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Children's clothes -- before T-shirts and jeans

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Today's children generally run around in a uniform of T-shirts and jeans -- a mode of dress reflective of the casual society in which we live. Wardrobes of past generations of youngsters can give similar insights into what life was like in those times.

The McCallum Museum in Sibley is featuring an exhibit, "Children's Fashions of the Past," throughout the month of June.

For the museum's curator, Jan Stofferan, putting together an exhibit of children's clothing has been a particularly intriguing venture, as she has a special interest in historic clothing.

"I majored in home ec in 1966, and went on to get a master's degree in textile and clothing and minor in cooperative Extensive education," detailed Stofferan. "Then I took a year and a half at Iowa State in historic clothing. I had a good professor who was into dating clothes by construction techniques."

The exhibit features items from the museum's collection as well as some loaned by members.

"We've had some really wonderful children's clothing, and we just decided let's look through those and exhibit them and see what they look like," said Stofferan about the exhibit's origins.

The garments are from about a 75-year time span, from the 1880s to the 1950s. There are about on display.

One of the most intriguing items is a 1909 boy's dress that belonged to Merrill Fredrick Wolter.

"That's got a sad story, because he died of typhoid fever when he was just 2 years old," detailed Stofferan.

There is also a dress made out of a feedsack -- a common practice in the early decades of the 20th century, according to Stofferan, because the sacks came in prints, plaids and checkered patterns to accommodate the fashions. The exhibit also includes examples of items that were made over from adult fashions.

"We have an 1883 girl's bustle dress," noted Stofferan about another special piece. "It's a dress that mirrors her mother's dress, mirrored the adult fashion. It has hand-worked buttonholes and is just elegant. We know that it was owned by a banking family, but no other information."

The McCallum Museum, located at the corner of Fifth Street and Eighth Avenue in Sibley City Park, is open from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. every Sunday through Aug. 25. For more information, contact Stofferan, (712) 754-3882.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

(507) 376-7327