We can’t mention children’s fashion of the 1930’s without mentioning Shirley Temple. However miss Temple will not make her debut until next year, 1934, but after that everything with her name and image will sell like hotcakes.
Little girls dresses and clothing in the Depression era were rather short. Young girls coats, dresses and skirts surprisingly were mini in length. Much of this may have been the dictate of simply wearing your clothes longer (you grew up and out of your dresses length) as well as a hold over from the shorter women’s clothing of the 1920’s.
While ladies dresses had a return to the waist and a much longer hem than the 1920’s girls dresses did not reflect that. I also recall Shirley Temple outfits where matching pants were worn as when she crawled onto laps her dresses were so short her panties would have shown. Here we see a great expanse of bare leg and dresses not longer than a long shirt. Even this older girl, most likely 14 or so on the left, is wearing a rather short dress. One can see here the dresses in some cases are almost like just wearing a shirt. And full legged stockings have gone out and simply rolled down ankle socks and bare legs accompany these dresses. This length again will not be seen until the late 60’s. And, oddly enough, the vogue of opaque tights would actually cover more of their skin in the 1960’s than their 1930’s era counterparts. Even young boys short pants were rather quite short.
Someone had mentioned to me Kitt Kitteredge American Girl doll and that there was a movie being made. I was surprised, when I googled images for it, that they had her dresses and skirts so long. These girls outfits are odd to me. The heavier child on the right looks to be dressed more like an older lady in the later 1920’s. And the center girl’s sweater is far too long and her skirt is also more a later 1940’s length. The first girl, again, looks as if she is wearing her mothers dress. I suppose it is simply a modern take on the look, but after seeing and viewing actual 30’s children’s fashions and images in magazines, online, old photos and then seeing this, it almost made me laugh. They are adorable outfits, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think very atypical of a little girls outfit in the Depression. If they were meant to be teenagers, I could see it, but not children up to and even including 14 year olds.
Now onto the boys:
Continuing into the early part of the 20th century, boys continued to be dressed in terms we would consider today feminine. Clothes for boys were a specific style and in no way mimicked their adult male counterparts. Long hair and curls was prevalent as well from the Victorian period on. This little fellow here in his little Lord Fauntleroy suit proudly bears his rows of lace. Even President Roosevelt's childhood held feminine clothing. It was simply the norm of the time. Here he is looking by modern standards like a little girl. I wonder if part of the feminine quality of young boys in the nursery was that they had not as yet moved on to manhood so were simply thought of as different creatures. When, you think of it, they certainly are. Little boys and girls may act a certain way, “Oh he’s a typical boy, or she’s a girlie girl” but that is most likely our modern perceptions of those roles being noticed in some traits. A great difference, however, from the little boys of the President’s childhood to the 1930’s.
Here we see Post WWI by the 1920’s little boys dressed like miniature version of men. Though often at this time, young boys wore short pants still, their top half were often a small version of a gentleman’s suit/vest/tie combination. This young fellow even has a lovely handkerchief in his suit coat pocket.
In some ways we can see this ‘growing up’ of the little boys clothing as a sign of the changing times. After the trench warfare of WWI, the innocence of old warring was lost to the world. No longer was war campaigning an organized system with rules and almost a chivalric code. Now, we have deadly gasses, bombs from planes, it was take any advantage you could get. The innocence of the old world was gone and the little boy in the nursery was no longer to be considered a little darling, similar to his sister, but in a way hardened for the new world. To be the tough ‘little man’ that the modern world required of him. In a way, to me, it seems rather sad.
Today, of course, we see children’s clothes versions of adult clothes. And many adult clothes are simply easy and rather sloppy and some are rather inappropriate for young girls, but it is the style. I am not sure what that says about the modern world. I do know that the easy to buy cheaply made clothes of today are certainly reflected in the amount of clothing and shoes owned by children.
As I have said before, even a rather poor child today would seem insanely rich in clothing to his 1930’s counterpart, who may have had simply one good suit, a few school short pants and tops, and a set of play clothes. And two pair of shoes, if he was lucky. Some were poor enough to simply not wear their shoes when they were playing to save the wear and tear.
I think one problem or misconception we have when we look back at the Depression and say, “Oh they had it much harder” can be misleading. It would be true they simply would not have shoes sometimes or clothing, but there was no Old Navy or Payless down the street. They also did not have credit cards and the debt that went along with it. I only hope the odd network of things we seem to take for granted as simply ‘the way it is’ doesn’t disappear over night. We all live on a very thin line of complete poverty and what we think of as plenty. And we also pay much more of our income in housing costs, taxes, fuel, insurances and so on. As I have said before, it can be scary to live in such a constant state of flux.
I will return to more posts on recipes and the home, I promise. I simply have been allowing myself more time to work on other things and have not been as diligent a blogger as I would like.
What do you think about children’s clothing today? Do you think it is good we have so many cheap things to buy or do you think more is not always better? What about quality? Do you think any of today’s children's shoes would last for generations to wear?