In the eighteenth century, medical concerns that swaddling weakened rather than strengthened children's limbs merged with new ideas about the nature of children and how they should be raised to gradually reduce the use of swaddling.
For example, in philosopher John Locke's influential 1693 publication, , he advocated abandoning swaddling altogether in favor of loose, lightweight clothing that allowed children freedom of movement.
In the early 1800s, even after trousers had supplanted breeches as the fashionable choice, the jumpsuit-like skeleton suits, so unlike men's suits in style, still continued as distinctive dress for young boys.
Babies in slips and toddlers in frocks, little boys in skeleton suits, and older boys who wore frilled collar shirts until their early teens, signaled a new attitude that extended childhood for boys, dividing it into the three distinct stages of infancy, boyhood, and youth.
To modern eyes, it may appear that when little boys of the past were attired in skirts or dresses, they were dressed "like girls," but to their contemporaries, boys and girls were simply dressed alike in clothing appropriate for small children.
New theories put forth in the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries about children and childhood greatly influenced children's clothing.
From infancy to adolescence, there are societal expectations throughout the various stages of children's development concerning their capabilities and limitations, as well as how they should act and look.
Clothing plays an integral role of the "look" of childhood in every era.
Trousers, which came from lower class and military clothing, identified skeleton suits as male clothing, but at the same time set them apart from the suits with knee-length breeches worn by older boys and men.Beginning in the 1770s, there was general movement away from stiff brocades to softer silk and cotton fabrics in women's clothing, a trend that converged with a strong interest in the dress of classical antiquity in the 1780s and 1790s.Children's sheer white cotton frocks, accented with waist sashes giving a high-waisted look, provided a convenient model for women in the development of neoclassical fashions.The origins of this aspect of children's clothing stem from the sixteenth century, when European men and older boys began wearing doublets paired with breeches.Previously, both males and females of all ages (except for swaddled infants) had worn some type of gown, robe, or tunic.The custom of swaddling-immobilizing newborn infants with linen wrappings over their diapers and shirts-had been in place for centuries.