Italian Schools


Figure 1.--These boys wear the classic Italian blue school smock with wide white collar. One boy seems to have a different colored smock. These blue smocks with white collars were very commonly worn by Italian school children.

We have no information on how schools in the various Italian states were set up in the early- and mid-19th century before unification. Schools were heavily influenced by the Catholic church. The Italian Government after unification began to give more attention to education. We noticed divisions at one school of gimnasio inferiore or primary school and gimnasio superiore or secondary school. The increased attention to education continued during in the Fascist era. Italian schools did not have uniforms. We believe the pattern in Italy has been similar to that of France. Most schools did not require a formal school uniform like that common in England. Rather Italian elementary children have worn smocks over their regular clothes. Often a single style of smock was required. Many schools had a dark blue smock worn with a wide Peter Pan collar. Atvone time this appears to have been a national requitement. We do not at this time have any chronmolgical information on Italian school smocks. Gradually different colors of smocks appeared. Also schools eventually made the smock optional.

School System

A basic understanding of the Italian school system is needed to undrastand how clothing differed at the various schools. Schools are similar to the educational system that has developed in other European countries. We have some information on the current system, but still little information on the Italian school system before the modern era.

Types of Schools

The three major types of schools in Italy today are the state schools, religious schools (Mostly Catholic), and privae schools. Schoolwear has varied at these different school types. The schools has varied over time as well as the state's control over the different schools. Perhaps influenced by the era of Austrian control, we find secondary schools called Ginasios.

Eras

There are several different eras of Italian education. Until the 1860s, Italy was divided into several different independent states, including areas of northern Italy administered by the Austrians. Italy was unified in the 1860s under a monarchy and parlimentary democrcy. The democratic era ended in 1922-25 with the rise of Mussolini and his fascists. The Fascists were overthrown in 1943, but the NAZIs occupied much of Italy and established a Fascist state in northern Italy under Mussolini as a puppet figurhead. The German surrendeded in Aprol 1945. The king abdicated in 1946 after a refornandum showed that opinion on the monarchy was divided. As a result, a new Italian Republic was created. The school system in Italy was strongly affected by thes political developments.

Chronological Trends

HBC believes that chronological trends concerning schoolwear in Italy has been similar to that of France. This is in part because children in both countries have not traditioanlly worn school uniforms and school clothes are thus in large measure a reflection of regular clothing trends. One major exceotion is school smocks. French boys tended to wear smocks less after World War II (1939-45) and even more so after the 1950s. School smocks in Italy, however, continued to be commonly worn even into the 1970s. While declining in the 1980s and 90s, some Italian children still wear them in the 2000s, although generally younger children in primary school.

Government Regulations

We do not know if Italy ever had national regulations about schoolwear. We have been unable, however to collect any information on Italian school uniform regulations.We have never noted a national school uniform. We have noted many children wear school smocks. We are not sure if there were government regulations mandating or promoting the use of smocks on a national basis. We note that school smocks were very commonly worn, especiaally blue smocks with white collars so there may have been some government regulations. Hopefully our Italian readers will provide us specific historical details on this.

School Trends

While we are unsure about national regulations, we do know that individual schools have required uniforms or more commonly school smocks. Some private Italian schools have required uniforms. Most schools did not require a formal school uniform like that common in England. Rather Italian elementary children have worn smocks over their regular clothes. We have noted schools where the smock was required. We have few actual school regulations. It can be assumed, however, that if all the children in a school portait wear smocks, especially the same style/color of smock, than the school has required that smocks be worn. We also note schools in which some of the children wears smocks. Here the the smocks are optional and the mother has decided that the child should wear them.


Figure 2.--Some Italian school children wear smocks. At some schools the boys wear blue smocks and the girls pink smocks. Checkered ginham smocks are also worn.

Styles

Often a single style of smock was required. Many schools had a dark blue smock worn with a wide Peter Pan collar. At one time this appears to have been a national requitement. We do not at this time have any chronmolgical information on Italian school smocks.

Colors

Gradually different colors of smocks appeared.

Gender

Italian boys and girls have dressed very differently, but these differences have varied substantially over time. The differences were fairly standard during the first half of the 20th century until well after World War II. The boys wore long and short pants and the girls dresses and skirts. This began to change in the 1970s when we begin to see girls beginning to wear pants. Both boys and girls commonly wore smocks. We note, however, some schools where only the girls wore smocks. Here we do not yet fully understand the conventions. While both boys and girls wore somocks, there were often differences on the color or design of the smocks differentiating those for boys and girls.

Garments

The school garment most associated with Italy of course is the school smock. Italian school smocks have varied over time. The classic style was a dark blue or black smock worn with a wide white collar and big floppy red bow. Originally smocks buttoned at the back. Many schools no longer require smocks, but a number of Itlalin schools still do. Boys generally prefer front buttoning smocks and this style has become more common. Colors have changed too. Some schools have different colors for boys and girls. Common colors include different shades of blue, white, and pink. While scome schools have required students to wear smocks, there seems to have been a wide toleration as to just what the children wore under their smocks.

Activities

We do not yet have a great deal of information about Italian school activities. Italian state schools after unification in the late-19th and early-20th century had an important social task in Italy. One report indicates that at the time of unification with the proclamation of the Italian Kingdom that 78 percent of the Italian people were illiterate (1861). This was a much higher proportion than Protestant northern Europe. This was not the only problem. Most Italian families were very poor, especially in the south, and nutrition and hygiene relatively poor. This of course significantly affected children. To address the hygine problem, many schools installed showers so the children could bathe. Thus bathing became a school activity in Italy. Italy is a predominately Catholic country. The Catholic Chirch has played a major role in Italy's education system. There were religious lessons even in the public schools taught by priests. I'm not sure what the current policy toward religion is in Italian schools. First Comminion was a major event in an Italian child's life. Most Italian children did their First Communion as a part of a school group. The boys and girls dressed up in special outfits for the event. As far as I know, they never wore their school smocks. We note some private schools that had uniforms, had the bnoys wear their uniforms rather than new suits, sometimes with special collars. There may have been other changes such as white socks. The girls as far as we know always had special outfits, even at private schools with uniforms.

Individual Schools

HBC is collecting information on individual Italian schools. The school portraits over time offer a great deal of useful information on fashion trends. They also provide helpful information on educational trends. We have some at this time information on several schools, both public and state schools in different parts of the country. Information from these schools show how schoolwear has varied over time at several different schools. And as many Italian schgools did not have unifiorms or smocks, there is also a great deal og general fashion information. We also note trends at the different kinds of schools. We are archiving the information both alphabetically and chronologically. The chronological information is useful both because it provides information on time periods and because many of the images we have found are not identified, but some are dated. Others it is possible to estimate the date, but here we mostly want to include school images that are definitaviely dated. This will make the decade pages we eventually hope to vreate more reliable sources og information on fshion trends.







Careful, clicking on these will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but several are highly recommended

  • Apertures Press New Zealand e-Books: Appertures Press has published three different EBooks about New Zealnd schools.
  • Apertures Press British Preparatory Schools: A photographic book depicting life at British preparatory schools during the 1980s. Most of the schools are English or Scottish, but schools in Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ulster are also included. The pictures show the uniforms worn at many different schools.
  • Apertures Press British Prep School eBooks: Apperture Press has published six eBooks about different vaspects of British public schools. Volume I is a general assessnent. The other volumes deal with more specific aspects of the schools ahd school life.