Figure 1.--"Harpers" pictured this 1889 park outing for an American boy and his sister. Note the rather formal clothes.
An important event in the daily life of nursery-bound children were daily outings to the parks which were created in important European and American cities. Many autobiographies of British, European, and American cities recall outings to Hyde and St. James Parks (London) and Central Park (New York) and a long list of smaller parks. Some of the first European zoos were attractiins built in these parks. Many
property owners maintained private parks in cul de sacs in their own neighborhoods.
Visits to these parks were often the most exciting event of the day for the children. I believe it was generally the nanny's duty to take the children. I believe it was rather rare for the
affluent Victorian and Edwardian mother to supervise the children on
these outings, but more common for middle-class parents. I also think
it was not the job of the governess who
was primarily responsible for instruction, although she may have been
involved with the outings of the older children. There may have
well been some differences between countries. French and Italian
mothers, for example, may have been more involved in raising the
children as they do not seem to have insisted on confining the
children so strictly to the nursery as the
English. Please have a look at the Renoir
family page where there is another an interesting image of his
family visting the park. The Renoir painting on this page and on the
Renoir family page show the mother taking the children on outings to the
park. Many British and some American mothers turned the children
over to nannies and governesses to be raised in the nursery and school
room. Outings such as to the park were usually the responsibility of
the nanny, yet in the Renoir painting we see that the mother is taking her
son and a nephew for an outing herself.
Even though park visits were esentially play outings, the Victorian
child was often outfitted in rather formal clothes for
these outings. Unfortunately, the photographic record offers few
clothing styles for park outings for most of the 19th century. Drawings
and paintings offer some insights as do memoirs of the era. As the
turn of the century approached as photography
moved out of the studio and began supplying outdoor images.
The Renoir painting on this and the Renoir family page probably
represent a representative look at the atire of a rising middle-class
French children out on park outings during the 1890s.
Figure 2.--Two French children are pictured on an outing to the park at the turn of the century in this wonderful 1890 Renoir painting. Note the dress Renoir's 5-year old son Pierre is wearing and the smock his 6-year old nephew Edward wears.
Figure 3.--This boy looks to be about 6 or 7 years old. He wears a Fauntleroy jacket, lace collar and pleated kilt worn with pantalettes. The photographappears to date to about the 1880s. The tricycle suggests
Figure 4.--This younger boy of about 5 wears a more boyish Fauntleroy suit. As the studio photograph was taken with the boy on a tricycle, this may have been the type of clothes he would wear to the park. The boy looks to be about 6 or 7 years old. . The photographappears to date to about the 1890s.
While I know of no photographs of park outings
until the 1890s, some earlier Victorian images are available of children on their tricycles and bicycles. Although taken in the studio, they offer some clues as to how a boy might be dressed for a park outing. While
the outfits may have been idealized, these photographs combined with available drawings and paintings do give a good general idea about the clothes worn for park visits. They show boys in very formal kilt and Fauntleroy outfits, hardly what the modern child would view as suitable for play.
One interesting question is how commonly smocks
were worn by the Victorian child. I can not substantiate this, but I believe smocks in
England and America were primarly worn in the nursery and for play around the home. I think the smock was considered to be much to informal a garment to be worn for outings to the park which was considered to require more formal atire. Smocks seem to have been,
as discussed above, considered more acceptable wear for outings in other countries such as France. Might preliminary thoughts on this issue, however, are based on a very small number of images and personal
accounts. Thus I'd be interested in any comments visitors to this site might have.
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