German Boys' Clothes: Skirted Garments


Figure 1.--This German boy is unidentified. We do know that he was photographed in the northern section of Berlin. The portrait is unidentfied, but we would guess about the turn of the century, something like 1900-05. The boy wears a tunic suit done in the sailor style. The sailor "V" collar is done modestly in lace rather than with more traditional stripes. Note the boy even has a sailor scarve tied in the same style we often see with German sailor suits.

We note German boys like boys in other European countries wore a variety of skirted garments. We do not notice a great deal of difference between Germany and the rest of Europe in the early 19th century, although there may have been variations among the different states that made up Germany at the time. We do notice some differences in the late 19th century. We seem to note fewer German boys wearing dresses than in other European countries. Kilts do not seem to have been commonly worn. We do note German boys wearing tunics at the turn of the 20th century. Our information is still limited. We have begun to collect information on the different kinds of skirted garments. We have also begun to adress breeching and other aspects of boys wearing wearing skirted garments. The reasons appear similar to other countries.

Chronology

We have only begun to develop a chronology of German skirted garments, We know nothing at this time about the the 16th-18th centuries. We believe younger boys wore dresses in this period, but do not yet have the information to corfirm it. Nor do we have information on demographic, regional, and social class trends. As far as we know, the only skirted garment worn was the dress, but we can not yet confirm that. We have some information on the 19th century. Our information on the early-19th century is limited, primaroily because photography was not yet invented. Younger boys wore dresses throughout the 19th century. We have only limited details on the decade stylistic trends and conventions. Our preliminary assessment is tat dresses wer not as commony worn by boys in German as in some other European countries, but this needs to be confirmed. Germany did not become a united country until 1871. We suspect that that there were dfferences among the Germn states, but do not yet have details. We know that boys also wore tunics throughout the century. School age boys wore tunics inthe early part oif thecentury By bthe end of the century it was primarily pre-school boys. We are less sure about skirts, smocks and pinafores, but hope to gradually collect information. We notice a few boys wearing kilts in the second half of the 19th century, bit this seems to have been an upper-class affecttion, imitating British styles. We see fewer boys wearing dresses in the 1890s. Skirted garments declined in populasrity after the turn of the 20th century. Fewer boys wore dresses. An exception was tunics which were popular in the 1900s and 10s. We see little boys wearing bsic pinafores for play into the 1930s. Smocks were rarely worn.

Specific Skirted Garments

We note German boys like boys in other European countries wore a variety of skirted garments. We have begun to collect information on the different kinds of skirted garments. Young German boys like boys in other European countries wore dresses. In the early and mid-19th century, these dresses were just like the ones their sister's wore. Some younger German boys rather than wearing one-piece dresses wore skirts with blouses or jackets. In Britain and America these skirts were often made in a kilt fasgion and commonly were plaid. This was less common in Germany. We have very little information on these skirts at this time in Germany. We are unsure if this fashion was more or less common than actual dresses. The tunic suit was a very popular style for boys in America and many European countries at the turn-of-the-20th century. We have less information about Germany as we have so few German photographs from the pre-World War I period. We have not noted German boys wearing Highland kilt outfits. Wechave noted boys wearing kilt suit outfits, although many of the images are undated. They look to be images taken in the 1890s and 1900s, but we are unsure when the fashion began. The sailor kilts appeared to be especially popular. The tunic suit was a very popular style for boys in America and many European countries at the turn-of-the-20th century. We have less information about Germany as we have so few German photograophs from the pre-World War I period. Smocks are more associated with France than Germany, but some German boys also did wear smocks. In particular we have noted quite a number of younger pre-school German boys wearing them.

German Trends

We do not notice a great deal of difference between Germany and the rest of Europe in the early 19th century, although there may have been variations among the different states that made up Germany at the time. We do notice some differences in the late 19th century. We seem to note fewer German boys wearing dresses than in other European countries. Kilts do not seem to have been commonly worn. We do note German boys wearing tunics at the turn of the 20th century. Our information is still limited.

Breeching

We know that young German boys wore dresses in the 19th century as was common in Europe and America. The photographic record clearly shows this. We suspect that breaching continued to occur earlier in Germany than several other countries. Here we are just beginning to acquire German 19th century photographic portraits, so our assessment is just beginning. We note, however, that there are many images of very young German children wearing trousers or kneepants, even in the 1860s and 70s. This suggests to us that German boys may havde been breached at an earlier ager than boys in many other European countries (England, France, and Italy) and America. This observation is tebntative as w still have realtively few older German images. Also we not know if this was true for the early 19th century or if this was a common pattern throughout the various German states (Landen). We have no written information from Germany on breaching at this time.

Belts

The Germans seem to have a penchnts for belts. By this we mean using belts as a fashion statement or accesory rather than the practical purpose of hlding up trousers. We note, for example, German boys wearing belts over sweaters for no practical reason. We see this in other countries as well, but seems most pronounced in Germany. We also see this with skirted garments. Tunics are the most obvious example, but we note boys in other countries wearing belts with tunics, but again this seems most pronounced in Germany. And often this meant a belt looking item and not just a belt-like item in the same fabric as the tunic itself. We do not notice German boys wearing smocks to any extent, but this was another skirted garment often worn with belts. we see a few boys wearing belts over dresses. As far as we can tell, thi swas only for boys weaing dresses and not girls.

Reasons

A HBC reader has interviewed a number of Germans about boys wearing dresses and other children's clothing issues. He tells us, "The grandparents of my informants, who could remember the 1890s and 1910s in rural Germany, pointed out that dressing boys in skirts during these two decades was largely a matter of saving money. These people made most of their childrens' clothes at home and tended to dress both boys and girls alike until about the age of five or six. Making skirts (or dresses) for children of both sexes was much easier than making trousers and often involved using less material than would be necessary for trousers, especially long trousers. There was of course the belief that boys should not be dressed as adults (i.e., in long trousers) until their later teenage years (about 17 and upwards), but this was reinforced by the observation that boys wore holes in trousers more readily than in skirts when they were very active in farm life or in village activities. Skirts were the most economical kind of clothing for young children, and when boys were too old to wear skirts, they were kept in short or knee trousers for as long as possible because long trousers were expensive and troublesome to make, were too easily outgrown, and wore out more easily or required more mending (especially in respect to holes in the knees)."

Gender

Dresses were the primary garment worn by girls and women. Following a long tradition, younger boys also wore dresses and other skirted garments. We have not yet developed information on the age trends. This continued to be the case in the 19th century. We do not yet know if this differed from other countries. We think that convention mau have been weare in Germany than many other European countries, but we can not yet substantiate this. We note that this this as in other countries began to decline in the late-19th century. We still see this in the early-20th century before World War I, but to a lesser extent and only very young boys. The only important exception was tunics which were very popular for younger boys. After the War, skirted garments for boys rapidly disappeared. Ending a centuries-long convention of younger boys wearing skirted garments.







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Created: 9:02 PM 11/12/2004
Last updated: 1:53 AM 1/12/2016