Shortalls: Chronology


Figure 1.--This snapshot shows an American brother and sister in 1967. The boy wears a yellow shortall with white knee socks and shoes. The shortall was at heart a play garment. But by adding a white blouse it could be turned into a more formal garment for younger boys. Notice how it is coordinated with his holder sister's dress.

Levi Straus came out with a bib-front version of its jeans for children in the 1920s. This was not a shortall, but it was certainly a related precursor. We have no information about who first made garments called shortalls or when they first appeared, but it does appear to have been late-1920s or early-30s. We see shortalls in the 1930s, although styling was highly variable. We know that shortalls were being sold in the early-1930s, although we are not sure when the term was first used. We note some outfits that look similar to shortalls in the 1930s. An example is Mississippi brothers in 1935. We also seem them in France during the 1930s. One source suggests that shortalls first appeared in the 1940s. I think this is more when tey began to become a popular style. HBC has begun to notice them in the 1950s. The shortalls appearing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, were not made of denim. Also the classic shortall did not have bib fronts, but rather wide shoulder straps and full fronts and backs. Shortalls declined in popularity during the late 1980s and are less common in the 1990s. They are now generally made in todler sizes only up to about 4 years. The legs of the outfits in the 1990s are generally cut much longer than those worn in the 1960s. Also the bib front style with only narrow bands over the shoulder crossing at the back are much more common than the classic shortall with fabric covering the entire front and back.

The 1920s

Levi Straus came out with a bib-front version of its jeans for children in the 1920s. This was not a shortall, but it was certainly a related precursor. HBC is not yet sure when shortalls first appeared, but the late-20s seems likely. although we do not yet have an actual example.

The 1930s

We have no information about who first made garments called shortalls or when they first appeared, but it does appear to have been late-1920s or early-30s. We see shortalls in the 1930s, although styling was highly variable. We know that shortalls were being sold in the early-1930s, although we are not sure when the term was first used. A good example is a DuBarry pattern that looks to date to 1932. The size was for 6 year olds. We note some outfits that look similar to shortalls in the 1930s. An example is Mississippi brothers in 1935. We also seem them in France during the 1930s.

The 1940s

One source suggests that shortalls first appeared in the 1940s. I think this is more when tey began to become a popular style. Perhaps this was when the term 'shortalls' began to be used.

The 1950s

HBC begins to notice shortalls more commonly in the photographic record during the 1950s. The shortalls appearing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, were not made in denim. The classic shortall did not have bib fronts, but rather wide shoulder straps and full fronts and backs.

The 1960s

Shortalls seem to have been a popular style in the 1960s. President Kennedy's son John wore them which of course tended to popularize them. Here we see a boy wearing a shortall for a formal summer occassion. While designed as a play garment, adding a white blouse and knee socks turns it into a more formal garment for younger boys (figure 1).

The 1980s

Shortalls declined in popularity during the late-1980s, except for younger boys..

The 1990s

Shortalls seem less common in the 1990s for boys beyond the toddler stage. We notice several firms spealizing in elegant clothing for younger children offered fancy shortalls. They were generally made in toddler sizes only up to about 4 years. The legs of the outfits in the 1990s are generally cut much longer than those worn in the 1960s. Also the bib front style with only narrow bands over the shoulder crossing at the back are much more common than the classic shortall with fabric covering the entire front and back.







HBC






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Created: 4:45 AM 4/20/2008
Last updated: 5:50 PM 11/11/2010