Information about child actors also privodes a great deal of fashion information. Both clothes these children wore as well as the costumes they wore in their films and shows provide much valuable information. These children often dressed very fashionably so information about them provides insights into contemprary fashions and conventions. The costumes they wore in films also provides useful information--although it must be treated more cautiously. HBC is preparing an alphabetical listing of child actors in movies, plays, and television.
Several factors need to be considered in assessing the way child stars dressesd when not costumed for movie shoots. The available images are interesting, but in most cases they are not candid shots and can not be readily accepted as evidence of popular styles. HBC suggests the following factors be considered.
Child actors were and continue to be valuable commodities. A successful child actor could support the entire family. A child who achieved star status could earn much more than his parents could earn. Some parents took advantage of their children and spent the child eanings wastefully. The besr examole of this of course is Jackie Coogan. Clothes were chosen that emphasized their childhood. The income of these children was for the most part only possible while the child was a child. Only a few child stars made the transition to adult acting careers. Childhood is of course fleeting. Thus parents and guardians often dressed them in juvenile styles--even as the boys got older. A similar phenomenon can be observed with child prodigies. This phenomenon was especially pronounced in the early days of the movie industry, but has declined beginning in the 1940s.
In many cases successfull child stars came from families of modest circumstances. Wealthy families usually did not want their children involved with the movies. Once a child began earning a substantial income, parents (usually mothers) wanted to dress their successful actors in fancy expensive styles. Often the boys would up wearing styles their mothers thought reflected how wealthy children were dressed. In many cases, however, they were often not quite the usually conservative styles often preferred by well to o families.
The clothing worn by child stars could have considerable influence. This was initially primarily true of girl stars. Many mothers in the 1930s wanted their children to look like Shirley Temple complete with short dresses and curls. Probably many Amerivan mothers would have liked to have dressed their sons in the short pants suits worn by many boy stars--although here they met considerable resistance from their sons. The situation has changed in receny years. Child stars are no longer dressed in the fancy clothes once so common. They are both affected by popular styles as well as help to set fashion trends in the clothes that they wear--both boys and girls.
Especially detailed information is available on the clothing and costumes worn by the especially well know child actors who reached star status. The boys that appeared in these productions were often smartly dresses, especially for publicity photographs. In some cases, parents and guardians liked to dress them in juvenile fashions so as to prolong their child movie careers. Others were dressed in clothes approapriate for their age. Thus they reflect popular styles for boys from well to do families. Many affluent mothers often dress their clothes in very conservative fashions. Generally speaking the child stars did not wear the more conservative styles. The images depicted here will eventually be the costumes worn in movies, unless they were movies set in contemporary periods. Temprarilly, HBC will use a movie still as most of the available images are from movies. As photographs of these boys in their non-costume roles become available, these will be usedas much as possible.
HBC has some photographs with child actors that we can not identify. Oftennit is possible to identify the actor as we know the title of the film. Some times, however, we do not even know the name of the film. Thus we have no idea who the child actor is. In other cases the photographs are studio publicity shots not associated with any particular movie. HBC must confess that are not really expert on movies and actors. Thus there are quite a number of these unidentified actors. It is important, however, to identify them. Otherwise we can not accurately date the photograph to help assess chronological trends. Any help readers can provide in identifying these actors would be apprecaited.
Several useful sources exist on child actors. HBC has just begun to research these sources, but hopes to devote some attention to this to add to our understanding of the clothes and costumes worn by these children which fascinated the movie going public. Please let us know of interesting sources which should be consulted.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main theatrical page]
[Return to the Main movie page]
[Return to the Main play page]
[Return to the Main television page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]