Baby Knitwear in Australia: Past, Present and Future

The majority of fashion students would pinpoint the first half of the 1900s as the defining moment for fashion in modern history. Twentieth century modernism stripped back embellishment in favour of greater simplicity and design functionality. It also brought the industrial manufacturing era with it, including the mass production of synthetic fibres. Aster & Oak loves sharing our knowledge of the history of baby clothes. Learn some of this history below!

Baby Knitwear: Before Modernism

Prior to the invention of synthetic fibres around 1938, baby knitwear was made from natural fibres, such as silk and wool. Hand knitted cardigans, baby bonnets, baby bibs and booties were popular. Historical examples of Australian baby knitwear around 1900 or prior include knitted or crocheted clothing made with silk thread or wool, featuring ornate embroidery and embellishments. During this era, you may also find knitted baby capes, fringed baby shawls and knitted infant petticoats. Wool was popular in Australia when we had a thriving wool agriculture industry, and during the Great War.

Baby Knitwear: After Modernism

Competition for wool came in the form of foreign exports. Knitting mills, appearing in Australia from 1915, became industrialised. Synthetic fibres were easier for manufacturers to use and became a popular alternative due to qualities such as colour fastness, lack of wrinkling, and smoother fibres. Acrylic and part synthetic yarns are still very popular in stores for baby knitwear, due to their softness and cheapness. 

Baby Knitwear: Today

Presently, baby knits are seeing a resurgence in natural fibres such as cotton, wool and linen. They are more absorbent, breathable, and eco-friendly than synthetic fibres. Aster & Oak chooses 100% certified cotton for all of our baby knitwear, to ensure that no chemicals or additives have been used in our garments. All textiles and dyes used in our clothing are organic, natural, ethically produced and very soft on baby’s skin. They won’t itch, irritate, or cause allergic chemical reactions. Some of our toddler dresses are similar to the shape of baby cardigans of yesteryear, but most modern knits have followed the modernist ethos for simple, classic, functional design.

Baby Knitwear: The Future

Whilst we are seeing a movement towards natural fibres and sustainability, much of the baby knitwear industry is still guilty of fast fashion; cheaply made, throw-away clothing. Perhaps future baby knitwear will see closer links to the environmental responsibility of the pre-industrial era, when baby knitwear was created with care, made of natural fibres, and designed to endure.


Aster & Oak produces soft, breathable knitwear for babies and newborns, as well as a range for older children, including toddler dresses. Shop online to order 100% certified organic cotton baby knitwear.

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