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Kate Rowold
The Sage Collection

Kelly G. Richardson
The Sage Collection

Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

IU's Sage Collection, Monroe History Center present exhibition on evolution of children's clothing

WHAT: "Child's Play: Aesthetics, Gender and Children's Clothing," an exhibition of children's fashions from the late 18th century through today
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 17- Saturday, Feb. 27 (2010)
WHERE: Monroe County History Center, 202 E. Sixth St., Bloomington. Free street parking is strictly limited to two hours. A metered lot directly east (on the side opposite the Washington St. main entrance) of the History Center is also available.
ADMISSION: Museum Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Adults' admission is $2; children 5-18 admission is $1; 4 and under free. Admission is free to members. For more information, see

Oct. 14, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When did childhood become a commodity to be marketed and sold?

Sage Collection

These dresses from IU's Sage Collection will be on display through Feb. 27 at the Monroe County History Center in the exhibition "Child's Play: Aesthetics, Gender, and Children's Clothing," opening Oct. 17.

Print-Quality Photo

It happened gradually -- and in part through the evolution of children's fashions -- says Kate Rowold, curator of The Sage Collection at Indiana University and co-curator with Kelly Richardson of "Child's Play: Aesthetics, Gender and Children's Clothing," a new exhibition at the Monroe County History Center opening Oct. 17. The exhibition explores the dynamics of aesthetics, gender and fashion using artifacts from The Sage Collection with related objects from the Monroe County History Center.

"Child's Play" includes approximately 50 examples of fashions for both girls and boys from the late 18th century through today. The selected items illustrate a range of social and cultural ideas expressed through children's clothing, including: a boy's 19th-century dress with pantelets, a 19th-century unisex cotton batiste baptismal gown, a girl's 20th-century polyester pant suit and boy's 21st-century Spider-Man sportswear.

"'Child's Play' illustrates the conscious and unconscious messages sent by the manner in which we clothe our children -- and children's attire provides a particularly fascinating glimpse into the culture and history of a time and place," said Rowold, a professor in the Retail Design and Merchandising Group in IU's Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design (AMID). AMID is a department in IU's College of Arts and Sciences.

"Children's clothing reveals as much about the world of adults as it does the world of the young. The dynamics of aesthetics and fashion resulted in stylistic changes in cut, color and function of children's clothes," Rowold said, adding that evolving views of childhood led to shifts in parenting styles and varying notions of the manner in which children's status and gender should be communicated through clothing.

"The move from homemade clothing to ready-to-wear fashions made possible the establishment of children's clothing brands, the emergence of a children's fashion market -- and, ultimately, the commodification of childhood," Rowold said.

Related Events:

Thursday, Dec. 3, 7-8 p.m., Monroe County History Center. Curator's Talk: "The Sailor Suit: Icon of American Childhood." Kelly Richardson and Kate Rowold.

Saturday, Nov. 7, 1-3:30 p.m., Monroe County History Center. Children's Workshop (for children ages 7-12): "Design-it-yourself: Creating Paper Doll Fashions." Kelly Richardson.

Wednesday, Jan.13, 2010, 4 -5:15 p.m. Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium. Bill Blass Fashion Design Seminar Series: "Before Pink and Blue: Baby Clothes before Babies had Gender." Professor Jo B. Paoletti, American Studies, University of Maryland.

About The Sage Collection

The Sage Collection is part of IU's College of Arts and Sciences ( Overseen by the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, the Sage Collection serves as a high-quality permanent museum collection intended for exhibition and research, as well as a hands-on laboratory and studio for members of the IU community and the public. Founded in 1937, the 24,000-piece collection was established by Elizabeth Sage, IU's first professor of textiles and clothing, who began collecting objects in 1913. "Child's Play" is made possible through the support of the Friends of the Sage Collection, the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Monroe County History Center.