our everyday life

Early Sixties Children's Clothes

by Victoria Thompson
This Kennedy family painting on exhibit at Sotheby's shows the then-Mrs. John F. Kennedy and her two children, Caroline and John Jr., in the usual, dressy attire of small children of the early 1960s.

This Kennedy family painting on exhibit at Sotheby's shows the then-Mrs. John F. Kennedy and her two children, Caroline and John Jr., in the usual, dressy attire of small children of the early 1960s.

If you look at today's toddlers and preschoolers, wearing ultra practical clothes that they wear around the house or to preschool, it can be tough to think what kids clothing was like when your parents or grandparents grew up. Children's clothing of the early 1960s was becoming more casual, to recognize the fact that children weren't little adults -- they needed their own styles. Polyester and other synthetics made their way into children's fashion, to give Mom a break from the constant care and scrubbing of natural fabrics, which usually faded. What mom has that much time on her hands to concentrate on prepping her child's clothing when there's a whole household to rule?

Little Girls Formal Dresses

Little girls wore dresses trimmed in ruffles around the sleeves and hems. This dress had a fitted bodice, wide skirts, and a layer of petticoats underneath. The girls wore dainty, white gloves to complete the look. This wasn't an everyday outfit that kids played in, but was a look borrowed more from the early 20th century than from the later 20th century. What mother would scrub grass stains out of ruffles? Mothers told girls, "Never sit on the grass in a dress." This look was reserved for school, church and other formal activities.

Pedal Pushers

Pedal pushers are synonymous with the capri and cropped pants of today. Whoever said fashions are cyclical was right, since this style made a reappearance in the '80s as highwaters. Girls wore pedal pushers along with short sleeve, buttoned blouses as casual attire. Jeans were not yet the style for little girls, so pedal pushers were all the rage to play in. The pants were often made of synthetic materials that made the wear and care easier for both parent and child. . . no more standing around ironing for hours at a time.

Camp Shorts and Cut Offs

Boys began to dress less in suits and more in casual wear. Camp shorts with large side pockets were a hit with parents, since they were wash and wear, and boys could indulge in rough play, roll around outside and then come in the house. Cut offs were becoming popular as well. Moms could save money by cutting old, worn out pants to make a new pair of cut off shorts. Less money spent and less time spent washing and ironing. The 60s was the beginning of modern conveniences. . . mothers must've adored this fashion era.

Mary Janes and Sneakers

Sneakers weren't popular for little girls yet in this era. Boys sported those at school and during playtime, often wearing them with their shorts or jeans..a trend from the last decade. Mary Janes were a fixture for early '60s girls' formal attire. Girls wore Mary Janes with white knee socks or frilly ankle socks -- and, of course, their frilly dresses -- attire now reserved only for infants -- if that. Moms shined the shoes and made sure that every detail was proper. It seems like a tiring task for kids who probably only wanted to roll around in the dirt and play.

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Victoria Thompson has taught middle school for the past 15 years. She holds a Masters of Education in middle school instruction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She teaches English daily to English as a second language students.

Photo Credits

  • Stephen Chernin/Getty Images News/Getty Images