Gerald “Jerry” Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury, Iowa, is pictured here at left with his cousin, Alvin Joseph Bauer, and Alvin’s cousin, Helen Ann Thomas. The three toddlers stand on a sidewalk and hold hands, supporting the youngest in the middle. Jerry speaks to someone who has caught his attention outside of the frame, while Alvin gazes directly at the camera, wide eyed and solemn. Little Helen has a sweet smile for the photographer.
All of the children wear dark shoes and thick stockings. Jerry’s dress is the most elaborate, made of a light-colored plaid or gingham fabric with matching knickerbockers. It features two rows of white buttons, a bow at the throat, and a drop waist with a dark belt. His hair is curled in chin-length ringlets. The other, younger children are dressed more simply. Alvin wears a shapeless, light-colored gown without adornment. His hair is short, slickly parted on the side. Helen wears a similarly loose gown, though it appears to have a light calico pattern. Her dress has a collar, over which hangs a slim necklace and pendant. Her hair is also short, though wavy in texture.
In the Edwardian era, it continued to be common for young children, regardless of gender, to wear comfortable gowns. While it undoubtedly made changing soiled clothing a quicker task, dresses also allowed for easier movement. Pants – and haircuts – for little boys were often reserved for the time at which they would start school. In 1907, The Ladies’ Home Journal made a comparison of practical and impractical children’s clothing, writing:
“The first boy is in for a good time, and yet he looks the thorough little man with his bloomer trousers underneath his one-piece suit. Then look at his ‘nice’ but unhappy little companion who is made a ridiculous caricature of a man in his wee trousers so out of place on little legs.”1
When was this picture taken? Jerry was born in June 1908,2 Helen was born in August 1908,3 and Alvin was in August 1909,4. It should be noted that Alvin, the youngest, was already walking when this picture was taken, dating the picture no earlier than the late summer of 1910. Several additional clues date the photograph slightly later. The children do not wear coats, but appear to be dressed in layers. Furthermore, the trees in the background are completely bare. It seems most likely that this photograph was taken in the late fall of 1910 or the early spring of 1911.
Could the photograph have been taken on a holiday, perhaps Thanksgiving or Easter, when the families might have gotten together? Or was this simply a play date of a century ago? Regardless, I’m sure that my great grandfather would have had something to say about this photograph of him wearing long curls and a dress!
Have you found that your grandfathers wore dresses as children?
1 “Edwardian Clothing: Good Taste and Bad Taste in Dressing Children,” Victorian Magazine, (http://www.victoriana.com/edwardianfashions/edwardianchildren.php : accessed 20 September 2013).
2 “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 September 2013), entry for Herald [Gerald] Joseph Adam, 19 June 1908, Sioux City.
3 “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 September 2013), entry for Helen Ann Thomas, 22 August 1908, Sioux City.
4 “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 September 2013), entry for Alvin Joseph Bauer, 7 August 1909, Sioux City.