Follow Earnshaw's footsteps through 95 years in the childrenswear business.
1917: The Beginning
Earnshaw's begins as a publication called The Infants' Department. George Frederick Earnshaw launches his magazine "experiment" to assist retailers in growing their childrenswear businesses and urges a free exchange of ideas. As president of Earnshaw Knitting Company in Chicago, G.F. Earnshaw crafts the magazine as a custom publication, while also marketing its Vanta-branded goods. As WWI continues, retailers struggle as sales are lean and fabric shortages are plenty. À la mode are knee-length dresses for girls and winter shorts for boys, which cut fabric expenses. Vanta is the name in childrenswear, even earning a showcase spot in the National Museum in Washington, DC, for exemplary design. Interestingly, The Infants' Department reports that boys of the time are wearing pink - a healthy, strong color - while girls are donning shades of blue.
1921: Strength in Numbers
The Infants' Department hits its mark and, according to the publication, nearly 9,000 industry people read the monthly magazine. By demand, it begins taking outside advertising. G.F. Earnshaw declares that the staff is choosy about advertisers, ensuring that each touts products that are on-point and add value to an infants' department.
Mickey Mouse hits popular culture, and bubble gum and sliced bread are all the rage.
1929: Difficult Times, New Fashions
The stock market crashes on Black Tuesday and the Great Depression begins. As more Americans can't afford French fashion, domestic designers become popular and many children wear family hand-me-downs. There is a rise in casual clothing, sportswear and tennis shoes, and comfort is in the forefront for kids. Retailers stock more rugged goods in quality fabrics that stand up to weather and wear. During this time, children's wardrobes expand to sport, play, sun and snow clothes.
1930's: Shirley's Style
The children's fashion plate is Shirley Temple. Elegant fashion trends inspired by the star include collared and saque dresses with ribbons, smocking, tucking, pleating, piping and, of course, sweaters (due to the lack of central heat during the Depression). Strong, wearable materials remain popular fabrics, especially with the introduction of nylon during this decade.
1931: Mother Knows Best
Earnshaw continues to publicize "Mothercraft Education," an educational program that consists of a series of classes in motherhood and how to sell to mothers. The magazine encourages salespeople to become certified in Mothercraft, and consumer ads urge customers to ask about such certifications. Nurses are also often found in infants' departments as neutral sources of information on childcare and health. Vanta begins making sun and bathing garments, which are patented in 1932, due to doctors' recommendations of daily sun baths for babies.
1937: The Good and the Bad
Disney classic Snow White is released this year; the Hindenberg explodes.
1938: New Ideas
Earnshaw Knitting Company releases its own new synthetic material called Vantalin, a mixture of linen and cotton. "National Children's Week" commences as a way to help increase spring season sales. The Controlled Circulation Audit (C.C.A.) begins to audit Earnshaw's magazine.
1939: To the Rescue
Several popular comic books are released, including ones that feature a caped crusader called Batman.
1940: Hudson Takes the Helm
George F. Earnshaw dies on October 1, 1940. After several unattributed issues, Walter T. Hudson - formerly the eastern representative in sales - comes on as editor. He leads the magazine and enhances Earnshaw's vision.
1940's: Emergency Issues
WWII takes the steam out of fashion and results in cotton rationing and product shortages. Denim overalls, jeans, saddle shoes and more casual clothing are the fads of the decade. Earnshaw's is the only press called to hear a representative from the National Defense Commission speak at a Retailers' Advisory Committee luncheon. The publication discusses such hot topics as the Black Market, rationing, the effect of government surpluses and war bonds. The staff at Earnshaw's even commits to buying bonds and stamps every payday.
1941: Buyers Who Brunch
Approximately 400 buyers attend Earnshaw's trade show luncheon at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York City in January. Michelle Murphy, supervisor of the educational division at the Brooklyn Museum, hosts the event titled, "Century of Juvenile Fashion."
WWII ends, and the Slinky is demonstrated at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia.
Thomas Hudson joins Earnshaw's and works under his father, Walter Hudson.
Walter Hudson and Albert Riedell purchase a 51-percent stock share of Earnshaw's from the estate of Ernest B. Dane, becoming the rightful owners of the publication.
1950's: Fashion Flurry
Pea coats, pleats, Easter dresses, boys' short suits, knee-length cotton dresses, cardigans and home-knit sweaters are trending. Though there is limited choice and individuality in regards to fashion, the decade marks a time of post-war affluence.
1950: Charge It
The modern credit card, known as the Diners Club Card, hits the scene. The Hudsons begin expanding their footprint in trade, and Earnshaw's launches Small World magazine, which is dedicated to the children's furniture and gear industries.
1960: Pre-teen Power
Nearly half of the U.S. population is under 18. Mod and hippie looks are all the rage, ranging from conservative to rebellious. Earnshaw's publishes a supplement addressing a burgeoning fashion segment, dubbed sub-teens (today's pre-teens), saying, "She's a siren in a sheer nylon sleepset … lining up her stuffed animals on the bed." The publication reports that there are an estimated 8.5 million sub-teens in the U.S. The "Kennedy effect" is also in full swing, inspiring mothers' closets everywhere and boys' short pantsuits.
Late 1960's: Retail Revolution
Earnshaw's prints several "How to Sell" guides, training manuals for retail staff written by Murray Raphel. Raphel develops his 600-square-foot Gordon's Youth Shop in Atlantic City, NJ, into Gordon's Ally, a multi-million-dollar business and shopping complex with numerous retail tenants. An expert marketer, he famously invited Clarabelle the Clown and Minnie Mouse to his store to much local fanfare.
Almost half a million people attend Woodstock.
1970: Captain Planet
The first Earth Day is held in April. Also, flammability standards come into effect for children's sleepwear. Earnshaw's devotes several supplements to this issue throughout the decade that discuss flame-retardant fabrics and "how to answer your customers' questions about flammability."
1970's: Screen Stars
Miniskirts, floral dresses, flared jeans and peasant-style shirts enter the market. Friendship bracelets and running shoes from brands like Adidas are also big hits during the disco era. Crowds line up to see blockbuster movies like Star Wars and Jaws. Happy Days and The Brady Bunch are popular television shows.
The Vietnam War ends.
The first "Earnie Awards" honor children's retailers in various categories from shoes to dress wear. The publication also sends out 2,000 surveys to mothers in order to better understand consumer habits.
1980's: The '80s Club
Acid-wash denim, cropped jeans, lace and stretchy aerobic-style clothing are all the rage. Bright, neon colors make their way into everyday wardrobes, and Europe looks to the U.S. for the latest trends. Brands like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein gain popularity. This decade features "Brat Pack" films such as Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
MTV hits the airwaves, changing the music scene forever.
1983: What a Doll
The infamous Cabbage Patch Kids craze gives new meaning to the phrase "holiday shopping." One California store owner has 48 dolls at store opening, which are snapped up within 30 minutes.
1986: Coming to America
As retail foreign imports begin to increase, Earnshaw's puts out a supplement titled "America for Kids," urging U.S. manufacturers to keep producing goods at home. Writers also argue that quality and cost are better maintained in domestic products and that buying foreign is only hurting the childrenswear business and fellow citizens. "That out of work, blue collar consumer is the person who suffers most," the publication states.
Tom Hudson Sr. passes away, leaving Tom Hudson Jr. at the magazine's helm.
1990: Movers and Shakers
Tom Hudson Jr. further expands the company's portfolio with Footwear Plus magazine, a trade publication covering the footwear industry. West Coast stores and brands feel aftershocks from the '89 earthquake, which causes transportation to halt and delays deliveries. The Children's Place opens its first superstore in NYC.
The disheveled grunge look is in, as well as colorful baggy jeans, oversized T-shirts, flare pants and flannel shirts. The schoolgirl look, inspired by the movie Clueless, is also popular, and platforms and chunky shoes like Dr. Martens are in vogue.
1991: Mind the Gap
More designers and stores chase after the "Gap look." Children's hats are a new craze.
Hip-hop fashion filters into boys' apparel.
1993: Label Maker
More trade shows are developing, such as the Children's Trade Show Expo, The International Kids Fashion Show and The Super Show in Atlanta. Logos are becoming an important element in sportswear. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is passed.
1994: Retail and Beyond
American brands like OshKosh B'Gosh open their own stores in Europe. Children's retailers incorporate other services, such as haircuts, into their businesses.
2000's: Mixing it Up
Urban styles from brands like Mecca, Fubu and Timberland are popular. For boys, layering hoodies and plaid shirts with a grunge twist is the fad. Girls wear distressed jeans, Chanel-inspired tweed and boho-chic looks. Organic and eco-friendly materials are on the rise, as well as mixing patterns and capri pants. Crocs become a must-have.
2005: A Helping Hand
Hurricane Katrina rocks the Gulf Coast. Organizations like Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) mobilize to collect clothing and goods from the children's industry to address the needs of families in the region. In addition, private equity firm Zapis Capital purchases Earnshaw's from the Hudson family. Earnshaw's and Footwear Plus join a larger portfolio of trade magazines that includes Musical Merchandise Review and School Band and Orchestra.
2008: A New Dawn
Earnshaw's launches the Children's Apparel Retail Association (C.A.R.A.), a trade organization that offers cost-saving advantages, networking opportunities and educational curriculums to retailers. Barack Obama is elected president.
2009: Law and Order
The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) takes effect, which enforces mandatory testing of certain substance levels, such as lead and phthalates, in any children's products, including books, apparel and toys, and certified proof that the test has been conducted. If suppliers don't cooperate with these guidelines, they are fined or could serve time in jail. There are logistical problems with the guidelines because of short timelines allotted to test products and the retroactive nature of the act. The law has a negative effect on retailers, causing some store owners to lose their businesses. In January 2012, it takes full effect, though some clarifications remain outstanding.
Earnshaw's celebrates its 95th anniversary!