Clothing and Children's Literature

(part of the collaborative project, "Wearing our Culture, Wearing Ourselves". A partnership between the Waltham Family School, the Rose Art Museum, and the Engaged Anthropology course at Brandeis University.)

Some children's books feature clothes, garments, hair or other ornaments worn on the body. How do clothes help children and young people imagine new possibilities for themselves? Do garments or fabric pieces sometimes help children gain a degree of independence from their parents while still maintaining bonds of love and connection to their caregivers? Are there stories about clothing you might tell your children or wish to write?

Children's Books and Stories of interest:

  • Freeman, Don. A Pocket for Corduroy. What does 'not having a pocket' mean to the children who read this story? What precisely is Lisa giving to Corduroy when she gives him a pocket?
  • Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. What role do the winter coats in the wardrobe play in the story? How do the coats link the children to the "real world" of wartime England and the other world of Narnia?
  • Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. How does Max's costume change during the story? Through his clothing how does he become like and unlike the Wilds Thing that he seeks to dominate?
  • Little Red Riding Hood. Why is the heroine known through her hood/hat?
  • Cinderella"
  • "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" (shoes)
  • Dr. Seuss's Bartholomew Cubbins and the 500 Hats.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes."
  • The Emperor's New Clothes

Academic Resources:

  • Michael Armstrong. Children Writing Stories.
  • Bruno Bettleheim. The Uses of Enchantment.
  • D.W. Winnicott. "Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena" in Playing and Reality.