The History of Children’s Formal Wear

2020 Sep 7th

The History of Children’s Formal Wear

Kids Fashion

Throughout history, a child’s role has always been defined by a number of acceptable social rules and parameters. Depending on their age and capabilities, how they look and act is an important part of growing up and fitting in with society. As you explore this history of kids fashion, you’ll learn more about Victorian children’s clothes and how they evolved into today’s frilly trends.

Early Children’s Clothing

Before the 20th century, young children and adults shared styles and cuts regardless of their gender. Both males and females usually wore some sort of gown, tunic, or robe from the 16th through the 20th century. Once men’s clothing evolved into two-piece garments (shirts and breeches), the gown became a thing for women, babies, and toddlers only. As children grew older, kid’s fashions transitioned from the gown to their adult clothing.

Gowns for Babies & Women

Swaddling was popular for a short time, but around the 1500s, ankle-length  white frocks and slip dresses were popularized for newborns and crawling toddlers. These Victorian children’s clothes also affected women’s fashions, as the ultra-fine muslin and chemise dresses worn by women of the 1700s looked very similar to the clothing young children had been wearing since the middle of the century.

As kid’s fashion evolved, children’s gowns were given additional accessories like  waist sashes. This look was another style that provided the perfect model for women’s neoclassical fashion. By the 1800s, most women, girls, and toddler boys all wore similar dresses made of lightweight fabric like silk or cotton.

Little Girls' Dresses

While men’s clothing underwent an incredibly dramatic change as they grew up in the 19th century, girls clothing remained much the same. From their newborn gowns to the skirted outfits they wore their whole lives, women’s clothing didn’t change much in cut or style detail. The main difference between kid’s fashion and women’s fashion was that the length of the dress gradually covered more and more — lengthening all the way to the floor by mid-teenage years.

Victorian Children’s Clothes

two young victorian girls in popular kids fashion

During the mid to late 1800s, women generally wore  fitted bodices with full skirts while children wore looser gowns with more freedom of movement. Many of the characteristics common in dresses for young children were the wide necklines, cap sleeves, and below the knee hemline. Sometimes, children wore pantaloon trousers beneath their dresses during the day as underwear.

For children whose parents wanted them to maintain a higher social appearance, many of their gowns mimicked the most  popular styles adult women wore. Details and embellishments in the bodice, trim, or sleeves allowed for a “mommy and me” style where the young child’s kid fashion matched the mother.

Modern Times

Over the decades, children’s clothing almost always followed along the lines of adult women’s fashion. As clothing became more casual and women started wearing pants and shorts, full-length skirts and dresses were relegated to special occasions — quickly followed by  children’s gowns and frocks. Even in these modern times, girl’s formal outfits attempt to echo the adult styles mothers and sisters wear to create glamorous styles for even the tiniest tot.

At Sara Dresses, we know all about the most popular designs and trends in girls’ formal wear because it’s our specialty. Explore  our collections now to shop fancy kids fashion for all sorts of special occasions!