Rompers: National Trends


Figure 1.--This is a French-produced post card. It was, however, used postally in Belgium. We are also unsure when it was made, but we suspect the late-1920s. The card has a relatively modern look to it (note the realistic background), the oxford shoes, and the shortness of the rompers suggests that the card was made in the 1920s after World War I. The Belgian post mark is 1930. Click on this image for more information about the boy's romper outfit.

Rompers were widely worn in both Europe and America. I have so far, however, collected little information on rompers in different countries. Some limited information can be deduced by available photographic images. Significant differences appear between America and Europe. European boys continued to wear rompers into the 1950s for both play and casual wear and dressy outfits. They were often worn with white socks and strap shoes. I know Italian boys wore them and French boys might have also wore them. I'm not sure about the age deemed apporopriate, but I would think they were worn much as American boys wore shortalls in the 1960s. After the 1930s American boys except the vary youngest no longer wore rompers. Other styles tend to replace them for most boys. An American boy in the 1950s and 60s, for example, might wear shortalls instead of rompers. Boys in other countries continued wearing rompers longer than in America. Little French boys seemed to have continued wearing rompers through the 1950s and even in the 1960s.

America, Latin

Boys' styles until after Wirld War II were primarily influenced by European styules. The middle-class was, however, relatively small. This mean that only a small part of the population could aford fashionable clothes. We see a few boys wearing rimpers, but not thzt many. This probbly in part reflects our rather small archive of Latin American images. Rompers seem most popular in Argentina.

Argentina

We notice some younger Argentine boys wearing romper outfits. we are not sure about the chronlogy. We do not know when rompers first appeared in Argentina, but note boys wearing rompers in the 1950s. Here we see a boy on a family outing wearing a romper suit during the 1950s (figure 1). We suspect this is the European influence, perhaps Italian or French. Argentina had a substantial Itlaian immigrant Argentine population. We note boys wearing small sweaters with the rompers. In France they were called a gilet. We are not sure how common they were. We don't see many in the photographic record. They seem to have been mostly worn by todlers. As far as we can tell, they were a boy's garment, but our information is still extremely limited.

Mexico

Rompers do not appear to have been widely worn by Mexican boys. They are referred to as "mameluco". That term in Mexico means a baby or very young child that is still nursing. The name is used for rompers in Mexico because they are worn by young children--although in fact not necesarily children that are so young that they are still nursing. Rompers in Mexico appear to have been worn by boys and girls, but our information is very limited.

America, North


Canada

HBC does not yet have much information on rompers in Canada. One might have thought that French Canadian boys would have worn them because rompers or barboteuse were so popular in France. This does not seem to have been the case and the word barboteuse do not seem to have been commonly used in French Canada. One French Canadian boy does report wearing rompers, but we do not know how common this was. We have no information at all about Englidh-speaking Canadians.

United States

Rompers appeared in America during the 1890s as dresses became less common for younger children. I assumed they were an imported European fashion, but can not yet confirm this. Rompers in America were most common in the 1910s and 20s. They were rarely worn as dressy outfits. After the 1920s rompers became a garment mostly worn by very young boys although older gorls might wear them. They were never in the 1930s-50s by 4-7 year old boys as was the case in France. Instead American boys of this age wore shortalls.

Asia


Japan

No information available at this time. Rompers do not appear to have been extensively worn by Japanese boys.

Europe

Rompers with the exception of North America were a largely European fashion. They were popular as a practical way to dress active younger boys in easily laundered play outfits. The style was most popular in France where they were no only a popular play garment, but also used for dressing up younger boys. They were commonly worn by pre-school boys. Gils did not wear them until after they had declined in popularity aa a boys' style. We also see it as a opular style in Belgium wher French styles were prevalent. We see German boys wearing rompers, but almost entirely as oplay garments. We do not see German boys dressed up in rompers. While rompers were most popular in France, we also see them being worn in many other European countries. The styles and conventins varies widely. Such variations often were affected as to what degree styles were affected by French or German trends. We also notice European boys living aborad waring rompers.

Middle East and North Africa


Algeria

We notice boys wearing rompers in the 1950s before indepandence. Presumably they were the French children living in Algeria. The clothes French boys wore in Algeria before independence seem comparable to the clothes worn in southern France. We have little information on Algerian boys, but as far as we know they did not wear rompers.

Israel

We do not see Israeli children wearing rompers, but our Israeli archive is very limited. We do see nursery school children at an unidentified kibbutz wearing similar romper outfits done in the suspender and shortall style about 1950. Both boys and girls wore them.

Morocco

We note images from Casablanca and other Moroccan cities with boys wearing rompers. These appear to be French people living in Morocco before and just after World War II when there was still a French protecorate. The individuls involve seem to be mostly French and the boys are wearing French-styled rompers. The French presence in Morocco included the period while rompers were especially popular in France.

Oceania


Australia

HBC is unsure how common rompers ere in Australia. An Australian reader tells us, "I don't recall myself, but my mum tells me that I wore rompers till about age 4 and pilches (plastic pants) underneath with a woollen nappy at 2 and a half years and just pilches with underwear just in case of accidents. The rompers were blue and I had one pair that had the sailor suit top and was white. I had a blue sailor suit version and later wore the top part with white shorts over the bottoms with white kneesocks. Gosh what was it with me and my mum and aunties dressing me in sailor suits fashions most of the time. I wore other rompers."

Netherlands (Dutch) East Indies

Children in the Dutch East Indies, now Indodesia, wore "tjelana monjet" or rompers. "Tjelana" is Indonesian Malay for trousers. "Monjet" means monkey. The Portuguese term for rompers (fato macaco) also means monkey suit. I don’t know if this is a coincidence, but the Portuguese were in the East Indies before the Dutch seized control and there is, as a result, a Portuguese linguistic heritage. Much the same garment was called "hansop" in Holland where was predominantly a childrens’ sleeping suit. In the Indies, Dutch children, both white and Eurasian, as well as Chinese used to wear it at daytime as it was a very convenient garment in the hot climate. This was consistent with the use by their fathers of a ‘slaapbroek’/sleeping trousers as part of their informal home dress.

Unknown Countries









HBC






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Created: October 26, 2001
Last updated: 7:48 PM 12/15/2015