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Fashion for Children: Changing Views on Childhood

Fashion for Children: Changing Views on Childhood
Saturday, July 16 – Wednesday, August 31

Venue: Main building + Gallery 1, Annex

"Childhood" was not created by children

The clothes children wear reflect adult conceptions of what children are. Their clothing may tell us that childhood is seen as a stage of transition towards adulthood or that children are regarded, and loved, as beings very different from adults. The clothes that cover children's small bodies reflect what a certain society at a certain time thought children to be.

Because children wear out their clothes rapidly, examples preserved in good condition are rare. This exhibition, however, includes children's clothing from the West that span the 18th through the early 20th centuries and from Japan from the 1900s to the 1940s. To then we have added over 100 paintings, fashion plates, picture books, and photographs that show us how children's clothing has changed. In contrast to histories that focus on the creators of such garments, through haute couture creations, for example, this exhibition presents a history of fashion in which we read the feelings of those who wore and those who provided these clothes.

Visiting Information


Saturday, July 16 – Wednesday, August 31


Main building + Gallery 1, Annex


Closed on 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the month (Jul. 27, Aug. 10 & 24)

Opening Times:

10:00–18:00 (Last admission 17:30)
Aug. 5, 6, 12, 13 late-night opening until 21:00
(Last admission 20:30)


Adults: ¥1,100 (¥880)
College and vocational students: ¥880 (¥700)
Junior high and high school students, and seniors (65 and over): ¥550 (¥440)

・Figures in parentheses are group admission fees (for groups of 20 or more).
・Admission is free for elementary and younger students and for middle school students residing or going to schools in Tokyo.
・Admission is free for visitors (and one accompanying person) with a Physical Disability Certificate, Intellectual Disability Certificate, Rehabilitation Certificate, Mental Disability Certificate, or Atomic Bomb Survivor's Certificate.
・Admission is free for seniors (65 and above) on the third Wednesday of each month.
・Pre-purchased tickets are available online from

Organized by

Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Japan Association of Art Museums

With the sponsorship of

Lion Corporation
Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.
Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc.
Nippon Television Network Corporation

With the co-sponsorship of

Toda Corporation

Major Exhibits

  • Pierre-Thomas Leclerc, Engraved by Nicholas Dupin

    Girl dressed in a Polish-style frock and two boys in a skeleton suit, from Galerie des Modes et Costumes Français, Plate 146 1781(reprinted in 1912)
    Etching, hand-colored on paper
    Private collection (former collection of Mr. Ishiyama Akira)

    A fashion plate published in Paris. In that era, adult men wore culottes (short pants) but boys wore a type of garment specific to them, the "skeleton suit,” which consisted of a jacket buttoned to long pants. In contrast, girls’ dresses and hair styles were similar to those of adult women. We can see from these fashions that childhood was understood to last longer for boys than for girls.

  • Girls’ One-piece Dress

    Cotton dress with high-waisted line, openwork and escallop with red thread on puff sleeves and on the breast. Made in Britain
    Collection of Ms. Ando Yoshie

    This type of dress, unfitted at the waist, made of sheer cotton in either white or in pale colors, was popular at the start of the 19th century. It began as a dress worn by infants but was later worn both by girls and adult women. Children’s clothing tends to be a smaller-scale version of adult clothing, but the chemise was an exception: it is an example of children’s wear influencing adult clothing.

  • Boys’ Three-piece Ensemble

    Wool dress with stripes, metal buttons, blue wool appliqué. White cotton shirt and pantaloons. Made in Britain
    Collection of Ms. Fujita Mariko

    Both boys and girls wore dresses like this example. “Breeching,” replacing dresses with pants, was a major rite of passage for boys. During the 19th century, breeching took place between the ages of four and eight. The custom of boys wearing dresses continued until the start of the 20th century.

  • Kojima Torajiro
    Going to School

    Oil on canvas
    Nariwa Museum

    At the start of the Meiji period (1868-1912), schools were created for the small persons expected to grow into the leaders of the new nation. Kids, who would have grown up until then in their local communities, now became “schoolchildren” to be educated in the school system. It was recommended that, to be suitable for schoolchildren to wear, their clothing should be Western in style, for greater freedom of movement and ease in laundering. The first step in the Westernization of children’s clothing, before production of Western-style clothing became widespread, was the addition of aprons, hats, gloves and other small Western accessories to conventional children's clothing.

  • Poster: The Tokyo Biscuit and Confectionary Co., Ltd.

    Offset on paper
    Museum and Archives, Kyoto Institute of Technology

    During the Taisho period (1912-1926), new markets for toys, clothing, foodstuffs, books and magazines, all targeting a new urban middle class, appeared. Children's clothing became steadily more Westernized, and by early Showa (1926-1989), virtually all children wore Western-style clothing.

Above; Girls' One-piece Dress and Cape, c.1855-1865, Collection of Tokyo Kasei University
From Journal des Demoiselles, 1864, Private collection (former collection of Mr. Ishiyama Akira)