Pinafores: Country Trends


Figure 1.--French nursery wear for little boys at the turn of the century included pinafores, although smocks were more common. This 1906 French painting shows Jean Dauberville as he might have been dressed in the nursery with a long-sleeved colored dress and a white pinafore with elaborate ruffles. I think that pinafores for boys may have been less common in England--especially outside the nursery.

The custom of dressing boys in pinafores was most common on the continent, much more common than in England or America. The authors believe that French boys in particular wore pinafores and smocks with dresses. Some younger boys in England, however, also are known to have been dressed in pinafores. It appears, however, that pinnies were reserved only for the boys still in dresses or wearing smocks. I do not yet have adequate information to properly assess the pinafores worn by children in different countries. It is, however, a topic I do want to assess. Some limited personal accounts are available frpm several different countries. The pinafore was commonly worn to school in several countries.

Australia

Pinafores were worn in Australia, much like the pattern in England. HBC has few details, but clothing catalogs at the turn of the 19th century mentioned both childrens and girls pinafores. This suggests, of course, that younger boys and girls both wore pinafores and because they were identical they were sold as children's pinafores. The available advetisment from Lasseters unfortunately lists prices, but not ages and sizes.

Canada

We do not yet have many images of Canadian boys wearing pinafores. We suspect that trends were very sinilar to Amerucan and English trends for both boys and girls. A good example is 2-year old Canadian boy, Francis Allan about 1900.

England

Some younger boys in England, however, also are known to have been dressed in pinafores. It appears, however, that pinnies were reserved only for the boys still in dresses or wearing smocks. Water colorist Helen Allingham outfitted her son in dresses and pinafores during the 1880s. We believe that this was realtively common, especially for affluent families, until the turn of the 20th century. Iy is not we documented in the photgraphic record, in part, because the children were normally dressed up for their portraits. There are, however, a few such images.

France

Fench children are more associated with smocks than pinafores. We do know, however, that pinafores were worn by French children, although our information at this time is relatively limited. We know that French boys commonly wore smocks. Less information is available about pinafores. We have, at this time, only a few clues. Naval officer and novelist, Pierre Loti, recalls playing in short pants and pinafores as a boy in the 1850s. He and a little friend used to pretend being butterflies and would prance about holding their pinnies. Of course we have only the English translation. We are not sure what term was used in the origibal French. The garment involved could have been more of a smock. A half century later, French boys were still wearing pinafores. There ia a French images on the main pinafire page showing children playing by the seaside wearing pinafores, probably about 1910. Another shows Jean Dauberville wore pinafores as a small boy in the 1900s (figure 1). We no longer see French boys wearing pinafores after World War I, but suspect that some younger boys may have worn them in the 1920s. A French reader writes, "We can see some rare photo with little boyswearing pinafore in Alsace during the 1940s. This fashion came from Germany." HBC has not noted this, but has noted a kind of utilitarian play garment which may have been the style here. Our French reader tells us, "Pinafores in France were basically a girl's garment, very in fashion during 1936-70. No boy except very young todlers would have worn a pinafore. Younger boys during the summer might wear a romper style garment, the barboteuse bain de soleil until about 6 years." Interestingly we note French speaking Swiss boys wearing pinafore-style smocks to school into the 1960s.

Germany

We have no information at this time about German boys wearing traditionally styled pinafores. We think that they probably were worn, but can not yet substantiate it. After the turn of the centuty, however, we do seem numerous examples of German boys wearing pinafore-type pinafore smocks. After World War I they were worn only by pre-school boys.

Ireland

Irish boys like English boys in the late 19th centuru wore pinafores (figure 2). This was especially the case for boys from affluent families. We believe that the conventions were similar in both England and Ireland. We note one photograph of an affluent Irish family with the youngest boy wearing a pinafore.

Italy

No information available yet.

Scotland

We note Scottish girls and younger boys wearing pinafores in the 19th and early-20th century. Our initial assessment is that the styles and conventions were very similar to those prevalent in England, although our archive is very limnited at this time. This was a style that cut across class lines. We see boys and girls in working-class, middle-class, and upper-class families wearing pinafores. This was a style for pre-scgool boys, but girls of all ages wore them. Mot of the ones we note are white. Styles could vary. We see both very plain ones and fancy ones which might be worn with party dresses by younger girls. We botice boys wearing pinafores noth with dresses and pants, ratherclike smocks. The pinafore in Scotland rapidly declined in poularity after World War I. This was the general pattern throughout Europe although we still see some girls oin the continent wearing pinafores into the 1950s.

Soviet Union

One major use of the pinafore was in Soviet schools. Elementary age Soviet girls would often attend school in an elaborately frilled and starched pinafore over a blue dress. Often this was topped with a large white hair bow. This appears to have been a uniform requirement. I am not sure when this fashion began, but believe it was common from the 1950s through to the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Sweden

We do not have any information on the 19h century at this time. We assume girls commonly wore pinafores in the lsate 9th century. We are not sure about boys. We note yonger boys in the early 20th century wearing pinafores for play to protect their clothes, We are not sure how common this was, but the photographic record shows that they were worn. The image hre is undated, but we would guess was taken in the 1920s (figure 1). We do not know if there were any specific Swedish garments or styles. The styles we have seen look rather like the play pinafores we have noted in Germany.

Switzerland

Some schools in majority French-speaking villages requited children to wear smocks. One of the options was an inexpensive pinafore-smock. Some boys and girls wore a very simple style of smock. They varied in construction, but were basically sleevless covers back and from with simple ties. They were inexpensive garments, but not commonly set as a school uniform. They were more commonly chosen by individual parents. It appears to have been a post-World War II style that was popular until the 1970s for younger children.

United States

We have no personal accounts qbout boys wearing pinafores yet. Available photographic images show that some boys did wear them in the late 19th century. I'm less sure about the early 19th century. We do not believe it was very common after the tirn of the 20th century. We believe that this would primarily be boys from wealthy northeastern families. Presumably this would have been a garment worn at home to prevent their clothes from getting soiled. Most children were dressed up for photographic portraits. As a result ythe proportion of boys photographed in pinafores is not a good indicator of the number that avtually wore pinafores. It is not entirely clear to us why a mother would have had her son photographed in a pinafore rather than his best clothes. We note boys wearing pinafores both before and after breeching, but believe it was more common before breeching. We are not sure if there were differences between the pinafores worn by boys and girls.








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Created: 2:11 PM 7/21/2004
Last updated: 3:38 AM 3/28/2012