Romper Usage

boys rompers
Figure 1.--Here we can see how rompers were a boys' garment, specifically a garment for pre-school boys. The younger boys who has not yet begun school wears a romper suit and the older boy who has likely just began school wears short pants. The romper suit is kind of aessy play suit. We are not sure where these children are from. Rompers were most common in France and they could be French, but the children and setting has a British look to it. The portrait is undated, but we would guess the early-1950s.

We have only limited information about the conventions for wearing rompers. The original romper was a play suit. They appear to have been initially worn in the nursery or for play around the home. This was in many ways a revolution in children's wear. Children's clothes were not previously created for play. The romper was the first true play suit. This is a more revolutionary development than it may sound to the modern reader. Play was not an activity that was incouraged even as late as the 19th Century. Play was seen as a waste of time by many. Thus it was no accident that the pay suit appeared as our modern concepts of childhood and child rearing was emerging. The comfy romper which appeared at the turn of the century saw baby and younger children through many hours of unrestricted play. Although created as a play suit, dressier versions of the romper eventually appeared. I am not sure just when the romper was made into a dressy outfit. We have seen dressy rompers from the 1950s, but they presumably existed in earlier decades. Dressy styles eventually develoed so they could be worn at even formal occasions.

Play Suits

There were different types of romper ply uits. Children's rompers appeared in the 1910s. The original romper was a play suit. They appear to have been initially worn for play around the home. They were one piece costumes with bloomer legs of various lengths. Rompers were primarily a play costime, an alternative to smocks, another popular garment for chidren. They were light and loose fitting, a major change from the much more restricive clothing children wore during the 19th Century Victorian era. They are in many ways the first modern casual clothes for children. This was in many ways a revolution in children's wear. Children's clothes were not previously created for play. The romper was the first true play suit. This is a more revolutionary development than it may sound to the modern reader. Play was not an activity that was incouraged even as late as the 19th Century. Play was seen as a waste of time by many. Thus it was no accident that the pay suit appeared as our modern concepts of childhood and child rearing was emerging. The comfy romper which appeared at the turn of the century saw baby and younger children through many hours of unrestricted play. Play rompers were only worn by younger children and not school-age boys. The original rompers were play suits that covere up most of the child including the arms and even the legs to the knee. Over time after World War I we begin to see romper play suits which did not so completely cover the child. This led to the romper sun suit which were shirt romper pants with onky a small bib front. The arms shoulders and bacl were left bare. At the time sunlight began to be seen as healthy.

Beachwear

Romprs were idezl beachwear, even swimsuits. Beachwear might be considred a type of playwear, but it is a very speciic type and more commonly worn by gils han other type of rompers. And they were mostly suspender or h-bar styles worn without tops/shirts.

Schoolwear

Rompers were not a common school garment, but we do notic some children wearing them. They were primarily worn by pre-school children. This was not very common, but we do note boys wearing them in nursery school and kindegrten. Here we only see boys, not girls wearing them. We are less sure about other countries. We very rarely see boys in the first year of primary school wearing them, but only rarely. We also note boys wearing them in school theatricals as a kind of costume. As regards school wear we note considerable country differences. This was primarily in France, although we think they were also worn in Belgium. Rompers were mostly worn in France and thus we see boys most commonly wearing them in French schools. They were not worn by French girls. In some other countries they were adopted as a gym uniform. Bloomers meaning the bottom part of rompers were very common gym outfits for girls, often worn with middy blouses. Romper suits for gym seem much more limited. This was particularly common for girls in America. To a much less extent, boys in some countries wore bloomers for gym, but we have not noticed boys wearing romper suits for gym.

Summer Camps

We notice children wearing rompers in summer camps. Thet were worn by American girls at camps during the inter-War era. American boys did not wear them. Summer camps were not as common in Europe, but there were quite a number especially in the Fascist countrie (Germany and Italy). We notice some Italian boys wearing romper pants. An example is an unidentified camp on Sicily, we think during the 1930s. .

Dressy Outfits

Although created as a play suit, dressier versions of the romper eventually appeared. I am not sure just when the romper was made into a dressy outfit. We have seen dressy rompers from the 1950s, but they presumably existed in earlier decades. Dressy styles eventually developed so they could be worn at even formal occasions. Some mothers chose dressier more formal outfits in the romper style for a variety of outings. This seems most common on the Continent, especially Italy and France. Dressy versions were worn by children up to 5 or 6 years of age for very formal occasions during the 1940s and 50s. These look like mostly expensive, handmade fashions. The dressy outfits often have Peter Pan collars or the most formal ones ruffled or lace collars. Plush velvets were the most popular materials for this style. They were often trimmed with lace around the collar front and bloomer pants. They were almost always worn with white knee or short socks with strap shoes or sandals. These dressy rompers were generally cut short, like the shorter cut short pants worn by French and Italian boys. Even plain rompers have something of a dressy look, especialy to our more casual eyes.







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Created: 4:35 PM 4/10/2008
Last updated: 1:09 PM 4/30/2017