Belgian Boys Clothes: Garments


Figure 1.--This shirt for 13-14 years old boy was advertised in the Dutch-language "Vrouw en Huis" ("Woman and Home") magazine during 1953. Notice the military styling. This may not have been as popular with French-speking Belgians. Note it is worn without a tie, but buttoned. Also notice the large buttons. The boy seems to be wearing cord shorts. The captions read, "We gedenken de 'mannen'" and "Vouwpatroon: Heren en jongenshemd". This would translate as something like, "We remember the [?mannen]" and "Folding pattern (design): Gentlemen's and boys' shirt". A French reader comments, "Notice that this boy's hair is parted on the right which indicates that he comes from an attentive or rich family." HBC is not sure that this is as true for the Dutch as it was Flemish speaking boys.

Some of the styles most associated with Belgian boys are the French styles like smocks and berets. Younger boys wore dresses well into the 20th century. Tunics were a very popular style throughout the 19th century. We do not yet have many specific Belgian garment pages, but we do have done some work on tunics. Boys wore pantalettes with both dresses and tunics. Boys styles could be quite elaborate in the mid-19th century. Smocks were commonly worn to school in the late 19th centurty and early 20th century, but I am not sure how common they were as a non-school garment. Sailor suits became very popular in the late 19th century--even though Belgium had no navy of any importance, Boys mostly wore kneepants in the late 19th century, but short pants became more common by the 1910s. As in France, smocks and berets appear to have quickly went out of fashion in the 1950s. Belgian boys also common wore short pants. Belgium is a very traditional country. Boys in Belgium continued to commonly wear shorts even after other boys in Europe were wearing long pants and jeans. Kneesocks were also commonly worn by Belgian boys. Boys in some private Catholic schools wore white kneesocks although I don't think that was common outside of school.

Headwear

Fashionable boys at the mid-19th century often wore military styled peaked caps. The headwear most associated with Belgian boys is probably the beret also worn by French boys. I think it was more commonly worn by French than Dutch spealking Belgian boys. After World War II, however, the beret was no longer commonly worn by Belgian boys. Boys in the late 19th and early 20th century commonly wore sailor hats and caps. Although Belgium had virtually no navy, sailor hats and caps along with sailor suits were as commonly worn in Belgium as in neighboring Netherlands, Germanym, and France where they were also very popular.

Skirted Garments

Belgian boys like other European boys have worn a wide range of skirted garments. We see the same kinds of skirted garments that we have noted in other countries. The convention of boys wearing dresses was a fashion that declined rapidly after the turn-of-the 20th century. Thus it was a convention primarily prevalent in the 19th centry and before. Our archive of 19th century Belgian images, however, is very limited. Thus we are just beginning to develop information on skirted garments in Belgium. The principal skirted garment was the dress. Younger Belgian boys, as in the rest of Europe, wore dresses well into the 20th century. HBC has noted two different types of dress outfits. One our full dresses indestinguishable from the dresses their sisters wore. In fact they may have worn hand-me-downs from an older sister or other relative. The styles generally followed those worn by women, but in reduced styles. We also see some boys wearing kilt-skitty garmenrs. We are unsure how common this was. Tunics were also worn. Tunics were a very popular style during the 19th century. We have little information as to when they appeared in Belgium, but believe it was early in the century. We are also not sure where they first appeared, but probably in England and France. We do know that by mid-century they were being widely worn, although we do not know to what extent working-class boys were wearing them. We also notice boys wearing smocks, but this seems to have been primarily a school garment. Girls wore pinafores. We are not sure, however, about boys.

Younger Boys' Outfits

We notice a variety of outfits popular with younger boys. Little boys swore dresses amd other skirted gsrments like skirts and tunics in the 19th century. Boys began wearing wore smocks to school in the late-19th century and we believe the smock was primarily a school garment. We also notice younger boys raring Fauntleroy suits and sailor suits, although sailor suits were alo worn by school-age boys. Unfortunately we do not have many Belgian 19th century images. We do have a substantial archive for the 20th century. We see occasional younger boys wearing Fauntleroy styles in the early-20th century. Knit outfits were also popular. Rompers were another popular style for younger boys, mostly for pre-school boys. Short pants were almost universal, although many older boys also wore shorts in n the first hlf ogf the 20th century.

Suits

Suits weew very commonly worn by Belgian boys, as did boys in other European countries, in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. There were many different styles of suits. We believe that Belgian boys basically followed popular French styles, although we have only limited information at this time. We do note that in the late 1920s and 1930s that an open collar shirt with a wide collar wor over the suit lapels was a popular style. Belgian boys have worn suits with kneepants, knickers, short pants, and longpants. We note a few boys wearing black suits which appear to have been a color that was not popular inmany other European countries, although worn in America.

Cold Weather Wear

Belgian boys wore the standard cold weather garments worn throughout northern Europe, basically the same clothes worn in northern France and the Netherlands with some German influence. Unlike the United states we do not notice coldweather caps, except for stocking caps. We of course notice a range of coats and jackets. Belgium located in northern Europe has cold winters. Thus boys needed warm winter coats as well as jackets for cool weather. We d not notice any destinctive coat styles. As in other fashion areas, Belgian fashions were very sililar to French fashions with influences from the Netherlnds and Germany, especially in Flanders. We are just beginning to acquire information on Belgian coats. Belgian boys during the 1920s began wearing sweaters, which tended to to be made longer than now, over their pants--usuallly short pants. We have observed this same convention in other countries--including France, Germany, and the Netherlands. We do not know why this convention developed. Later the sweaters became more shorter and were cut at the waist and often tucked inside the pants. Many sweaters were knitted by mothers and grandmothers and not actually bought in stores. Magazines commonly carried knitting patterns. Many different styles and types of sweaters were worn. The were wrn by both French and Dutch speaking Belgian boys. We are not sure if there were notable stylistic differences between the two groups. We note other items like long stockings and leggings.

Neckwear

We note Belgian boys wearing a variety of neckwar with bth blouses and suits. Neckwear seems to have been quite popular in the late-19th and early-20th century. We note some very large floppy bow. The styles seem simolar to those worn by other European boys in neighboiring countries. We see cravats, stocks, floppy boys, and neckties. Bowties do not seem very common, although we see a few smaller boys wearing them as well in the 1950s and 60s. We do not note any destinctly Belgin styles. Rather France and Germany seem the primary fashion influences in Belgium. We note boys wearing blouses both with and without neckwear. We also see quite a few boys wearing suits without nckwear as well. This seems to have been particularly common in the inter-War era. Neckwear seems to have become much less common in the late-20th century, but the same seems true of suits as well.

Shirts

We do not yet have much information on Belgian shirts and blouses. Our 19th century Belgian archive is very limited. And most 19th century portraits show boys wearing suits and vests which means we can see very little of the blouses and shirts that they are wearing. This severly limits are ability to collect information on-shirt-like garment during the century. Most of what we have found is views of the collars which in many cases were detachable collars. We see some Eton collars, but they do not seem to be as large or the standardized pointed style that we see in England. We have more information on the 20th entury, especilly after World Wwar I as boys more coonly wore shirts without jackets and of course photigraophy moved beyound the photographic studio. Shirts with military styling appear to have been wirn in the early-1950s. The image here is a good example (figure 1).

Pants

Belgian boys mostly wore kneepants in the late 19th century, but short pants became more common by the 1910s, and were mostly worn by Belgian boys after World War I. It is often difficult to identify the two as the first short pants were quite long. Belgian boys also common wore short pants. Short pants at the times were a boys' garment. By the 1930s, a girl might wear shorts for sport or at the seaside, but they remained parimarily a boy's garment through the 1950s. The cut of girls' shorts were not the same as the short pants worn by boys. Older boys might wear knickers. Belgium is a very traditional country. Boys in Belgium continued to commonly wear shorts even after other boys in Europe were wearing long pants and jeans. Corduroy appears to have been a popular material.

Underwear


Pantalettes

Boys wore pantalettes with both dresses and tunics. We begin to note then in the early 19th century. They ranged from the very plain to quite elaborate. Lengths changed iover time in line with dress hems and conventions of modesty. It was considered proper in the eraly 19th century to cover the legs of even very young children. Our information is still limited, but we have noted images from Belgian fashion magazines.

Hosiery

HBC still has very limited information on Belgian 19th century hosiery styles. Three-quarter socks seem to jave been popular in the early 20th century. As with much else, we believe that they generally followed French styles. Kneesocks were commonly worn by Belgian boys, especially after World War I. They continued to be worn after World War II, but began to decline in popularity during the 1950s. Boys in some private Catholic schools wore white kneesocks although I don't think that was common outside of school.

Footwear

HBC at this time has very limited information on the footwear worn by Belgian boys. We do not know to what extent wooden shoes were worn as in the Netherlands. Many younger boys appear to have worn strap shoes. Sandals were also popular. We have not seen as many boys wearin sneakers as was the case in France by the 1950s. We have noted some boys wearing boot-like shoes through the 1940s, but oxford styles appear more common. By the 1970s sneakers or running shoes become increasing popular as was the case throughout Europe.






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Created: August 21, 2001
Last updated: 7:59 AM 6/24/2012