Friday, January 17, 2014

Capturing Childhood

I've been sewing for my oldest child for five years and the questions I ask myself when I make garments for her now are different from the questions I once asked when I began this journey.  When I began I felt more restricted by cost and my limited sewing experience.

Now, although I still consider cost, I think more about what kind of picture of childhood I am trying to help my children capture.  I guess a hope of mine is that one day they will see a baby dress I made them and with fondness put that same dress on their child.  Another hope is that I will make the garments to fit their style and their particular frame.  I don't want them looking back on pictures and seeing what frightening get up their mom forced on them. 

All this to say that I try to draw ideas for my children's garments from both their ideals and my ideals.  I have found that a good place to start is by looking at children's books.  I wanted to share three artists that are my favorite.  I often page through these books for inspiration.  Let me show you why:
Eloise Wilkin
This is artist, Eloise Wilkin.  Her children's books have always captivated me, especially her eye for details concerning the construction of children's clothing.  This dress is probably my favorite design for a girls dress.  The yoke, the peter pan collar, the little puff sleeves, the gathered fluffyness of the dress.  These are all elements I adore.  

Here she really captures the wonder of childhood that is deeply tied to the wonder of nature.  Discovering nature and the world around you is all part of the mystery of growing as a person and Eloise Wilkin really seems to portray this in her drawings.  The children's clothes in this picture seem to embrace the reality that children like to feel comfy in their clothing.  
Gyo Fujikawa
What I love most about Gyo Fujikawa's drawings are the rich colors.  The colors are sometimes paired in ways that aren't so matchy-matchy and more organic which I think perfectly reflects childhood.  My children definitely don't pair their items the same way that I might (come to think of it their Dad NEVER pairs their clothes the way I would-ha ha!)!
The drawings also have that soft, water color look that I love as well and the pets are always in on the action.
I know whenever my children are playing in the yard our dog Buster is always right there with them.  Licking them, running beside the wagon, pulling on their clothes (and yes also destroying toys and eating whatever is in their hands).  
Marylin Hafner
I am less familiar with this artist however her drawing are very 70's in the book that I own but since I was born in the 70's in makes sense that I'd feel a tie to her!
This is from a Halloween book she illustrated but the way that the children appear to have made their own costumes is just perfect.  Dad's coat and tie, Mom's lipstick and that kid that made the weird, huge rabbit head (on a side note we had a kid come to our house this year with a huge papermache head, my daughter said "I won't trick or treat him because that's weird") that is what being a kid is about.  Making do, creating, exploring, growing as a person.  

I hope that in some way these images will inspire you as you dream of the garments you will make for your children and I know that every time I look at them I am inspired anew.  Do you have any children's books that you use for inspiration? 


  1. Ooooo....Eloise Wilkin for sure! I also loved those Daisy Kingdom dress that Molly use to wear that I made for her. The only problem with those dresses was the gathering was so heavy, it made the dress physically heavy. Also back then the quality of fabric was pitiful, I still have some of those dresses and some left over fabric. Boohoo...Molly is too old, maybe something for Maddi. Can't think of any illustrators that have inspired my children's clothing right off hand, but I do love Beatrix Potter, Jill Barklem, Tasha Tudor, & Marjolein Bastin. I love their work! Your post is wonderful inspiration and will make me pay closer attention to children's clothes in books. Have a great night, Holly

    1. I remember those Daisy Kingdom dresses! So sweet. You know it does make them heavy to have all that gathering! I picked up a detail I love from a vintage pattern where they add a pleat under the arm for extra poof! I looked at all the illustrators you suggested and they suit you and are some of my favs too, especially Jill Barklem and Marjolein Bastin. Thanks for reading the post and giving your creative two cents! Elizabeth