Archive for September, 2014

From School to Sailors: Childrenswear from the Museum of Childhood, V&A on Tumblr

Blog /

victoria and albert museum london woollen 1920s europeana fashion childhood

“As the summer nights draw in and children return to school, my mind drifts off to childhood memories of days by the sea, and reluctantly getting dressed in an ill-fitting uniform at the start of another school year… oh to have that time back….”

victoria and albert museum london woollen 1920s europeana fashion childhood

B.274-2010 Photograph, tinted and mounted on card, of a girl in a pink woollen dress posed on the beach with a spade and a handful of seaweed, taken on the south coast of England, by Remington's Photo Service (A.H. Remington), England, 1920-39. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/ Arthur H. Remington

europeana fashion victoria and albert museum london school schap 1920s 1930s childhood

B.39-1999 Boy’s school cap, England, 1925-1935, wool and cotton, machine stitched and hand stitched © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1900s pamphlet europeana fashion rowe gosport victoria and albert museum london europeana fashion childhood

B.143-1995 Trade pamphlet on children's garments issued by WM Rowe of Gosport, Cowes & London; England, ca. 1900 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/WM Rowe


By Roxanne Peters, coordinator for Europeana Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

There is nowhere more fitting to re-live such moments than in the surviving clothing, accessories, photography and prints donated by people young and old to the V&A’s Museum of Childhood. These personal treasures are the subject of this month’s V&A curation for the Europeana Fashion tumblr blog.

Spanning the last 300 years, this 6000 piece collection embodies the stories of childhood from birth to the formative teenage years. I like the idea of exploring fashion heritage to discover childhood; rather than dressing for success, following a trend or using fashion to seduce a crowd, these collections reflect the age of youth against a backdrop of social, cultural and political change.

One of my favourite collections is the children’s clothing that was made under the Utility Scheme during World War Two (1939-45). This was an initiative by the UK government to control manufacturing and for people to be as resourceful as possible in a time of austerity. It is fascinating how today this culture of ‘make do and mend’ has been embraced by a new generation of fashion and design enthusiasts who aim to keep traditional skills and crafts alive, whilst also being inspired to create something innovative and new.

1940s utility scheme girl's coat russet wool england europeana fashion victoria and albert museum childhood

M.18-1985 Girl's coat and hat of russet wool, made in England under the Utility Scheme 1941-1948 ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Museum of Childhood collections mainly represent childhood from the UK. We do however hold some wonderful examples of European pieces including this 16th century Italian swaddling band, the oldest work in the collection.

swaddling band italian 1600s victoria and albert museum london europeana fashion baby childhood

B.878-1993 Swaddling band; probably Italian, late 16th century © Victoria and Albert Museum,London

bonnet baby embroidered embbroidery pink silk lacy hungary 1920s victoria albert museum london europeana fashion childhood

B.382-1993 Baby's bonnet of embroidered pink silk trimmed with lace; Hungary, 1920-1929 ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This ornate 1920s Hungarian baby’s bonnet was bought by the donor in a baby’s clothes shop in Budapest as ‘antique’ when she was expecting her first child in 1943, and baby clothes were in short supply. Other highlights include a nappy made from fabric printed with the Union flag design, as a souvenir for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, and a Victorian swimming costume worn on trips to the seaside, a popular form of entertainment by the 1890s thanks to improvements in travel to English coastal towns.

nappy cotton hemp union jack flag scotland ella's house 2002 victoria albert museum childhood london europeana fashion baby

B.8-2003 Cotton and hemp nappy with Union Jack flag design, made in Scotland by Ella's House in 2002 ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Ella’s House

1870s victorian swimming costume calico pin-stripes victoria albert museum london europeana fashion chilhood

MISC.102-1986 Victorian swimming costume made of white calico with printed red pin-strips, made in England between 1870 and 1880 ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

For me photographs provide a glimpse into the lives, experiences and memories of who we are or once were both in front of the lens and behind it. As I have been exploring the Museum of Childhood collections, I have been moved by the wonderful social observations of photographer John Heywood. He donated his collection entitled ‘My Family and other Children’, a photographic study of childhood spanning 40 years. The photographs perfectly capture the passage of time from birth to the formative teenage years, with clothing serving as an important part of our cultural heritage. Discover more about John Heywood’s photography at the Museum of Childhood.

1980s new cousin baby john heywood card photograph victoria albert museum europeana fashion childhood

B.11-2003, ‘A New Cousin’ Black and White photograph mounted on card by John Heywood, 1987 ©Victoria and Albert Museum/John Heywood

photograph card john heywood family dwellings 1980s victoria albert museum london europeana fashion childhood

B.65-2013, ‘Family Dwellings ‘ Black and White photograph mounted on card by John Heywood, 1986 ©Victoria and Albert Museum/John Heywood

riviting stuff photograph card john heywood 1980s victoria albert museum london europeana fashion childhood

B.28-2013, ‘Riviting Stuff’ , Black and White photograph mounted on card by John Heywood, 1982 ©Victoria and Albert Museum/John Heywood

way to school photograph card john heywood 1980s victoria albert museum london europeana fashion childhood

Misc.1086-1992 On the Way to School, Black and White photograph mounted on card by John Heywood, 1982 ©Victoria and Albert Museum/John Heywood

We hope you enjoy the V&A’s curation and that it inspires you to flick back through your albums, reminisce about those forgotten fashions (including the ones you chose to forget!) and memories that shape who you are today. Go to our Tumblr to discover this childhood curation and explore more childhood pieces in the Europeana Fashion portal.