The immense changes wrought by World War I mean that 1920s children's fashion facts are part of the historical revolution in clothing created by that defining decade. Although less overtly radical than men's and especially women's wear, new trends in children's clothes included clothing made especially for children and their unique needs.
Basic 1920s Children's Fashion Facts
Prior to 1910 and especially World War I, children still dressed more or less the way they had for millennia - like smaller adults. While shorter dresses for girls and sailor suits for boys appeared in the mid-19th century, the idea of clothes specifically designed for children did not take hold until much later.
By 1920, clothes were very much designed with children in mind, and attention was paid not just to style, but to the comfort and needs of children. The Roaring Twenties an era of liberation in much of society and this was reflected in clothing trends for men, women and children.
Comfort was achieved in both style and fabric. Whereas for decades everyone had worn many layers, now a summer outfit might consist of just a single layer over underwear. Even in winter, clothing was kept streamlined with minimal layer. The emphasis was on good fabrics that would stand up to weather. A wool dress worn over over stockings and a long knit underwear suit with a knitted sweater and jacket on top was common.
Silk, lace, velvet and muslin, which had been the fabrics of choice for wealthy children's clothes, were set aside only for special occasions. Now clothes were made of cotton and wool, with knit jerseys and serge skirts and shorts common. Such fabrics were much sturdier and could hold up well to rough and tumble play. Finally, childrencould feel free to run and play as they liked without worrying about their clothes. And whereas even middle-class households had been used to having paid help, that was much less common in the 1920s. Clothes that didn't require such careful washing, to say nothing of starching and pressing, were a boon to busy mothers.
When people look back on the era, they report 1920s children's fashion facts more in light of girls' clothing than boys, although both enjoyed radical change. Girls in particular had spent so many centuries being restricted in movement and appearance, so they reaped the biggest benefits from the new fashions. Dresses were now short, loose and made of cotton. Over such an outfit, light cardigan was worn. Summer shoes were usually canvas, making them much lighter than the hard boots of the Victorian age. In winter, a heavy sailor suit or a serge skirt with a sweater was worn, often with a matching beret. A knitted suit of long underwear went underneath and had attachments for holding up long stockings.
After centuries of wearing long hair, most girls now kept their hair very short. Hair could usually be cut at home. The simple style was adorned with a ribbon.
Boys wore knee-length trousers year-round. Gradually, these grew shorter, so that boys had bare knees through early adolescence. In summer, they wore ankle socks with canvas shoes or sandals and in winter they wore heavy knee socks. Boys also wore lots of knitted pullovers and cardigans. For school, they still wore suit jackets and ties, but these were much less restrictive than before. A special occasion might warrant a sailor suit or even something made of velvet, but these were still less fussy than just a few years before.
Children's Clothes in Context
When assessing 1920s children's fashion facts, it's important to recognize that the clothes associated with the 1920s - the flapper dresses in particular - were very much just for adults. The Victorian notion of the sanctity of childhood was now firmly expressed in children's clothing. Much as a girl did not wear lipstick or heels, nor did she wear the elaborate and more revealing clothing of her older sisters. Childhood was now a time of innocent fun - very much part of the decade in which the clothes were worn.