Cool Things - Baby Santa Claus Outfit
Joan Ledeboer arrived just in time for Christmas, on December 3,1963, in Belvue, Kansas. Her aunt and uncle, Mary and David Prickett, bought this infant's Santa Claus ensemble for Joan's first holiday. Mary had purchased it from J.C. Penney, a major retailer that issued its first catalog that very same year.
Although today we immediately recognize this as a Santa Claus costume, the ensemble's style only became firmly established in the late 19th century. The first American description of a Father Christmas figure appeared in Washington Irving's satire of Dutch culture, History of New York, published in 1809. Irving's description comes from the Dutch tradition of celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6. The patron saint of children, Saint Nicholas was depicted with a white beard and wearing a bishop's red robe. Another of the suit's components appeared in the poem "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," published anonymously in 1823, in which Santa's outfit was made entirely of fur.
Cartoonist Thomas Nast pulled together these individual fashions and standardized the Santa Claus costume. In Nast's first illustration for an 1863 issue of the magazine Harper's Weekly, he depicted Santa in a fur-trimmed coat, pants, and a hat with stars and stripes. Nast altered his Santa over the years, finally settling on a fur-trimmed suit in a solid color. A popular Christmas card in 1885 helped establish the suit's red color. The design of Santa Claus's suit was fairly well prescribed by the turn of the 20th century. The costume became definitive when Coca-Cola's 1920s advertising campaigns featured Santa donning a red jacket, pants, and hat trimmed in white fur.
Especially by the mid-20th century, retailers such as J.C. Penney were producing Santa-themed garments for all ages and sexes. The Ledeboer's lucky baby, Joan, wouldn't have understood Santa’s significance, although she certainly looked like him while wearing her aunt's gift. This 1963 baby's Santa Claus ensemble is in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Cool Things - Baby Santa Claus Outfit
Author: Rebecca Martin
Date Created: December 2010
Date Modified: November 2012
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.