Our vision of childhood has changed over the years, and these changes have been visible in how we dress our children. This exhibition, mounted in spring 2001 by visiting fellow Susan Green, documents the ways in which dress has reflected changes in how identity and reality is experienced by children.

Facing Winter

Until our era of ubiquitous central heating and car heaters, there was no such thing as a warm bedroom or cozy travel. Keeping warm was always a consideration. Children enjoyed outdoor activities then as they do now, but 'snow fun' could be seriously dangerous when you couldn't warm up too well afterward, and colds were potentially life-threatening. Therefore very young children were much more protected from these dangers.

BEING FASHIONABLE: preparing for adulthood

Children were no less under the influence of fashion than their parents. During some periods, children’s wear set a deliberately “sensible” course different from adult fashions; other times it was a miniaturized version of adult wear.

When Fashion dictated a body shape other than the natural one, construction aids like corsets and bustles accomplished the goal. Little girls en route to womanhood began early.

Even boys might begin early to learn the ropes of the social climb.

Joining In

The young child eventually becomes aware of interesting people, events and concepts beyond his or her self. Whether to show solidarity with a cause, display interest in an event, or to pretend and imagine, children have as much reason as adults to dress a part. The use of fancy dress, costume or uniforms to commemorate a holiday, participate in group activities, or just to play out fantasy roles is part of the acculturation process that children go through.