Educate Yourself / Personal Story

Children in Clothes: How do Children Decide What to Wear?


In child scribble: ‘This is how I dressed when I was 6’ (probably wrote when I was 7).

Ideas that may or may not be discussed below:
–I ponder why I dressed so weird when I was a kid and how I can get my hands on an -adult-sized denim jumper of this caliber
–What influences children to dress a certain way?
–What do kids think when they get dressed in the morning?
–How does your kid style influence your adult style?

If you have your own kid(s), have contact with any kids, or recall being a kid, this might be of interest to you (and you might have some nice responses to the above ideas to add to the comments).

Now that I’m growing into adulthood I often find myself wondering lots of things about what I was like as a child, even requesting that my mother bring to me my scrapbooks.

My mother and I bonded over ‘scrapbooking afternoons’ from the time I was 6 till the time I was 12. We both shared the frantic feeling that there would always be too many moments to photograph, too many photos to glue and stick, and not enough stickers (though this last bit was mainly me).

And yes, I know that scrapbooking is kind of one of those weird hobbies that housewives or country bumpkins get together and throw parties over and I’m not going to deny it. But as a child I enjoyed it quite a lot and as an adult I get to pour over the results of my tacky childhood crafting and try to reign in the evidence of a full-blown investigation based solely on stickers, messy text, and weirdly cut photos: What was in the mind of child Natalie?

Something you can consistently examine of yourself at any age is your style. I am clearly pretty proud of this outfit on the left and remain to be so.

I browsed the school library and found “Clothing: a study in human behavior” written by Mary Shaw Ryan of Cornell University and published in 1965 under the genre of ‘Home Economics’.


clothing-a-study-in-human-behavior-book-coverIt’s interesting to read anything more than 50 years old, but this one was particularly charming. The book is broken up into 3 parts, part three is entitled “Social-Psychological Aspects of Clothing Related to the Age of the Wearer”. In the chapter on infants and preschool children I find this:

“His own physical comfort is still the dominate interest in his world and his attitude toward clothing is dependent upon this. The toddler very often actively dislikes clothing of any sort. He considers it a nuisance and wishes to discard it if possible.”

This seems very accurate. Toddlers hate socks. Toddlers hate jeans. Toddlers like running around nakey.


obviously the keys to a fabulous outfit include socks with sandals, obnoxiously bright sunglasses, and at least six colors of the rainbow. a cute dog doesn’t hurt.

In elementary school children:

“As the child enters the gang age, it is, of course, important to him to be accepted by the gang. He fears rejection by his peers. Therefore, his clothing, first of all, must be acceptable to them. There must be nothing about it which will cause him to be teased (p 228).”

I have some hesitations with this statement, but it also makes quite a lot of sense as it’s the first time the child is spending so much time outside of the house.

Also cited in the book, the researcher Macaulay asked 305 boys and girls between the ages of 6 to 15 to answer a series of questions about likes and dislikes related to clothing (p 232).

A few things he found:

  • with increasing age there was a decrease in desire for bright colors
  • prior to nine, children did not seem to be conscious of design, appropriateness, or fashion
  • nine and up increase in awareness of design
  • twelve and up consider fashion and suitability
  • thirteen to fifteen strive to emphasize the good points in their physical appearance
  • prior to ten, prefer ornate and attention attracting garments

note the tasteful use of stickers

And one more tidbit that gets a great big hallelujah from me:

“A feature sometimes overlooked in designing or selecting clothes for the school child is the number and size of pockets (ALSO VERY OVERLOOKED IN WOMEN’S CLOTHING) Children are collectors. (ADULTS ARE TOO! ) Empty the pockets of a school-age boy and it is very evident that he needs many and large pockets to house all his treasures. Girls of this age also enjoy collecting and need pockets to carry their finds (p 233).”

Okay, the sexism is a little painful in this text, but it’s 1965.

Stay curious friends,


Also– check out the song below by one of my favorite bands that discusses growing up.


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