Thoroughly Modern Miss: Girls’ clothing through the ages

THERE has been a monumental shift in costume and fashion over the last 100 years clearly demonstrated in Horsham Museum’s new exhibition Thoroughly Modern Miss.

The changes did not come about due to the computer age or new fabrics, cut or design icons, but simply through changes in society.

Today’s adults dress similarly to their teenage children, whereas 70 years ago children’s clothing mimicked adults. Before the 1960s and 70s, the adult fashion world dominated children’s fashions whereas youthful fashions dominate the adult world today. The exhibition Thoroughly Modern Miss explores 100 years of how the world of girls’ clothing has changed.

Just reading the descriptions of 1920s clothing – woollen stockings with suspenders, hemlines with embroidery, and tunics with bloomers – shows the similarity to the everyday wear of the modern 1920s woman.

By the 1960s the growth of the teen market and an explosion of affluence meant that the ‘thoroughly modern miss’ did not want to look like her mum or even her grandmother - she wanted a new identity.

So in came denim jeans, shorter hemlines, brightly coloured designs and fabrics.

It was fashion that made a statement and the new exhibition at Horsham Museum shows this through its comparison with earlier clothing.

For the teenager of today, come and see what school uniforms of the 1960s had to offer, it might make you appreciate the uniform you wear today!

Some 20 years later the freedom given to the ‘thoroughly modern miss’ meant that there was a complete change in girls’ costume - now anything goes and nothing matches.

The sweet demure girl portrayed through song and film of previous generations was thrown out and bleached jeans, day glow socks, T-shirts with slogans or branding emblazoned on them became all the rage and tantrums from children were no longer over parents saying ‘you can’t wear that!’ but mothers raiding their daughter’s wardrobes and embarrassment all round!

The exhibition opened on May 1 and closes on September 29, 2012.

Article contributed by Horsham Museum.

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