Clothing Technology: Company and Individual Inovators

Figure 1.--.

HBC is often unaware of the origins of many clothing items. Many fashion inovations were the brain child of unknown individuals. In most cases the identity the individuals or companies have been lost. Some devices, sweing procedures, and fashions are known. White the list is rather limited, it does provide some basic information on individuals or companies which have played a role in children's fashions. The list ranges from individuals such as Amelia Bloomer to staid companies like B.F. Goodrich and matriarch Queen Victoria. This is the initial list that comes to mind. Please let us know if you know of any individual or company which should be added to the list.

Amelia Bloomer (United States, 1818-94)

American reformer Amelia Bloomer was born in Homer, New York. She lectured and wrote to support the temperance movement and women's sufferage, two inter-linked issues. She is best knowm for energetic promotion beginning in 1848 of the "bloomer" costume. Bloomer in fact did not device bloomers, but merely endorse them as a practical alternative for the restrictive women's fashions of the era. Bloomers were in fact originally devised by Elizabeth Smith Miller.

Frances Hodgsen Burnett (United States)

Mrs. Burnett is of course best knowm for the Little Lord Fauntleroy suit which the fancy velvet suits she sewed for her two boys came to be called. Mrs. Burnett did not actually invent the style. Younger boys in England, France, and the United States were dressed in fancy velvet suits with kneepants for years. By the 1880s collars and bow had grown in size. Mrs. Burnett was born in England and as a young mother lived in Paris so she had ample inspiration for her sons' suits. It was her book, with limited description of clothes, but some lovely illustrations by Birch that created the Fauntelroy craze.

Earl of Cardigan (Wales)

The cardigan sweater is named after the seventh Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868) who served in the Crimean War. Cardigan sweaters were popular for boys in Britain and to a lesser extent America during the 1950s and 60s. They were by the 1990s, however, little worn. The cardigan is a close fitting knitted woolen jacket which buttoned up the front like a jacket. Cardiganshire is a county in west Wales.

William Carter (United States)

The William Carter Company was founded in 1865 by William Carter in Needham, Mass. It is one of the oldest and largest branded marketers of premium infants' and children’s apparel in the U.S. Carter’s has long been known for its product innovations. Some examples include the dropseat unionsuit, patented in 1907. The jiffon® neck, nevabind® sleeve and handy-cuff mittens, all time-honored features, were originally patented in the 1930’s and are just as important today as they were then.

B.F. Goodrich (United States)

The zipper was developed in the late 19th century, at first for shoes. It was subsequently purchaded by the B.F. Gooodyear company in 1823. The company began intoducing products with zippers and the clothing industry gradually began using them on more and more prduvts. Jackets were one of the main uses. Closings on men and boys pants and trousers were prinarily buttons. Zippers began to be used in pants during the 1920s, but it was some years before they were routienly accepted.

Duke of Norfolk (England)

One of the more popular styles for boys until recent years has been the Norfolk jacket. It was, however, not exclusively a boy's style. It was developed for the Duke oF Norfolk during the early 19th century for country outings. It was initially worn without matching trousers. Instead knickers were worn. it was widely worn by boys from the 1870s to the 1930s. The Norfolk jacket was most popular in England, but widely worn in America as well--at least by boys.

Lord Baden Powell

Lord Baden Powell founded the British Scout movement in 1906. The adoption of a shorts pants uniform played an important role in popularising short pants as suitable boys' clothing. They had earlier been worn by younger boys, but were not commonly worn by older boys until Scouts helped to popularize them.

Levi Strauss (United States)

German imigrant Levi Strass fid not invent blue jeans and overalls. Strauss was born during 1829 in Buttenheim, Bavaria. Teenage Levi Strauss, his two sisters and his mother sailed for America in 1847, where they join half-brothers Jonas and Louis in New York. Levi joined the dry goods business of his older brothers. Levi in 1853 becomes an American citizen. He sailed to San Francisco to take advantage of the gold rush boom. Strauss and his brother set up their small dry goods store near the waterfront, where they could easily get shipments from the Strauss brothers back from the east. The store grows into a prosperous business by the 1870s. He popularized overalls made of stout material like jean and canvass and held together with metal rivets. For years they were worn by workers and farmers. Many American boys went to school in overalls, but this was generally seen as a sign of povery. Only in the 1950s did jeans begin to become a fashion statement.

Queen Victoria

Victoria's four sons in the 1840s and 50s were dressed in kilts and sailor suits. Bertie, the future Edward VII was the first to wear both kilts and sailor suits. This helped set two major fashions for boys. Huge numbers of boys in Europe and America were to wear kilts and sailor suits. HBC is unsure, however, just what role the Queen has in this. Both fashions were of political importance in popularizing the royal family. It may well be that Prince Albert played an important role in how the princes were dressed, but HBC has noy yet been able to determin the details.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: June 14, 2001
Last updated: June 14, 2001