Mint Museum of Art

Charlotte, NC



19th Century Children's Fashions Opens Relocated Costume Gallery at Mint Museum of Art


Exhibitions from the Mint Museum of Art's Costume Collection will have a greater presence as a result of a move to the Crist Gallery within the museum's historic Strickland building. The new home for costume exhibitions opened with Children's Fashions from the Nineteenth Century on Mother's Day, May 9, and runs through November 6, 1999.

The debut exhibition presents fifteen children's outfits and a selection of christening gowns. Accessories such as infant caps, booties, children's shoes, slippers and hats are included. To compliment the garments and provide historical context, paintings that depict children in the 19th century from the museum's collection will be part of the display.

"Prior to the 19th century, children were dressed as miniature adults," said Charles L. Mo, Director of Collections and Exhibitions. "Social reforms at the end of the 18th century inspired changes in clothing designed for the special needs of children."

Children's fashion in the early decades of the 19th century often preceded similar changes in adult clothing. Simple frocks for girls reflected the fashionable high-waist, neo-classical style for women. Trousers for young boys were popular long before they were adopted as adult male dress. On display is a boy's suit circa 1790-1810 that combines deep red silk trousers buttoned to a short jacket of the same material.

By mid century, dresses were worn by children of both sexes. Girls' dresses often buttoned in the back while a boy's dress buttoned in the front. On display is a young boy's dress with a rosette "bustle" purchased in 1879 in Chicago for four-year old James Cromwell. Such garments were worn over flounced petticoats with lace-trimmed pantalets or knee-length trousers beneath. Dresses for young girls imitated adult versions, often requiring corsets. Short skirts were also characteristic as seen in a highly structured young girl's dress circa 1880-1885.

By the 1890s, lightweight fabrics and light colors for children were popular. The exhibition also includes a number of summer white dresses for little girls. During this period, the "Lord Fauntleroy" suits were highly popular with mothers. "Boys very likely begrudged wearing these velvet two-piece suits with frilly blouses and ribbon bows," said Mo. "To complete the look, the child's hair was grown long and tightly curled."

Images from top to bottom (click on the images to enlarge them): Child's dress, 1845-50, unknown maker, American; Child's hat, 1890, unknown maker, American; Child's slip, 1850-60, unknown maker, American; Boy's "Scotch" hat, Thistle, American, 1879-80

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