United States Boys' Clothes: Early 19th Century--Specific Decades (1800-40)


Figure 1.--This unidentified patrician boy from Massachusettes looks to be about 16 years old. Unfortunately it was not dated. We thought originally that it was proabably painted in the 1830s which is why the portarit was placed here. As HBC has developed, we have come see that haiur styles were realtively short in the early-19th century through the 1830s and begun to become longer at mid-centuty beginning in the 1840s. Thus we suspect that this portariat was probably painted in the late-30s or 40s.

We have very limited information on American boys clothing during the early 19th century. There were few magazines or newspapers with advertisements or illustrations. Photography was not yet invented which severly limits the number of portraits. We have some paintings, but they often are not dated. Most are by primitive. Naive artists with varying attention to details such as clothing. While our information is limited, we are attempting to gather information and images if boys clothing in the eraly decades of the 19th century. For the most part, refined American families would have followed European styles. In the backwoods, more practical considerations governed clothing.

The 1800s

The increasing recognition that children were differentthan adukts and needed to be treated differently and dressed differently. With the increasing acceptance of freedoms for children associated with childhood, saw both young boys and girls wearing long loosly fitted muslin gowns. ashionable American boys in the cities wore skeleton suiys in the 1800s. This was atyle that had appeared in the late-18h century. By the turn of the century, the knee breeches had been replaced by long pants. This was a change that men did not make for another decade or two.

The 1810s

We continue to see boys after breeching wearing skekleton suits and tnics.

The 1820s

We continue to see boys after breeching wearing skekleton suits and tnics.

The 1830s

Our information on the early-19th century before photography is limited. 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 do, however know more about the 1830s than the earlier decades. Younger boys and girls still worevery similar dresses. The dresses got shorter in the 30s so the childrebn worethem with pantalettes. The priary differences in the dreses was that the boys usually wore them with less lace and ornamentation. We note boys wearing low cut dresses with baloon sleeves, much like their sisters. We notice several portaits of younger boys wearing dresses which look essentially the same as the dresses younger girls would have worn. Girls' dresses after about the age of 6 years had full skirts and fitted bodices with large gigot sleeves. Girls' attire by this age began to look just like those of tgheir mothers, except for the shorter length and pantalets. The pantaklettes covere the legs below the hemlines of their skirts. We see boys wearing tunics, sometimes with large collars and bows. These were worn by boys just before school age through the first years of chool, something like 4-10 years of age. We also notice frilled open collars, but are unsure how common that was. Many iof the tunivs were more like long shirts which were commonlyb belted at the waist. . We are not sure about skleleton suits. We also notice military styled caps with tassles. For dressy occassions a white collar might be added to a boy's outfits. Boys wore ankle-length long pants. We do not see the shortened-length pants for younger boys that subsequently became popular. Here we see a boy wearing a suit (figure 1). Note the stock. We do have a page on individual boys in the 1830s which consists mostly of American and English boys.






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Created: October 7, 2003
Last updated: 10:18 PM 8/7/2014