Saturday, April 30, 2005

Immigrant Children's Clothing

DearMYRTLE,First let me tell you I love your column. I have started my family history a few years ago but haven't had much time to work on it a lot. My question today isn't really about family history - but it is history. My 2 grandsons ages 11 and 13 are in their spring concert at there school May 26. They go to a private Christian school. The theme is "Coming to America."

I have just found out that my grandchildren will have a singing part and they will be playing 2 brothers coming into Ellis Island. I have to make their costumes. I tried going on line and searching for clothing for children coming into Ellis Island but I guess I'm not very good at this search thing yet.

Can you please give me some ideas of how to research this project? I would like for them to look as authentic as possible but I am not sure what clothing to look for. I would also like to make or redo old clothes without too much expense although the school will be able to pass these costumes down for other events.

Without studying history, climbing family trees would mean nothing more than names and dates. This sort of research is just what we should be doing, to better understand our ancestors.

I think you are looking for dark brown or black knickers or pants with suspenders, and loose-fitting white shirts rolled-up sleeves (with or without collars.) Include some sort of a cap, not unlike an old-fashioned golf cap. How about thinking along the lines of TITANIC and Leonardo DeCaprio? How about a slightly later time period with the casual style "Spanky & our Gang?" I believe the folks wore what they did based on their country of origin.

There are few pictures in the ELLIS ISLAND website's "Immigrant Experience" (mostly buildings)

Ellis Island Immigration Museum (mostly buildings)

Historical Boy's Clothing

"Russian Blouse" suit looks mighty convincing, and less like American boys to me. What do you think?

"Casual Knickers" (with suspenders and dark shirt, though I think light shirt would be more appropriate.)

This smock-top shirt and beret looks like a good possibility:

I think one of the distinguishing items would be long woolen stockings, smooth in texture and solid in color. These seem typically to have been worn with laced up high top leather shoes. (Good luck on finding a cost effective substitute for those shoes. Any leather shoe would be more "old fashioned" than $150 Nike shoes of the 21st century.


-- DRESSED FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 by Joan Severa. Kent State University Press (March 1, 1997) ISBN: 0873385128.

-- AMERICAN VICTORIAN COSTUME IN EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS by Priscilla Harris Dalrymple. Publisher: Dover Publications (May 1, 1991) ISBN: 0486265331.

The following items I discovered while perusing the topic of "children's clothing styles" at I don't own the books, and therefore haven't viewed them, but they look useful. You might try to locate them through inter-library loan.

-- Clothing, Costumes, and Uniforms Throughout American History, by Allison Stark Draper. PowerKids Press (July 1, 2001) ISBN: 0823956679.

-- Children's Fashions 1900-1950 As Pictured in Sears Catalogs by JoAnne Olian (Editor). Dover Publications (April 8, 2003) ISBN: 0486423255.

-- Children's Fashions, 1860-1912 : 1,065 Costume Designs from "La Mode Illustree" by JoAnne Olian. Dover Publications (July 5, 1994)ISBN: 0486276155.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

No comments:

Post a Comment