Society's Child: Identity, Clothing, and Style

Society's Child: Identity, Clothing, and Style

Society's Child: Identity, Clothing, and Style

Society's Child: Identity, Clothing, and Style


In the last quarter of the twentieth century, children in American society have been wearing miniature adult-style dress. This trend has led social critics to ask an important question: Is childhood in American society disappearing? To answer this question, Ruth Rubinstein examined the style, function, meaning, and significance of children's clothes in Western history. She focused on the conditions and events which led to changes in style. She examined closely children's clothes in Renaissance Italy, seventeenth-century Holland, England and France between 1500 and 1800, colonial America, nineteenth-century England, and the United States since 1800. The author found that a specific clothing style was encouraged by those who sought to effect a particular goal. Change in the basic style of children's clothes often reflected a change in societal arrangements or arrangements within the family, and often resulted in shifts in the organization of culture. Children's clothes, in fact, helped to create dynasties, acted as reminders of cultural values, indicated paternal rank, supported nationalism, and were essential aids in organizing the structure of American society.


Society's Child is a study of children's clothes from the Renaissance through the 1990s. It proceeds from Phillipe Ariès's contention that childhood is as much a cultural construction as a biological one and that children's clothes identify the role children are expected to play in a society during a particular period. The book provides a reader interested in children, culture, family, communication, psychology, history, and fashion with an analysis of the connection between the meaning of childhood, the style of children's clothes, and the role children are expected to play in a society. The book should be of interest to intelligent general readers and should find a place on reading lists of numerous undergraduate courses, such as Cultural Studies, Socialization and Human Behavior, Family and Sex Roles, American Studies, Art History, Communications, Critical Theory, Fashion Theory, and History of Costume and Sociology.

Society's Child examines the role of children's clothes in creating networks of social ties, networks constituted by blood relationship, privilege, friendship, marriage, and acquaintance. Moreover, the book demonstrates how the style of children's clothes is related to the transformation of society and the social class structure.

Society's Child suggests that in the contemporary world, the world of advanced capitalist democracy, children's clothes are a complex composite of discourses related to person, identity, culture, and society.

Ruth P. Rubinstein . . .

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