Dresses for Boys during the 1910s

Figure 1.--This undated U.S. image shows a boy wearing a light-colored print dress. If you look at the image carefully there are circular (polka) dots in some light colour in the fabric. with matching long stockings and strap shoes. Note that the boy wears short sleeves with the long stockings. HBC believes that the photograph was taken in the 1910s, but the very early 1920s is possible. This boys name is Roger Kee.

The custom of dressing yonger boys in dresses declined notably during the 1910s. I am not sure why this occurred in the 1910s. Some have suggested that the development of rubber pants made it less neccessary to keep young boys in dresses. World War I may have also been a factor, but I am not sure yey just how it affected this fashion. The dresses boys did wear were increasingly simple.


Dresses for boys declined steadily in popularity throughout the decade. We still notice snapshots of boys wearing dresses. An example is the boy seen here (figure 1), lthough unfortunately it is not dated. Another example is another American boy, Clarince Williams in 1910. The advertisments for boy dresses that were still seen in the 1900s, disappeared during the 1910s. I'm not sure if such adds were still used in the 1910-14 era, but by 1919 after the War, they were no longer seen.


The dresses that boys did wear in the 1910s were most commonly white dresses. Dark or colored dresses were much less common.


The elaborate dresses worn by boys in the late 19th century and 1900s were by the 1910s much less commonly seen.


HBC has only limited informatuiin about dresses in the 1910s. The age at which boys wore dresses declined in the 1910s. They were no longer worn by schoolmage boys--even boys schooled at home. HBC believes that misy boys in the 1910s were breeched before they reached age 5 years.

Country Trends

HBC does not yet have adequate information on dresses in different countries tio deliniate country trends.

Accompamying Clothes

Rge accompanying clothes that boys wore with dresses varied widely in the 1910s. American boys often wore long stockings, often white as compared with the more common dark stockings before the turn of the century. French boys more commonly wore socks, often three-quarter length socks. Strap shoees or strapless slipper-types shoes were commonly worn, never the heavy boots often worn by school-age boys.

Hair Styles

Many boys wearing dresses in the late 19th century and early 20th century wore them with long hair and in America, ringlet curls. Long hair for boys declined significantly in the 1910s. Many younger boys might have hair styles covering their ears, but shoulder length styles became much less common--incliding ringlets in America.

Individual Dresses

HBC believes that the American boy on this page was photographed in the 1910s. He looks to be about 4 years old. He wears a simple white dress with some colored piping around the neck and front tab. Note that there is no collar, but piping simulates one. The dress has elbow-length sleeves, this is an inovation that HBC beloeves first appeared in the 1910s, but did not become widespread until the 1920s. The shortened sleeves suggest and light material suggest summer wear. This merns that the long stockinfs are being worn for dressy, formal wear and not for warmth.

Catalogs and Advertisements

We still notice some dresses for boys being offered in clothing catalogs, although the listings were not as common as the 1900s. A good examole are a range of summer dresses offered for boys and Girls in the American Best & Co 1918 catalog. This catalog is interesting because the ad copy for the various dresses included some comments as to what styles were more suitable cor boys.

Boys' Attitudes

HBC has no information at this time as to what boys thought about wearing dresses. As the age of the boys involved was declining, the number of such boys who rememberede their early years is probably very limited.

Reasons for Changing Attitudes

A major fashion change in the custom of outfitting boys in dresses clearly occurred during the 1910s. HBC can not at this time fully explain why this change took place. Some major event ot attitudinal change must have occurred to cause a custom that had persisted for centuries to disappear to quickly. It is true that the custom was notably waining in the 1900s, but was still widespread. HBC has noted several possible factors. We are not sure just how important these factors are or precisely how they affected popular attitudes. Of course there may well be nosingle factor, but instead a combination of factors.

World War I (1914-18)

Major fashion changes occurred during the 1910s, although often they were not fully accepted until after the War in the 1920s. HBC does not fully understand the reason for these changes. Ceratinly he War weakened the authority of the old social order, allowing new fashions and modes of thought. The austerity of the War certainly meant the death of over embelished fashions and this continued even after the War. The War also brought in an era of practicality and comfort that had been lacking in manu fashions before the War. One wonders if the tremendous losses of the War didn't affect how parents looked on their children, but HBC can not yet sort out if this is true and if so how it affected fashion trends.

Fauntleroy craze

The Fauntleroy craze of the 1880s ushered in an era of very elaborate clothing for boys. Interestingly, boys fashions for much of the 19th century was for very plain clothes. HBC believes that many fathers who remembered the Fauntleroy suits that they had to wear in the 1880s-early 1900s may have insisted for more plain, boyish outfits for their sons. This nay have been an especially important factor in America where the Fauntleroy craze was most pronounced.

Child care

Many writers theorize that dresses were so commonly worn by boys in the 19th century was that before a child was toilet trained that it was easier to care for them if they wore dresses instead of trousers. This may have been one factor, but not the only one as many boys were kept in dresses far beyond toilet training. But if may have been aone reason and the development of rubberized pants somewhat simplified toilet training, so this could partially expalin the decline of boys wearing dresses during the 1910s.

Other factors

HBC believes that other factors are involved here and that this sunject needs to be pursued in more detail.


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Created: December 1, 2000
Last updated: 8:02 PM 1/10/2008