*** photography and publishing photograpic images : childrens clothes

Photography, Printing, and Publishing

baggy white knickers
Figure 1.--Photography became commercially viable in the 1840s. Prices fell rapidly and ever increasing numbers of photographs begin to appear. As a result by the 1870s the number of image we have creates a much more detailed view of contemporary fashions. Some of the outfits are difficult to describe. This boy is wearing baggy white knickers. We are not sure asbout the top.

Some basic understanding of the history of photography and printing and publishing is essential for anyone researching fashion, whether child are adult fashion. A knowledge of photography is helpful to date early drawings and photographic images as many images come with no background information as to the date or who the children are. Even the gender is hard to determine as both little boys and girls commonly wore dresses until well into the 20th century. Likewise information on printing and publishing is helpful to understand the impact on fashion through the developing mass media of the 19th century and to follow the changing trends. In addition, a knowledge of periodical publications provides valuable information as well as drawings illustrating fashion trends.


Experiments in photography during the first decades of the 19th century yielded the first commercial photographs in the 1840s and quite good images by the 1860s. Most photographs were taken in the studio or by traveling photographers who had to bring along a fully equipped dark room with them. Film speeds were slow which is why studio poses were so stiff and the subjects did not smile. Finally George Eastman in the late 1880s invented a camera that amartures could use whenever and wherever they wanted. Photography emerges from the professional studio. Thus informal snapshots appeared in the 1890s. Soon the stiff formal photographs taken in the studio are replaced by increasing numbers of informal snapshots taken wherever the amateur photographer (usually the father), decided to take the family photographs. Images of a much wider range of dress and activity appeared as smaller cameras and faster film permitted activity including motion to be photographed. Color photography became widely available in the 1960s, although there is great concern about the permanency of the images. The stiffly posed Victorian images taken with silver-based negatives, however, are much more permanent than the dye-based color photography that became popular and affordable in the 1960s. The modern digital camera which appeared in the 1990s can not compete with the resolution of chemistry-based films, but it is just a matter of time until it does and other than resolution, there are a lot of advantages to digital photography. Collecting photographs illustrating children's clothing from all eras has become a very popular pastime. HBC is indebted to the collectors who have shared scans from their archives. There are many sources of photographs for the novice collector.


The development of mass media in the 19th century and improving methods of reproducing drawings and photographs has had a major impact on fashion. The fashions adopted by royal families had a limited impact before the 19th century. Only a limited number of people could actually see the royals and other trend setters. Once mass circulation magazines and newspapers appeared in the mid-19th century a vehicle developed for disseminating fashion information. Limitations on reproducing images made printing drawings costly and of generally poor quality. The original drawings could not be reproduced, but had to be engraved on initially wood blocks. Improving lithographic methods enabled the reproduction of increasingly detailed drawings as the 19th century progressed. The developing process of photolithography using halftones finally by the turn of the century provided a method of reproducing photographs, further enhancing the usefulness of the mass-media to the fashion industry.

skeleron suits
Figure 2.--Illustrations and descriptions of children's clothes were rare in early fashion magazines. They were often used just to set off the drawings of women's fashions. The boy looks to be wearing a skeleton suit.


Fashion magazines as we now know them appeared in the late 18th and early 19th century. Several magazines appeared in Britain and America. Presumably the same is true of France and other European countries, but I know little about these countries. These early fashion magazines focused primarily on women's clothing and rarely mentioned children's clothing. Teenage styles were not mentioned at all until well after the middle of the 19th Century. It was not until the 1860s that some fashion magazines began running regular features on children's clothes. There is also a lot of useful information in illustrated ne magazines that began to appear in the second half of the 19th century.

Collecting Old Photographs

Collecting old photographs has become a popular hobby. Unlike some antique collecting, it is a hobby that can be pursued rather inexpensively. Some old photographs like daguerreotypes can be rather expensive. Many other old photographs can be relatively inexpensive. Old photographs like carte de viste and cabinet cards can cost only a few dollars. Some collectors especially like stereoscope cards. Many collectors specialize in activities like musical instruments, school, bicycles, sports, dancing, ect. Other like certain clothing styles such as sailor suits, Fauntleroy suits, kilts, ect. Another popular theme are the artifacts in the photographs like toys, dolls, teddy bears, ect. Many like mother and daughter and father and sons pairs or visa versa. Many also like photographs with pets, especially dogs and cats. Others like to pursue specific time periods such as the the Civil War, Gay'90s, roaring 20s, the Depression'30s, the War Years'40s. Photographs from even more recent periods are becoming popular, like the Hippy'60s, or the Flakey'70s. There are many more specialties than can be pursued with old photograph collecting. What ever ones interests, it is possible to build a fascinating collection at little cost.


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Created: July 10, 1998
Spell checked: December 11, 2001
Last updated: 10:51 PM 7/20/2007