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THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR

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THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR IN THE

  • 18 TH AND 19 TH CENTURIES

Brittany Poon

ADM 561

November 6, 2012

San Francisco State University

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper was to examine the changes and evolution in children’s wear

throughout the 18 th and 19 th centuries and to see how these changes helped to define the fthe

growing child displayed in that era. The children fashions that were studied were broken down

into infants and toddlers, girls, and boys. For each time period, the 18 th century was studied

which is from 1700-1800 and the 19 th century, which covers history from 1800-1900. Within the

  • 19 th century, girls and boy’s fashion was studies for four different time periods: the Empire

Period, the Romantic Period, the Crinoline Period, and the Bustle Period. Each time period has

characteristics which helped to the define these historic costume periods and the development of

fashion for growing children.

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Table of Contents

Abstract ................................................................................................................................2

Chapter

1.

4

5

II. Infant and Toddlers ...................................................................................6

1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century ............................................................6 1800-1900: The Nineteenth Century ...........................................................7

III. Girls .........................................................................................................9

1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century ............................................................9 1800-1900: The Nineteenth Century .........................................................10 The Empire Period ........................................................................10 The Romantic Period .....................................................................10 The Crinoline Period ......................................................................11 The Bustle Period ..........................................................................12

VI. Boys .......................................................................................................13

1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century ..........................................................13 1800-1900: The Nineteenth Century .........................................................14 The Empire Period ........................................................................14 The Romantic Period .....................................................................14 The Crinoline Period ......................................................................15 The Bustle Period ..........................................................................15

  • V. Summary and Conclusions .....................................................................17 List of References .....................................................................................18

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Chapter I

Introduction

The Eighteenth century saw the beginnings of the modern fashion industry in Europe and

America. For the first time, designs could be published and copied widely and fashions began to

change quickly. Designs were dictated not by practical needs but also by trends in art, culture,

and politics, new discoveries, technological innovations, and scientific advances (Rooney, 2005).

Attitudes toward children and childhood changed during the eighteenth century, influencing the

way they were dressed. Children's dress was to undergo a major revolution in the eighteenth

century. At the beginning of the century, even quite young children wore miniature versions of

adult clothes, but by the end of the century they were wearing more suitable outfits that allowed

freer movement. This was because of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's novel Émile,

published in 1762, which had far-reaching consequences in the area of children's dress.

Traditionally young children and toddlers, both boys and girls, were dressed in simple frocks.

“Summarized briefly, the guidelines he laid down for children’s dress included: 1) For infants,

‘No caps, no bandages, no swaddling clothes.’ Instead he recommended loose and lowing flannel

wrappers that were neither too heavy to check the child’s movements, nor too warm to prevent

feeling the air. 2) For older children, nothing to cramp or hinder the movement of the limbs of

the growing child. No tight, close fitting clothes, no belts. 3) Keeping children in frocks (skirts)

as long as possible. 4) Dressing children in bright colors. He says, ‘Children like the bright

colors best, and they suit them better too. 5) ‘… the plainest and most comfortable clothes, those

which leave him most liberty.’ (Tortora, 2010). Rousseau's ideas, with their emphasis on the

importance of a carefree childhood, were extremely popular. They were immediately adopted by

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many fashionable mothers. Rousseau advocated keeping children in frocks for as long as

possible and then allowing them to wear loose fitting clothing that did not constrict their

movements.

The 19th century saw more changes in children’s fashion, more variety and more consumer

choice then ever before. This was a time of great social change. The world was opening up,

thanks to railroads, steamships, and new roads. Trade became global and new technology

allowed huge cotton mills in England. The brought about vast quantities of cloth, which then be

sold around the world. One of the greatest innovations and custom was their underwear. Apart

from the layer novelties of crinolines, bustles, and sock suspenders, the new fashion for

underpants and vests established themselves quickly, especially in the aspiring middle classes

(Steele, 2005). The 19th century is broken up into four periods: the Empire period (1790-1820),

the Romantic period (1820-1850), the Crinoline period (1850-1869), and the Bustle period

(1870-1900).

Purpose

The purpose of this research paper is to thoroughly examine the evolution of children’s

!

clothing during the 18 th and 19 th centuries from infants to boys and girls attire.

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Chapter II

Infants and Toddlers

1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century

In many parts of the world, including Europe, babies were tightly swaddled (wrapped in

bands of fabric) and often strapped to wooden “cradle boards.” This was thought to encourage

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 6 Chapter II Infants and Toddlers 1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century In

Figure 2.1 Swaddling Band, 18 th Century

their limbs to grow straight. Swaddling band made up

of two thicknesses of white linen, seamed together at

the sides with overcast stitching in white thread. The

band is hand embroidered with an elaborate repeating

pattern of stylized flowers and foliage, worked in white

thread and using a variety of stitches including stem

stitch, interlacing stitch, bullion knots, eyelet stitch and

wave stitch filling (See Figure 2.1). The embroidery indicates that this is an outer swaddling

band, for use as the top layer and one end is straight and the other

rounded, the latter being likely to be the outer end (Marshall,

2008). Babies heads were also covered at all times with caps and

often a forehead piece, then a close fitting undercap, and finally

and a decorated cap.

Once children learned how to walk they needed different

clothes. Both boys and girls wore a back-fastening bodice and a

skirt to the ankles when very young or sometimes a front opening

or wraparound gown (Rooney 2005). This allowed for easy diaper

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 6 Chapter II Infants and Toddlers 1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century In

Figure 2.2 Bodice with Leading Strings: 18 th Century

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changing. In the second half of the Eighteenth century, a looser frock with a sash at the waist was

popular. Frocks or gowns often had leading strings or reins attached for an adult to hold while the

child was learning how to walk (See Figure 2.2). Toddlers also sometimes wore a pudding. This

was a padding that was wrapped around the child’s middle so that he or she could fall down

while playing and not get hurt (Kalman, 1993). A pudding cap was also very popular during this

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 7 changing. In the second half of the Eighteenth century, a

Figure 2.3 Pudding Cap for Toddlers: 18 th Century

period. It is a head protection for a very young child just

learning to walk. The basic form was a padded tube of

fabric tied around the head just above the ears, sometimes

with additional flaps tied together at the crown of the

head (See Figure 2.3). Most pudding caps were for

practical purposes only and many were home made, but

could also be formal and decorative (Marshall, 2008).

There was a belief that if the head was hit it would be permanently soft, and falling frequently

could lead to the brain turning mushy like pudding. Toddlers were often and lovingly referred to

as "little pudding heads."

1800-1900: The Nineteenth Century

Infants that were unable to walk were dressed in long gowns (See Figure 2.4). They were

often a full 24 inches or more in length. They believed

that it suggests that it magically ensures that he or she

will outlive the years of high mortality by appearing

taller and older. Once they were able to walk at around

age five or six, boys and girls both wore shorter skirts.

This was presumably read as the baby having grown

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 7 changing. In the second half of the Eighteenth century, a

Figure 2.4 Infant Gown: 19 th Century

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so well as to have passed the early months at an accelerated rate. Infants wore caps indoors and

out, which were intended to keep them from losing heat from their heads. Many infant caps were

decorative, made of cotton or linen and trimmed with elaborate embroidery and lace. Others

were hand knitted or crocheted (Tortora, 2010). Invented in 1849, diapers were invented. Babies

often wore diapers of folded linen or cotton, which might be knotted or fastened with a safety pin

as well (Chrisp, 2005). Sometimes, minor changes crept in when new baby gowns were made in

the course of the 19 th century, such as a lower waist, higher neck and lower sleeves, and from the

1890’s, a yoked bodice for a less constrictive fit.

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Chapter III

Girls

1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century

Until the last quarter of the eighteenth century, children were dressed as miniature adults,

with girls being put into corseted bodices from about three years of age, graduating to adult dress

when they reached twelve or thirteen. Even small girls wore hoops or

panniers and boned bodices and always wore an apron to protect their

clothes. Again, it was similar to the clothes worn by adults, with the

exception that girls wore back-fastening bodices and petticoats rather

than open-fronted robes. They would wear a tight-fitting boned

bodice laced at the back, with a long full skirt over a petticoat (See

Figure 3.1). At twelve they would change to fashionable dress, with

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 9 Chapter III Girls 1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century Until the last

Figure 3.1 Girl’s silk dress: 18 th Century

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 9 Chapter III Girls 1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century Until the last

Figure 3.2 Colorful, high- waisted bodice: 18 th Century

the bodice being replaced by stays

over which was worn a robe, petticoat, and stomacher. Stays for a

young child, is made of two layers of linen (the top layer is

undyed plain-weave linen, and the lining coarse-weave linen)

hand-stitched together in vertical channels in cream linen thread

(Schimpky, 1995). The stays are stiffened with strips of

whalebone slipped into the vertical channels. By the late

eighteenth century, children were no longer viewed as miniature

adults or restricted by the more formal styles of their parents’ clothing. A new emphasis was

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placed on comfort and freedom of movement that were deemed

essential for children’s physical and mental health inspired by

Rousseau. Girls wore dresses with a high-waisted bodice that is

gently fitted with small tucks front and back that allowed for growth

(See Figure 3.2) (Schimpky, 1995). This dress is an eminently

practical fabric choice of a colorful, washable cotton was a sensible

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 10 placed on comfort and freedom of movement that were deemed

Figure 3.3 Mob cap:

  • 18 th Century

allowance to the needs of an active young girl. Girls also often wore a

mob cap for indoor and outdoor use (See Figure 3.3). It was a round, frilled fabric cap with a

bouffant crown. It was originally in high fashion but later associated with female servants and

was also popular in the late 19 th century (Marshall, 2008).

1800-1900: The Nineteenth Century

For most of the 19 th century, girls followed the fashions of their mothers except that their

dresses were shorter and, for the first half of the century, the wearing of white frilled drawers

showing below the skirt was fashionable (Cunnington, 1970).

The Empire Period

In the early 19 th century during the Empire period (1790-1820), Dresses were cut along the

same line as those of adult women, but shorter for both little girls and young adolescents. Girls

also wore pantalettes (long-legged drawers) under dresses and for outdoor use, shawls and

pelisses (Tortora, 2010).

The Romantic Period

The following period, the Romantic period (1820-1850), changed the fashion of children.

Girls during the Empire period seemed to have escaped from wearing uncomfortable clothing. In

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the Romantic period, the clothes for children reverted to some

extent to less comfortable clothing based on adult fashions. Narrow

waists and ballooned sleeves were popular during this time (See

Figure 3.4). Girl’s dresses were like those of women, but shorter and

with low necklines and short sleeves. White, lace trimmed drawers,

or leglets, a sort of half-pantalets that ties around the leg were worn

under dresses. Also, some sort of hat, bonnet, or starched lingerie

cap was worn outdoors.

The Crinoline Period

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 11 the Romantic period, the clothes for children reverted to some

Figure 3.4 Girl’s Dress, Romantic Period: 19 th Century

In the fourth period of the 19 th century, the Crinoline period (1850-1869), hoops skirts such

as crinoline skirts became increasingly popular. In the 1840s, horsehair underpinnings made their

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 11 the Romantic period, the clothes for children reverted to some

Figure 3.5 Girl’s Crinoline Skirt, Crinoline Period: 19 th Century

first appearance, allowing women’s skirts to expand without having

to wear multiple layers of petticoats. By the late 1850s, cage

crinolines, constructed of a series of horizontal steel or whalebone

hoops, became quite popular (See Figure 3.5). Cage crinolines were

lighter and offered the wearer greater freedom of movement, but

there were disadvantages. As the silhouette increased in width,

women found themselves confronting obstacles. With so many

challenges to crinoline wearers, the cage crinoline soon became the

object of social criticism and satires. Nevertheless, women of all

classes embraced the fashion. In the 1860s, skirts with a

circumference measuring 18 feet were not uncommon. The wearer’s desires, activities and

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wealth dictated the circumference of her skirt. The richer the lady, the wider the hoops. By the

late 1860s, the fullness of the skirt began to move to the back of the dress forming a sweeping

train. By the 1870s, the bustle replaced cage crinolines as the most popular feminine shape

(Cunnington, 1970).

The Bustle Period

From 1870-1900, the Bustle Period came to be. As the fashion for crinolines wore on, their

shape changed. Instead of the large bell-like silhouette, they began to

flatten out at the front and sides, creating more fullness at the back of

the skirts. This led to the bustle, a Victorian fashion which was a pad or

frame worn beneath a dress skirt, positioned over the posterior. As

withcrinolines, those worn by girls were of fairly modest dimensions

(See Figure 3.6) (Marshall, 2008). In about 1880, when adult cuirass

style was worn, girl had dresses cut stright from shoulder to hem with a

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 12 wealth dictated the circumference of her skirt. The richer thecrinolines wore on, their shape changed. Instead of the large bell-like silhouette, they began to flatten out at the front and sides, creating more fullness at the back of the skirts. This led to the bustle, a Victorian fashion which was a pad or frame worn beneath a dress skirt, positioned over the posterior. As withcrinolines, those worn by girls were of fairly modest dimensions (See Figure 3.6) (Marshall, 2008). In about 1880, when adult cuirass style was worn, girl had dresses cut stright from shoulder to hem with a Figure 3.6 Girl’s Bustle Fashion: 19 Century belt located just a few inches above the hemline. In the 1890’s large leg- of-mutton sleeves also appeared in girls’ dresses. " id="pdf-obj-11-35" src="pdf-obj-11-35.jpg">

Figure 3.6 Girl’s Bustle Fashion: 19 th Century

belt located just a few inches above the hemline. In the 1890’s large leg-

of-mutton sleeves also appeared in girls’ dresses.

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Chapter IV

Boys

1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century

Boys at the beginning of the 18 th century continued to be dressed in dresses until three to

six years old (See Figure 4.1). This was because of the lack of potty training and the dresses or

frocks were easier for the boys to go to the bathroom. The dress

change was then made once boys had reached the age when they

could easily undo the rather complicated fastenings of breeches

and trousers. At age three or four, boys were “breeched,” meaning

that they began to wear breeches instead of a dress. Breeching was

celebrated as an occasion that marked the end of young childhood

and the point at which the boy was ready for education or, in

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 13 Chapter IV Boys 1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century Boys at therite of passage in the life of a boy in which he looked forward to with much excitement. It often marked the point at which the father became more involved with the raising of a boy as well. Not only his age but also a boy’s height helped to decide when he was breeched. A short boy might have to Figure 4.2 Skeleton Suit: 18 Century wait until he was a little older. The breeching ceremony continued even after boys began to wear trousers instead of breeches (Rooney, 2005). After 1780, boys older than seven or eight wore long, straight trousers, a which shirt with " id="pdf-obj-12-33" src="pdf-obj-12-33.jpg">
THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 13 Chapter IV Boys 1700-1800: The Eighteenth Century Boys at therite of passage in the life of a boy in which he looked forward to with much excitement. It often marked the point at which the father became more involved with the raising of a boy as well. Not only his age but also a boy’s height helped to decide when he was breeched. A short boy might have to Figure 4.2 Skeleton Suit: 18 Century wait until he was a little older. The breeching ceremony continued even after boys began to wear trousers instead of breeches (Rooney, 2005). After 1780, boys older than seven or eight wore long, straight trousers, a which shirt with " id="pdf-obj-12-35" src="pdf-obj-12-35.jpg">

poorer circles, work. Breeching was an

Figure 4.1 Boy’s dress:

  • 18 th Century

important rite of passage in the life of a

boy in which he looked forward to with much excitement. It often

marked the point at which the father became more involved with the

raising of a boy as well. Not only his age but also a boy’s height

helped to decide when he was breeched. A short boy might have to

Figure 4.2 Skeleton Suit: 18 th Century

wait until he was a little older. The breeching ceremony continued

even after boys began to wear trousers instead of breeches (Rooney,

2005). After 1780, boys older than seven or eight wore long, straight trousers, a which shirt with

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR

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a wide collar that finished in a ruffled edge, and, over the shirt, a jacket that was either a shorter,

simplified version of those adults or cut to the waist and double-breasted. This outfit was called a

skeleton suit (See Figure 4.2) (Tortora, 2010). After around age eleven or twelve, boys assumed

many adult attire.

1800-1900: The Nineteenth Century

The Empire Period

Boys not only wore dresses and skirts in the 19th century, they were often just as dressed

up as the girls. It was not uncommon for boys to wear white lace or delicate bonnets, and their

skirts were just as full as girls’ and sometimes pleated (Kalman, 1993). They did this until about

four or five during this period from 1790-1820. After age four or five, they usually wore trousers

under skirts. After age six or seven, boys donned skeleton suits that initally started to become

popular in the late 18 th century.

The Romantic Period

Until about age five or six, most boys dressed in skirts during this 1820-1850 period.

Skeleton suits were still worn until about 1830 but after that, The

Eton suit became a popular trend (See Figure 4.3). This suit was a

short, single-breasted jacket and waistcoat worn with a white shirt

and a large stiff collar that folded down. The suit was completed

with a necktie, vest or waistcoat, and trousers (Tortora, 2010). This

style derived from the school boy clothing worn at Eton School in

England. Because of the cost of a full Eton suit, it was not copied

beyond a select number of private schools. Elements of the Eton

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 14 a wide collar that finished in a ruffled edge, and,

Figure 4.3 Boy’s Eton Suit: 19 th Century

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suit, especially the collar, were adopted by large numbers of English schoolboys as well as boys

in several foreign countries. The Tunic Suit was also a popular trend during the Romantic period,

too. It was a garment with long sleeves, a short full skirt and a button-through fastening at the

front, often with additional vertical lines of buttons as trimming on the bodice. It was usually

worn over a shirt and wide-legged trousers (Marshall, 2008).

The Crinoline Period

Boys continued to to wear shorts during this period until they were four or five. Eton and

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 15 suit, especially the collar, were adopted by large numbers of

Figure 4.4 Boy’s Sailor Suit: 19 th Century

tunic suits also continued to be popular. New garments such as

knickerbockers and sailor suits emerged from the Crinoline period.

Knickerbockers are described as short trousers for men and boys, usually

gathered at the knee and buttoned or buckled to close. Boy’s versions also

includedthe non-gathered style. Knickerbocker suits added a short,

collarless jacket to these pants, and for older boys, a vest as well (Marshall,

2008). Sailor suits were made up of a blouse with a square (often

detachable) collar, worn with long or short trousers or a skirt or kilted

skirt, in a viriety of color combinations (See Figure 4.4). It also had a v-

shapped neck opening and was known as a “middy” style (Tortora, 2010).

The Bustle Period

During the Bustle period (1870-1900), after the wearing of skirts til age five, boys

changed to trousers or knickers. Skeleton suits were outdated by now and “breeching” stated at

an earier age of three. Knickers became more fitted much like those of the 18 th century. Eton

suits and Sailor suits were still popular but had a narrower skirt and a lightly lower waistline than

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earlier styles. Reefers was a new garment that was adopted in 1870 derived from sailors aka

reefers. A reefer was a short double-berated jacket or coat, usually of

think wollen flannel fabric, although reefers for children were

sometimes knitted (Marshall, 2008). It was loosely fitted with patch

pockets and generally worn for sports. Another popular style was the

“Little Lord Fauntleroy” suit (See Figure 4.5). Dress reformers

promoted jewel-toned velvet suits with breeches for men, but only

found a lasting audience among mothers who dressed small boys in

"Little Lord Fauntleroy" suits in this style. This style was influenced

THE EVOLUTION OF CHILDREN’S WEAR 16 earlier styles. Reefers was a new garment that was adopted

Figure 4.5 Boy’s “Little Lord Fauntleroy” Suit:

  • 19 th Century

by a hero in a children’s book by an Aesthetic movement illustrator

(Kalman, 1995). The evolution and adoption of boy’s suits from the Eton and Tunic suit to the

Sailor and Little Lord Fauntleroy suits serve as a visual representation of the changing times

during this century.

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Summary and Conclusions

The development and evolution of children’s dress is something that is important to

understand when studying fashion for adults. The clothing of the 18 th century children was

almost as different from anything worn by children with any regularity today. The key concest of

clothing of the era was that of formality of appearance. Although this changed during the end of

the 19 th century, it came back during the 19 th century. Formal styles returned with an emphasis on

curves of the waist and back. Boys’ modification of the suits became an increasingly hot trend

during the 19 th century. One of the most frequent comments on childhood in the past is that

chldren were dressed as miniature adults. This overlooks the fact that changes in clothing are

complex and inconsistent in children’s clothing as well as adults.

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LIST OF REFERENCES

Chrisp, Peter. (2005). A history of fashion and costume: The Victorian age. New York: Bailey Publishing Associates Ltd.

Cunnington, Phillis. (1970). Costumes of the nineteenth century. London: Plays, Inc.

Kalman, Bobbie. (1993). 18 th Century clothing. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company.

Kalman, Bobbie. (1993). 19 th Century clothing. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company.

Kalman, Bobbie. (1997). 19 th Century girl and women. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company.

Marshall, Noreen. (2008). Dictionary of children’s clothes: 1700’s to present. London: V7A Publishing.

Rooney, Anne. (2005). A history of fashion and costume: The eighteenth century. New York:

Bailey Publishing Associates Ltd.

Schimpky, David. (1995). Children’s Clothing of the 1800’s. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company.

Steele, Phil. (2005). A history of fashion and costume: The nineteenth century. New York:

Bailey Publishing Associates Ltd.

Tortora, Phyllis & Keith Eubank. (2010). Survey of hostorical costume. United Ststes of America: Fairchild Books.