all ages. By the 1940s, girls of all ages wore pants outfits at home and for casual public events, but they were still expected-if not required to wear dresses and skirts for school, church, parties, and even for shopping. In some societies, this is still an expectation even in modern societies like the US where the girls are expected to wear a dress to church for Easter Sunday for example. Today, girls can wear pants outfits in nearly every social situation. Many of these pant styles, such as blue jeans, are essentially unisex in design and cut, but many others are strongly sex-typed through decoration and color.
These days, the way kids dress has gone beyond any old rules or expectations. Kids clothes are now increasingly starting to look like adult clothes with kids dressing like adults and wearing outfits and accessories that even some adults cannot pull off. You have clothing items and accessories that are made for adults being made in kids size like the backpack for adults also comes as Mini Backpacks for kids. Jewelry, footwear, dresses by expensive designers also have mini versions for kids. 3-year old girls wearing mini heels, boys in three-piece suits and fedoras etc. Mom’s take this new trend as a way to play dress-up with their kids and on social media you have mom’s creating accounts just for their kids and you also have moms and daughters dressing in similar clothing for outings and photoshoots.
The start of these kids dressing very fashionable trend can be attributed to celebrity kids such as Suri Cruise, the Beckhams, and now Blue Ivy Carter, North West and Prince George. These kids grace the pages of fashion and entertainment magazines, are seated front row during fashion shows and often photographed with their stylish parents in trendy and ultra-coordinated outfits.
Speaking of fashion week, mini-size fashion continues to rise and with this last fashion week, some might say they stole the limelight. Many of the guests were distracted by groups of kids hanging outside the tents, dressed in outfits even grown-ups would be envious of. From technical layers to miniature Doc Marts style lace-ups, these kids’ knocked hipster dressing out of the park. More surprising perhaps is the fact that these weren’t the children of A-listers or front-row status fashion editors; many of them were there as a marketing strategy b brands. Some people have reservations about kids being dressed up in these elaborate outfits. Like don’t these kids feel stuffy in all those clothes and layers and can they play around as kids want to and should when they are dressed up like that. But it should be noted that these outfits are usually worn for photo shoots or events and not all the time. And a parent deciding to go the kids’ high fashion route for their child is like a parent choosing to register their child as a child actor or actress.
How a kid dress goes a long way to help in their development as an individual. As the kids get older and their personalities form, they start to develop their own taste in style and fashion and have an input in how their dresses. Kids develop a sense of self-awareness and where they stand in society and among their peers at a young age so they start to act accordingly. So long as the kid is happy and comfortable then, by all means, go all out in giving them the best looks and outfits. And for the parents so long as you know what you are doing and not going out of your way to conform to a certain popularized standard and you are doing it for your kids then, by all means, have fun with playing dress up.