Self-Help Children's Clothing and Standardized Sizing

[T]he attention given lately to child study throughout the country has emphasized the need of more comfortable and convenient clothing for children which would encourage 'self-help' and thus stimulate mental development. Although there has been much discussion of this need and ways of meeting it, no definite designs for such garments were available. The Bureau has, therefore, as part of its cotton and wool utilization program, developed by experimental methods garments which have proved valuable to mothers and workers in this field. The designs are being accepted by pattern and garment manufacturers, are being advocated by extension workers, and are having a noticeable effect on children's clothing throughout the country.

--Ruth O'Brien. "The Program of Textile Research in the Bureau of Home Economics." (1930). Journal of Home Economics, 9(4), p. 285.

The Bureau of Home Economics' Division of Textiles and Clothing developed patterns for children's clothing that would allow the maximum amount of freedom of movement and ease in wear. Their work can be seen as part of the larger Child-Study Movement of the early 20th century. This educational and vocational movement sought to design programs and products for children in ways that conformed to their developmental needs. The findings of experimental and developmental psychology were used to produce garments that would be most appropriate for a given child's stage of life.

This exhibit illustrates some of the designs that were developed by the Bureau and showcases some of their unique features.

There was also an effort to develop standard sizes for children's clothing based on scientific measurements of large samples of boys and girls. The second part of the exhibit contains items that resulted from this work.