English Boys' Clothes: Early 19th Century (1800-40)


Figure 1.--This oil painting is by K. Kane. HBC has no information on the artist, but believe it is a modern painting, perhaps a reproduction. The boy appears to be wearing clothing that may date from the 1840s. He wears a jacket rather than a skeleton suit, but there are influences like the ruffled collar and relatively tight long pants. HBC is not sure if this boy from an obviously affluent family wore this outfit at home or might have worn it at his public (exclusive private) school.

English boys throughout the 19th Century wore dresses as little boys. Styles were quite similr to those worn by their sisters in the early part of the century, but became more plain by the end of the century. The dresses followed the styles of the day, very long at the beginning of the century and becoming shorter as the century progressed. Shorter dresses were worn discreetly with pantalettes. Dresses were often worn with pinafores by both boys and girls, but this became less common for boys by the end of the century. I am not sure how common smocks were in England, but hope to acquire some information on this topic. The boys' style most associated with this period is the skeleton suit which dominated boys fashions in the first three decades of the century. Tunics were another popular style. By the 1840s outfits with separate, more modern-looking jackets had replaced the skeleton suit. Boys of all agesm, however, generally continued to wear long pants.

Historical Background

The Industrial Revolution. was well underway in England by the turn of the century in 1800. England had managed to avoid major military confrontations with the new French Republic, but became a major participant in the Napoleonic Wars which did not end until the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Many stylistic elements from Napoleonic Era military uniform found their way into boys' fashions, from double breasted suits to Wellies. The Victorian Era officially began with the accension of the young Princess Victoria to the British throne in 1837.

Painting

HBC has not been able to identify this portrait with ant certainty. We had thought this was a painting by K. Kane, although we know nothing about him. It has the look of a modern reproduction to us. A HBC reader thinks the artist might be an Irish painter. He writes, "Could this be a painting by the Irish painter Paul Kane (1810-1871)? He traveled extensively in Canada .The National Gallery of Ottawa have dozens of his works. Most are romantic landscapes or pictures of Red Indians. Very few pictures of Europeans, however his style and colours are very much in keeping with this boy's portrait (my opinion). If this painting is from 1840 the sitter may even be a Canadian, because by that time Kane was living in Canada, I think in Toronto."

Garments

English boys throughout the 19th Century wore dresses as little boys. Styles were quite similr to those worn by their sisters in the early part of the century, but became more plain by the end of the century. The dresses followed the styles of the day, very long at the beginning of the century and becoming shorter as the century progressed. Shorter dresses were worn discreetly with pantalettes. Dresses were often worn with pinafores by both boys and girls, but this became less common for boys by the end of the century. I am not sure how common smocks were in England, but hope to acquire some information on this topic. The boys' style most associated with this period is the skeleton suit which dominated boys fashions in the first three decades of the century. Tunics were another popular style. By the 1840s outfits with separate, more modern-looking jackets had replaced the skeleton suit. Boys of all ages, however, generally continued to wear long pants.

Decades

We do not yet have much information on the decades of the early 19th century. This is of course the period befor photography and the absence of photographic images makes it difficult to acquire information. There are paintings and some fashion magazines which proovide some information.

The 1800s

The standard style for English boys in the 1800s was the skeleton suit worn with long pants. Adults still primarily wore knee breeches.

The 1810s


The 1820s

A Sir Thomas Lawrence portait provides us a glimse of two elegantly dressed boys of different ages in 1829.

The 1830s

A Canadaian reader writes, "Could you please tell me if plaid shirts would have been worn by a 10-year old British boy around 1830? I live in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and every year we do a play based on an 1830s theme set in Britain and there is some question as to whether boy's would wear plaid shirts." [Stewart] Well Scottish style clothing had begun to become popular in England during the 1830s, but not as much as the 1840s when Victoria began dressing the young princes in kilts. And even in Scotland I don't believe shirts were commonly done in plaid. As to plaid shirts. I have not noted plaid shirts. Most shirts and blouses we have noted in the 1830s are solid colored garments. We have, however, limited information on clothing in the 1830s and the other decades before so we are not positive on this. We have collected a number of images from the 1830s in our ordinary biography page. Most of the inndividuals or American or English whoch provide some useful information on the decade.

Sources

Stewart, Patricia. E-mail, October 19, 2005.






HBC




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Created: April 17, 2001
Last updated: 3:40 PM 6/22/2011