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Dressed For Church: Gen X Kids vs. Baby Boomer Kids

These two photos provide a nice comparison and contrast between Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers as we all appeared when dressed for church. The first photo is an original 35 mm slide image that was taken in the 1950s. I recently purchased it and have no other information about it. The second picture is from the Oak Creek Community United Methodist Church. It was taken in 1979, which means these young Gen-Xers were probably born around 1972.

The first two things that struck me as similar are the two female Sunday School teachers that flank the children in each photo. The second thing is that a little girl in each picture is carrying a purse to church.

Dressed For Church

Children Dressed For Church in the 1950s

Children Dressed For Church in the 1950s


Children Dressed For Church in 1979

Gen-Xers Dressed For Church, 1979. Oak Creek Community Church, Milwaukee. Source


Dressed up for church: A Girl in matching coat and cylinder purse 1950s

This matching coat and cylinder purse are so adorable. I wish little girls still dressed like this for church.

Dressed Up For Church: The Rise of Casual Dress in America

This Gen-X girl’s red purse appears to have a Holly Hobbie design on the front. Throughout the 1970s, Holly Hobbie appeared on metal lunch boxes, T-shirts, bags, plaques and even jeans. My cousins each had a pair!

You can see by 1979, Sunday School had become more casual, but there were still some elements of formality in children’s clothing. For example, one little girl in the picture is wearing knee socks with sandals while another has on red T-strap Mary Janes with frilly anklets. Meanwhile, a boy on the back row, far left, is wearing a Big Bird shirt.

The Rise of Casual Dress

Deidre Clemente studies the rise of casual dress in America. She calls it one of the most profound cultural changes in the 20th Century.

As Americans, our casual style uniformly stresses comfort and practicality—two words that have gotten little attention in the history of fashion but have transformed how we live,” wrote Clemente in a 2015 article for the New York Times. ” A hundred years ago, the closest thing to casual was sportswear—knitted golf dresses, tweed blazers, and oxford shoes. But as the century progressed, casual came to encompass everything from worker’s garb (jeans and lumberman jackets) to army uniforms (again with the khakis). Americans’ quest for a low-key style has stomped on entire industries: millinery, hosiery, eveningwear, fur, and the list goes on. It has infiltrated every hour of the day and every space from the boardroom to the classroom to the courtroom.”

How sad that millinery (among other things) was stomped out. Throughout my entire life beautiful hats have been confined to Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton and pictures of Jackie Kennedy. I’m not counting that brief period during the 1970s when Sears and Montgomery Wards sold floppy sunhats to go with an array of pastel bridesmaids dresses. I’m also now counting the year my high school BFF and I wore hats to the snowball dance, December 1984. That’s me in red on the front row next to Melanie. Check out her matching royal blue gloves. She looked so cute that night! Gorgeous Angie is behind us with her gray hat. Gratefully, I am connected on Facebook to all these dear, old friends.

According to Clemente, the rise of casual dress began in the 1920s and reached a feverish pitch in the 1960s. During that decade, the unisex movement took flight as women donned T-shirts, jeans and cardigans for the first time.

To dress casual is quintessentially to dress as an American and to live, or to dream of living, fast and loose and carefree,” Clemente reported. “I’ve devoted the past decade of my life trying to understand ‘why’ and ‘when’ we started dressing this way—and I’ve come to many conclusions. But for all the hours and articles, I’ve long known why I dress casual. It feels good.”

Well, it certainly does feel good, but at times, looks downright pitiful.

Do you remember getting dressed for church as a kid? How does it differ from today?

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Mrs. White

    I love these pictures and the history behind them. It is so true that people used to dress up for Church. It seems so much more casual now. We have lost something special because of it.

    • Jennifer

      I think so, too. I miss seeing girls and boys dressed up for church in little suits and dresses. A bygone era, but thing have a way of coming back around again, so maybe we’ll see the vintage style trend someday soon.

  2. Rachel

    Tights, always. Because little girl dresses were ridiculously short. Buckle shoes. And pinafores.

    • Jennifer

      Pinafores. I miss them and those days!

  3. Brett

    Well, I still get pretty dressed up, but I’m probably an atypical respondent 😉

    • Jennifer

      We want our preachers to look like preachers! Please, no barefeet. LOL!

      • Brett

        No worries. Doesn’t look good with the suit.

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