French Boys Clothes during the 1850s: Pierre Lot (1850-1924)

French mariner and novelist, Pierre Lot, recalls some details of his childhood, including pinafores and curls. Lot went on to lead a rather colorful naval career. He drew upon his travels for his writing. One of his books inspired Puccini's Madame Butterfly.


I do not have extensive information on Pierre's childhood. Some information, however, is available on the clothes he wore as a boy.


Loti wore pinafores as a boy, both over his little boy dresses and the short pants he wore as a somewhat older boy. Lot writes about himself and a boy friend who has come over to visit:

In the month of March, as the shadows of twilight gathered, two little children were seated very close together upon a low footstool--two little ones, between the ages of five and six, dressed in short trousers with white pinafores over them, as was the fashion of the time.

Loti in another passage he describes his play with the little girl who lived next door--across the garden wall. She is six and Pierre is seven. They are pretending that they insects about to metamorphosis in butterfly:

Do you think that you will soon be able to fly? Oh yes! I'll be flying very soon; I feel them growing in my shoulders now ...they'll soon unfold. Finally, we would wake up, stretch ourselves, and without saying anything, we conveyed by our manner our astonishment at the great transformation in our condition ...Then suddenly we begin to run lightly and nimbly in our tiny shoes; in our hands we held the corners of our pinafores which we waved as if they were wings.


Pierre also wore curls as a boy. Aside from following remembrance, he mentions later in the book that as a boy most of his playmates were little girls who "... only engaged in gentle play and with my curled hair I looked like a little aristocrat".

A scene takes place a little later when he is visiting the country accompanied by his much older sister. He innocently falls in love with a little country girl. His sister describes her brother's crush:

Veronica was the most attentive of all the country children. She was about his own age, maybe a little younger, six or seven years of age. Little Veronica used to run and seat herself upon our doorstep as soon as she was up; and there she remained like a faithful loyal spaniel. As soon as Pierre woke he thought of her being there, and he would immediately get out of bed, have himself quickly washed, and stand quietly to have his blond curls combed out, and then run and find his little friend.

Naval Officer

Loti is one of the excellent French novelist (1850-1923) that were strongly influenced by his own journeys all over the world. Lotti was a French Navy officer, notably in Turkey, Egypt, Senegal and Far East.

Literary Works

Loti's experiences in the Far East inspired perhaps his best known work. It helped inspire his famous Mrs Chrysanthemum which in turn was the inspiration for Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

His writings are often imaginative, even if his descriptions of North African countries display a total misappretiation or misunderstanding of the Arab world and culture. So his Egypt is certainly not a "treasure" but definitely not "trash", and can be compared to the nice, contemporaneous "Peinture Orientalisante".


All those mesmerized by North Africa should visit the Lot Museum in Rochefort-sur-mer (western France). It is situated in a fantastic oriental house inspired by Turkish/Syrian architecture of the 19th century, including a real Damascene mosque.

Built in the 19th century, Pierre Lot's house is certainly the most original and exotic place you can visit in Rochefort. Lot was a naval officer and writer. From each of his many travels around the world he brought back lots of mementoes which he gradually used to transform his house into a very personal puzzle: one room became a Turkish lounge, another a Gothic room and one even became a mosque.


Pierre Lot, The Story of a Child, 1902.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: May 8, 1999
Spell checked: August 2, 1999
Last updated: August 2, 1999