Vintage Clothing: Boys' Dresses


Figure 1.-- A vintage clothing dealer believes that this is a little boy's dress from the 1880s. It is a cotton dress done in ecru. It is made of a stiff cotton type material. It reminds me of feedsack material. The back of the dress is plain but the front of the skirt is pleated with a sash over it.

Both girls and little boys wore dresses in the 19th century. Here we have archived a range of vintage dresses. Vintage garment are especially important as they provide color information which we do not have from the black and white portraits of the 19th century. The problem with vintage dresses for HBC is that unless the name of the child that wore that is known, it is difficult to tell if it was for a boy or girl. This is a problem we continually face when assessing unidentified 19th century portraits, although some portraits are indentified or the gender of the child can be deduced. We are collecting here dresses that we believe were worn by boys. A Vintage clothing dealer tells us that a red Victorian child's dress (girl or boy) was found with other clothing that dates back to 1870- 1880. We also note a white dress worn by American boy James Cromwell in 1879. We also notice a sailor dress which a dealer is convinced was a 1890s boy dress, but we are not positice about this.

Russet Dress (England/United States, 1850s-60s)

Here we have a home-sewn russet-coloredf dress. It was made by an English aunt in the 1850s who emigrated to America in the 1860s. As dresses were sewn at home, styles and materials were much more varied than when ready-made clothes became more standard. This was more so for boys clothes than girl clothes because sewing dresses for girls wasmore popular than sewing boys clothes anove the todler age. We are not entirely sure that it was made for a boy, but we know that it was worn by a boy. At the time the idea of a boy dress was less advanced than was the coinventions in the late 19th century when dressed might be marketed as boy dressess. Most dresses in the mid-19th centurty. It was worn by Louis Ward Claude (1868-1951) of Baraboo, Wisconsin. It could havejust as well been worn by his sister. The wide time period between sewing and wearing probanly speaks to the fact that fadhion for young children in rural areas was fairly flexible.

White Dress (United States, 1860s)

We believe this white pique dress comes from the 1860s. A dealer tells us, "I was told by a well known fashion historian that this was a little boy's dress from the Civil War. It is made of white pique. The edges of the collar and skirt are scalloped and embroidered with a floral design and raised dots. There is a gathered waistband and short puffy sleeves. It fastens with hooks and eyes in back. Measurements taken while lying flat: 14 1/2 across chest, length is 29 inches."

Red Victorian Child's Dress (United States, 1870s)

Both girls and little boys wire dresses in the 19th century. Here we have archived a range of vintage dresses. The problem with dresses is that unless the name of the child that wore that is known, it is difficult to tell if it was for a boy or girl. This is a problem we continually face when assessing unidentified 19th century photographs. A Vintage clothing dealer tells us that a red Victorian child's dress (girl or boy) was found with other clothing that dates back to 1870- 1880.

White Dress (United States, 1879)

The Mint Museum of Art In North Carolina displayed is a young boy's dress with a rosette "bustle" purchased in 1879 in Chicago for 4-year old James Cromwell. Such garments were worn over flounced petticoats with lace-trimmed or plain pantaletts beneath. As far as we can tell, this dress is not diffrent than a dress that might have been worn by James' sister. Unfortunately we have no more information about James and his family.

Little Boys' White Dress (United States, 1880s)

A vintage clothing dealer believes that this is a little boy's dress from the 1880s. It is a cotton dress done in ecru. It is made of a stiff cotton type material. It reminds me of feedsack material. The back of the dress is plain but the front of the skirt is pleated with a sash over it. Big cuffs on the sleeves. The armsyces are emphasized with piping. Buttons up the front. The sash/waisband looks similar to that of tunics popular at the turn of the 20th century. Notice that it is a front buttoning dress.

Sailor Dress (United States, 1890s)

We also notice a sailor dress which a dealer is convinced was a 1890s boy dress, but we are not positice about this. We are not sure that this was a specifically boy dress or are we positive about the dating. We notice a lot of portraits of boys in the 1890s wersaring kilt suits, but we note far fewer wearing sailor dresses. This outfit is rather plain which does suggest a nboy might haver worn it. Girls in the 1890s tended to wear fancier dresses. The dealer writes, "Little boy's wool plaid 2 pc pleated skirt and sailor type jacket. Fabric is a blue and brown background with a mustard & cranberry plaid. Inside front of jacket is lined in red wool. Silk bow decorates the neck of jacket.

Pelisse Dress (Australia, 1880s)

This garment is identified as a pelisse worn by a boy named James Somerville (1880s). We have no information on James. Thec garment is in the collection of the Cavalcade of History and Fashion. We are not entirely sure why this garment is described as a pelisse. The pelisse is a garment that is not well defined. We see quite a range of definitions. We note a range of definitions for a pelisse, such as 'a long cloak or coat made of fur or lined or trimmed with fur'. We note fur is often associted wiyh a pelisse. This would makec sence as the pelise is often described as an outer garmen, either a coat or cloak. Another definitiion is a 'a woman's loose lightweight cloak with wide collar and fur trimming'. And another definitio Manhy but not all definitions stress that it is a womnan's garment. One source describes pelisse as, 'any of a vaiety of long outer garments'. Tge garment here does not appear to us to be either long or a outergarment.' Of course smaller versions, duch as this one here could be worn by girls and younger boys in the 19th century. The Museum tells us that, 'James Somerville’s pelisse of broidery anglaise from the early 1880s ... is an example of a male child’s dress which buttons up at the front.' This garment does not look like a cloak or coat, but more like a dress to us.

Rust-colored Dress and Pantalettes (Australia, late-19th century)

This rust-colored vintage dress has a lace collar and shoulder trim as well as velvet trim. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney believes it is a boy dress. It is shown worn with lacy pantalettes. Pantallettes or drawers were worn in the 19th century, but often the ones boys wore were often plainer. We are not sure that the two are conncted or just shown togethger. Note that the yellowing (ageing) of the white lace is not seen in the panatalettes. We are not sure how the museum reached this conclusion as there is no provinance provided. The dress seems rather short. We do not notice such short dressed in the photographic record, at least in Britain and America. We do notice lacy pantelettes like this, but on dresses with shorter hems. Perhaps styles were different in Australia, but more likely Australians at the time just followed English styles. The Museum is not sure about the date, suggesting the late-19th to early-20th century. We think that the late-19th century is more likely, especially if the pantalettes are associated with the dress. Nor or we sure about the size of thge dress and the agevof the child which woukld have worn this. These vintage garments are useful additions to the HBC archive in part because they provide color infornmation.









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Created: 10:03 PM 2/6/2005
Last updated: 5:14 AM 1/28/2014