Biographical Details on Boys' Clothing Styles: Ordinary People Chronolgical Listings--19th Century


Figure 1.--Goddard White was photographed Boston during March, 1897. He was 8 year, 9 months old. He wears a classic summer light-colored sailor suit, probably light blue. The suit was a kneepants sailor suit with which he wears dark stockings and what look like patent strap shoes.

The HBC biography section is for people or families that have achieved some degree of notariety or fame. HBC readers in many cases have submitted family portraits. HBC has until now not added them to the biography section. We believe now that this is a mistake. Many of the HBC readers contributing family portraits can also provide details about the boy and him family. This background information help us to assess social trends and put the fashions involved in perspective. This is just why the biographical section is an important part of HBC. As a result, HBC has decided to create pages for these relatively unknown people, when some basic family data is available. Incidentally if you find a relative here, please do tell us somehing about him. Here we are listing these biographies alpahabetically to facilitate assessments of clothing styles during specific periods.

The 1800s


Plantagenet Stewart, J.A. (England, about 1800)

The boy here is apparently the Right Honorable J.A. Plantagenet Stewart. Some authirs are less sure about this identification. We know nothing about him, except his name and what can be deduced from the image. His name suggests discent from two of the most importnt British royal families. Younger boys since the late medieval period wore dresses like their sisters. The age of breeching varied from family to family and over time. Boys from well-to-do famikies were commonly breeched later than working-class boys. As school became more common in Europe, this set an age for breeching as boys were commonly breeched for beginning school. Boys from wealthy famikies might be tutored at home and thus could be breeched later than other children. We note boys being breeched from about 3-6 years of age. The age tended to decline in the 19th century. The expanding importance of schools were a factor. The boy here looks a bit older than tge children we normally see wearing dresses., although our early-19th century archive is limited because photograph was not yet invented. He looks to be about 7-8 years of age, somewhat old to still be wearing dresses. He wears an Empire-style dress, a popular style in thecearly-19th century. It is made of white muslin, high-waisted, and with a low drawstring neck and short sleeves, sometimes puffed but not in this case. This wascaxstyle wirn by both girls and women. It was an important style for about three decades, It marked a revolution in women;s fashion, giving them a degree of freedom not seen earlier or for many decades afterwards. The portrait is undated, but the Empire-style dress suggets it was done in the early 1800s.

Unidentified boy (England, 1801)

J.T. Mitchell was a well-known British-American miniaturist who exhibited in London between 1798 and 1830 and was also active in the United States. We note some portraits of children. We do not have confirmed portraits by him. We do note a minature that one dealer attributes to Mitchell, "Portrait of a Boy" (1801). The boy is unidentified, but we believe that he is English. The minature was a water color on bone wafer. The reverse has hair work inscription signed with monogram. perhaps the sitter. (Click on the image.) It was done in 1801.

Silvester, William (England, early 19th century)

An English boy, William Silvester, had a minature watercolor portrait painted in the early 19th century. William was 11 years of age. Miniature Length 3 1/8", Width 2 1/2"; Frame Length 5 7/8", Width 5". There is not a lot of detail in this minature portrait, but it does show the high ruffled collar and the short hair style worn at the time.

The 1810s


Ollerenshaw. Edward (England, 1810s?)

We note a portrait of Edward Ollerenshaw painted by an unknown artist. We have no idea who the artist was. Edward was the son of Edward Ollerenshaw thus he was Edward Jr. Edward Jr was the Great-great uncle of Lord Sauderson (spelling indestinct). There are some question marks on the label so apparently the identification is somewhat uncertain. The portrait is undated. It looks to us based on the ruffled collar that Edward had his portrait taken in the early 19th century. We are, however, somewhat confused. Edward's jacket, however, does not look at all like a skeleton suit which was in fashion at the time. Ferhaps the portrait older then we think, we are just not sure.

du Musset, Alfred and Paul (France, 1815)

We note a portrait painted by Fortuné Dufau (1770-1821) of Paul du Musset and his younger brother Musset in 1815. The museum lengend for the portrait reads, "Le garçonnet once boucles blondes est Alfred (1810-1857), le futur cruteur des Capríces de Maríanne (1833), de Lorenzaccio (1834), de la Confessíon d'un enfant du siècle (1836), ect. Son frere cané, Paul (1804-1880), allallait hui cnissi devenir éncrivain et fut notamment l'cuteur d une Biographie de son cadet (1877). Legs de Mme Paul de Musset (1889)." Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay (1810–57) was an important French romantic author, writing plays, poems ans novels. He is best known for his poems and novel--La Confession d'un enfant du siècle (The Confession of a Child of the Century. It was an autobiographical study published in 1836. His older brother Paul wrote his biography.

The 1820s

We are still dependent of paintings abd drawings in rge 1829s. We have not found many images of boys from the 1820s yet. Our assessment is still limited without photographic images. One example is Thomas Sully, an American boy in 1820. He was the son of famed American artist Thomas Sully--"Torn hat". It shows that boys in the 1820s were wearing rustic straw hats, even boys in fashionable Philadelphia. A portrait by English artist E.V. Ripping shows an Englush family in 1829 with two boys. They are wearing a tunic suit and a skeleton suit. Notice that the one boy wears a straw hat loik the American boy in the Sully portrait. We also note a portrai of an unidentified Austrian boy by Johann Nepomuk Ender in 1828. He wears a long dark suit jacket with a large white collar.

The 1830s

The 1830s was the last decade in which we had to rely on paintings and illustratuins. Photograph appeared iat the end of the decade, but are very rare. We notice several portaits of younger boys wearing dresses which look essentially the same as the dresses younger girls would have worn. We see somewhay older school-age boys wearing tunics with large collars and bows. We also notice military styled caps with tassles.

The 1840s

We know much more about the 1840s than earlier decades because of the rapid spread of the new photographic process. The first commercial format was the Daguerreotype. We begin to see photographs as a major part of the historical record in the 1840s, although is it not until the 1850s that the photographic images becone more common and available in larger numbers. The available dags provide wonderfully detailed images. The problem with assessing the 1840s images is that so few are actually dated. Thus it is difficult to separate the 1840s and 50s Daguerreotypes. Almost all the 1840s images are Daguerreotypes as are early 1850s images. We will attempt to date these images, but our assessment is very preliminary and we welcome reader comments and insights.

The 1850s

We have found a number of photographs which we believe date to the 1850s. Unfortunately many are not dated. We can only estimate the dates. These images are mostly Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes. These images unlike later CDVs and cabinent cards had no place where notations as to names and dates could be easily written. Thus in most instances we can only guess as to the dates. We invite HBC readers to comment id they have comments. We note button-on clothes and small collars in the 1850s, both plain white and ruffle collars. We also note stocks and bows, but many boys did not have neckwear. Buttons were commonly used for decorative purpose. We note that tunics were popular.

The 1860s

We still see a few Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes in the 1860s, especially the early 60s. The development of negative-based photography meant that these older formats were soon replaced by CDVs and later cabinent cards. CDVs were especially common in the 1860s and because they were less expensive, we see many more portraits in the 60s than eaelier decades. Younger boys commonly wore dresses. We see many boys wearing tunics, although it is often difficult to destingish between tunics and shirts. Boys also commonly wore suits with cut-away jackets. Many boys' outfits had military styling. The styling was highly variable, primarily because clothes were mostly sewn at home or bought from local millenary ot taylor shops. Ready-made clothes were not yet available. Younger boys wore knee pants or bloomer knickers which were becoming increasingly popular aming the stylish set. Long pants continued to be the most common form of trousers. All older boys wore long pants. White socks seem very common.

The 1870s

Popukar fashions in the 1870s are well illustrated by a wealth of CDV portraits and in the United states cabinent cards. We note a wide range of headwear. We begin to see younger boys weating kilt suits, although dresses were still worn as well. Collars and bow begin to become larger, but are still relatively small. The cut-away jacket was very popular, although by the end of the decade it was no longer the dominant style of jacket. Buttons and stupes were popular detailing ekements. We see morevboys wearing shortened-length pants, but still mostly youngr boys. American boys mostly wore knee pants. European boys often wore knixkers of various types cut well below the knee. We begin to see sailor suits. Hair length is shorter than in the 1860s. We see a few boys wearing long hair such as ringlet curls, but mostly quite young boys.

The 1880s

Boys still wore dresses in the 1880s. Another skirted outfit, kilt suits, were very common. Highland kilts were less common and mostly restricted to Britain and to a lesser extent America. Pinafores were very common for girls, but younger boys might also wear them. The decade is especially notable for the appearance of the Little Lord Fauntleroy style, especially in America. Many American mothers even added ringle curls. Sailor suits begin to become a popular boy's style. Many boys wore lace collars with Fauntleroy suits. Floppy bows and larger collars were very popular, even by boys who had outgrown Fauntleroy suits. The collars ad bows could be quite large. Older boys might wear Eton collars. More and more boys wore knee pants, although long pants were still common for older boys. Children commonly wore long stockings.

The 1890s

Younger boys still commonly wore dresses in the 1890s, although kilt suits were also very popular. At about mid-decade dresses behin to become less commom, although we are not entorely sure why. Tunics begin to become especially popular for younger boys by the end of the decade. The Fauntleroy suit was very popular for boys, especially in America. Ruffled collars begin to replace lace collars. The sailor suit was popular just about every where. Sailor hats were worn with both sailor and other outfits. Many boys wore collar buttoning suits, often with touches like large fancy collsrs and floppy bows. Most boys wore knee pans, both in Europe and America. American boys mostly wore long stockings, especially black stockings. Both socks and stockings were common in Europe. Most boys had short hair, but we seen some mostly younger boys with long hair. Americans boys often had long hair done in bangs.







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Created: November 4, 2002
Last updated: 7:35 PM 4/15/2008