A new school year has begun and with it, one of the annual rites of Fall - shopping for new school clothes. How have clothes changed since the Eagle first started running back-to-school advertisements at the turn of the last century? How have the ads changed? From mid-July to September today's parents are inundated with TV ads, circulars, flyers, and catalogues. Children in Brooklyn today have a wider variety of styles and stores to choose from. Local stores and national and international brands offer choices that would have been mind-boggling for the early-20th-century Brooklynite. But in 2009 parents can outfit their children in any style and within all types of budgets.
Here we have Eli and his friend Ludie getting ready to rock the 2nd and 1st grades respectively at the appropriately named Brooklyn New School, and the Brooklyn Waldorf School. Their clothes were carefully selected by them for the first day. Eli is in a new pair of blue jeans from Target and a sweatjacket hoodie. His green T-shirt says "Stay Cool" and has a fan printed on the front. Considering the hot weather we had in early September, it is very a propos. With him is his friend Ludie who is wearing an adorable teal polka-dot skirt with tulle crinoline. Her brown and pink plaid jacket has a Peter Pan collar with rick-rack, and pink buttons. She also has red and black plaid ballet flats.
But what about kids of yester-year? How did they and their parents get ready to start the school year? What type of advertisements were run to keep parents abreast of the new fashions? I've found a few that take us from 1902 to 1954.
The majority of notices in the early 1900's were composed of just text, but this small advertisement from 1902 features a charming illustration of a schoolboy.
In 1919 girls' as well as women's dresses featured a drop-waist. This dress also sports a sailor collar which would prove to be popular for many more decades.
What impressed me about this ad was the quality of the artwork. The illustrator's use of line is so fluid and relaxed you can almost feel the dresses billowing in the breeze.
"LOOMING SCHOOLDAYS GIVE JUNIORS EXCUSE TO DEMAND NEW CLOTHES"
Alas, I'm all too familiar with the sentiments behind this headline of 1929. I have a 7-year-old fashionista, otherwise known as "She who must be obeyed." She insisted on a tutu for her back-to-school wardrobe. And not just any tutu, a black tutu with black leggings and black ballet flats. She called it her Goth Princess outfit.
Well she did look cute
But I digress. In 1929 the dropped-waist and flapper style are apparent, children's clothes being still designed as smaller versions of adult styles.
I had erronousely thought that the marketing to the pre-teen set known as "tweens" was a recent development. But in going through these ads I learned that before tweens there were twixteens, as evidenced in this ad from Abraham & Strauss in 1949.
This young man, from 1954, looks like he's ready to take on the world. He's sporting a wool sport coat, Heeksuede (cotton)vest and slacks. By this time synthetic fabrics had found their way into American's wardrobes. His slacks are a made from rayon and nylon blend garbadine. This outfit could be found at Namm Loeser's.
By 1954 photography was used everywhere in fashion advertising. Fashion illustration would still be heavily used for a few more decades, but sadly its days were numbered.