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Boys Clothing in the 19 th Century. Carmen Smith Tusculum College - Honors English 111 Dr. Tiami Olsen October 10, 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "Boys Clothing in the 19 th Century. Carmen Smith Tusculum College - Honors English 111 Dr. Tiami Olsen October 10, 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 Boys Clothing in the 19 th Century. Carmen Smith Tusculum College - Honors English 111 Dr. Tiami Olsen October 10, 2007

2 Picture courtesy of The Library Company of Philadelphia. S arah J. Hale was one of the first women editors. She was the editor of Ladies Magazine and Literary Gazette later changed to American Ladies Magazine in She continued to edit the magazine even after Louis Godey bought American Literature Magazine and combined it with his magazine Godeys Ladys Book. She was the editor of this magazine until 1877 when Frank Munsey bought the magazine. Through Godeys Ladys Books she urged women to read and write and obtain an education (Greenberg). She also urged women to exercise, have property rights, and have sensible fashion. (Portraits of American Women) Godeys Ladys Books published many different forms of American literature, art, technology, and fashion of the period. One form of fashion published in Godeys Ladys Books was boys fashion. A boys fashion was very similar to the fashions of his sister. Both girls and boys wore dresses from infancy to the age of six or seven. Today the modern world contemplates why boys were clothed in dresses in the nineteenth century. Sarah J. Hale

3 T he figure to the right is from Godey s Lady s Book 1866 page 12. This figure shows a representation of boys and girls dress in the nineteenth century. Which child is the boy and which child is the girl? According to Historical Boys Clothing, boys wore belts to gather the waist where as girls would wear bows. The child to the right is a boy. He is wearing a belt at his waist, while the child to the left is wearing a bow. We also know this statement is true because how the children are acting. The girl is somewhat defenseless with her hands raised for surrender. The boy however, has taken the doll away from the other child, and he is threatening her with a stick. This is a good depiction of what boys and girls act like, even in the present day. Girls and Boys in Dresses. Godeys Ladys Book 1866 page 12

4 Why Did Boys Wear Dresses? adults would relieve themselves where ever they saw fit, but an untrained child would soil their clothing if he or she was not wearing a garment that was unobtrusive if an emergency occurs. A dress would allow for clothing to soil less than a pants suit. However, while ease in diapering may have held true for younger boys wearing dresses, it does not explain why older children who were trained were still put in dresses. Having unisex clothing did allow for a pool of hand-me-downs. Clothing was expensive to buy and expensive to make, and it was also very time consuming. According to Historical Boys Clothing families were usually large with many children, and clothing could become a major expense especially since children grow so quickly. B oys wore dresses for many different reasons. According to Jo B. Paoletti, author of Clothing and Gender in America: Children's Fashions, ,boys might have worn dresses because dresses were easier to make than a small pants suit, unisex clothing allowed for a pool of hand-me-downs, ease in diapering, or simply because gender differentiation in children was not important, only differentiation from child and adult. Historical Boys Clothing also adds that boys might have worn dresses because they allowed for more movement while they were growing. Putting a child in a dress before he or she was trained was practical. According to Historical Boys Clothing children and

5 Picture courtesy of Hope Greenberg of the University of Vermont H istorical Boys Clothing also goes on to say that a boy with more older sisters than brothers may stay in dresses longer. Thrift was an important value for almost everyone, even the families that could afford new clothing. Having a lot of unisex clothing, like the dress, allowed for both boy or girl to share clothing, and the mother was able to sew less clothing and save more money and time. Another reason mentioned by Paoletti for boys being clothed in dresses was because sewing a dress was easier than sewing a small pants suit. The figure from Godeys Ladys Book December 1859 shows a pattern for a boys dress. The diagram on page 544 shows the pattern that should be used to make the dress on page 543. The pattern does not seem to be too complicated. There are only eight pieces to the pattern including the skirt, back, cuff, collar, front, side, sleeve, and waist coat. DIAGRAM OF BOYS DRESS. (See engraving, page 543.)

6 Picture courtesy of Hope Greenberg of the University of Vermont T he description of the dress below states that it is one of the most warm and comfortable dresses made for winter. It can also be worn year round if a lighter fabric, other than Orleans and velvet, was used. This dress is more for boys than for girls because of the front buttons. Historical Boys Clothing states that boys dresses had buttons in the front to promote independence where as girls dresses had buttons in the back because they were expected to rely on someone else to help them dress. Though this style was common for boys it is probable that a girl would still wear the dress of her brother in a lower/middle class family. BOYS DRESS. ( See Diagram, page 544.)

7 The fashion we give for this month is for a little boys dress, and is one of the most warm and comfortable of any we have seen when made for a winter garment; and for summer wear it only requires to be made of lighter materials. Of this one, the jacket and waist-coat are made of velvet of any color, with military braid to match for the trimmings, and fancy buttons. The skirt is made of Orleans cloth, with two rows of velvet the same color as the jacket, the lower one being the broadest. The skirt is made rather full and ample in width. The waistcoat fastens up the front with hooks, and is finished with very narrow velvet braid. The same also goes round the collar. The dress only requires drawers with a deep broderie edging to make it the most elegant of any out this season. DESCRIPTION OF BOYS DRESS.

8 P aoletti stated that differentiation in gender was not as important as differentiation from child to adult. In this plate from Godeys Ladys Book 1851 page 145, the boy is dressed in a way as to differentiate him from an adult. He, in many ways, is still dressed in smaller versions of adult wear. He is wearing a black velvet jacket, and a skirt that is meant to fit closely at the back. He is wearing a hat with decorative feathers and red velvet binding. A lot of these styles were worn by the adults as well. However, he is wearing a skirt. According to Paoletti, boys would wear dresses until about the age of seven and then they would be DRESS FOR A CHILD – See Description. placed in short trousers. After the age of twelve a boy was then allowed to wear long trousers. In this way parents differentiated adult from boy by keeping them in dresses for as long as possible and then only allow them to wear short trousers. Godeys Ladys Book 1851 page 145

9 Fig. 1. – Dress suitable for a Little Boy from three to six years of age. – Frock of crimson French merino, richly ornamented with Russia silk braid. A jacket of black velvet, with rather a deep skirt; it is shaped as to fit closely at the back, and in front it merely meets at the waist; the angles of the skirt being round- ed off. The sleeves are close, and quite plain. Hat of gray felt; the brim, which is circular and slightly turned up all round, is edged with a binding of crimson velvet. The hat is trimmed with a plume of crimson feathers, and with satin ribbon of the same color. Round the neck is a linen collar, with an edging of tapework now so fashionable for children; but the col- ar may be of cambric edge with needlework, or even plain linen, according to taste. Boots of gray cash- mere tipped with black leather. Fig. 2. – this figure, it will be observed represents the back view of the costume represented in Fig. 1. It may be mentioned that the ribbon which trims the hat is passed round the lower part of the crown in the form of a band, and fastened behind in a small cockade with long ends. A cockade of ribbon fixes the feathers on one side of the hat, and the strings are fastened by small cockades at each ear. Fashions. Description of Dress For a Child

10 taking what appears to be its first steps. This child could be either a boy or a girl. The child is in a small plain white dress and is being coaxed by his Picture courtesy of Hope Greenberg of the University of Vermont DRESSES FOR MOBILITY. his mother and father to take his first steps. The child is able to freely move in the dress while learning to walk. A nother reason both boys and girls were clothed in dresses was because they increase their mobility. According to Historical Boys Clothing a few expert of the time thought that long pants might stop or slow the growth of a child. Others just believed that a child should be free to move especially when learning to walk. The image to the right was taken from the June 1858 Godeys Ladys Book. The image depicts a child

11 Pictures courtesy of Lisa Goss and Melinda Stewart T here are many different reasons that boys could have been clothed in dresses. They could have worn dresses for ease in diapering, to allow for a pool of hand-me- downs, ease of making, to differentiate boy from man, or for better mobility. But is there one specific reason? No, probably not. Historical Boys Clothing states that our ancestors would probably answer the question of why [boys were clothed] in dresses with a simply, why not? They probably would not understand our modern puzzlement over this practice. Our ancestors did find uses in both genders being clothed in dresses, but they did not have the same needs to differentiate gender like we do today. Why not?

12 Boys Dress.. Godeys Ladys Book at University of Vermont. Ed. Hope Greenberg. 12 October October Boys Dress Pattern.. Godeys Ladys Book at University of Vermont. Ed. Hope Greenberg. 12 October October First Step, The. Godeys Ladys Book at University of Vermont. Ed. Hope Greenberg. 16 November October Goss, Lisa, and Melinda Stewart. Rockabye Baby: Raising Babies in the Early 1900s. Bittersweet. Spring October Greenberg, Hope. Sarah Josepha Hale. University of Vermont. Ed. Hope Greenberg. September October Historical Boys Clothing. 18 March October Paoletti, Jo B. Clothing and Gender in America: Childrens Fashions, (in revisions/Reports). Signs 13.1 (Autumn 1987): JSTOR. Tusculum College, Greeneville, TN. 22 September Portraits of American Women Writers Library Company October Sarah Josepha Hale Godeys Ladys Book Portraits of American women Writers. Ed. Nicole Scalessa. 5 October Work Cited For more information on boys clothing in the nineteenth century read: The Nineteenth Century: History of Costume and Fashion by. Philip Steele The Well Dressed Child: Childrens Clothing, by. Anna Macphail Material Strategies: Dress and Gender in Historical Perspective by. Carole Turbin and Barbara Burman The Study of Dress History by. Lou Taylor Centuries of Childhood: a social history of Family Life by. Philippe Aries


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