HBC notes younger Belgian boys wearing rompers in the 1920s, although we have not yet developed a complete time-line for these garments. They were a very popular fashion for boys through the 1950s, but began to be seen as somewhat old fashioned. They were initially a garment for play and an enormous change from the more restrictive, formals garments in which boys were once dressed. More dressy, formal rompers appeared, but like the play garments were comfortable non-restrictive garments. We believe that rompers in Belgium were primarily adopted from the French fashion. We know of no important difference between French and Belgian rompers. As in France, we assumed rompers were called "barboteuse" in Belgium. Theywere made in several different styles. A variety of materials were used. There may have been differences in the popularity of rompers between French speaking Walonia and Dutch speaking Flanders.
HBC has less chronological information on Belgian rompers than we have on French rompers. notes younger Belgian boys wearing rompers in the 1920s, although we have not yet developed a complete time-line for these garments. We see some of the same styles of rompers worn in France during the 1950s also being worn in France. The image seen here is believed to have been taken in the 1950s. They were a very popular fashion for boys through the early 1950s, but declined after the mid-50s when they were increasingly seen as old fashioned. While boys' fashions in Belgium are often almost identical to French styles, sometimes there are notable differences in the time line during which these fashions were popular.
Rompers in Belgium as in France were initially a garment for play and an enormous change from the more restrictive, formals garments in which boys were once dressed. More dressy, formal rompers appeared, but like the play garments were comfortable non-restrictive garments. The dressy rompers might be done in more luxurios fabrics like velvet. Or they might hasve more elaborate detailing like smocking. These dressy versions, however, were not nearly as common as the play versions. One observeable trend here is the type of outfits that were acceptable for boys, especilly younger boys for formal occassions. It became increasingly common during the inter-War era and especially asfter workd War II not to dress younger boys up in fussy outfits for formall occasions. Thus a new romper suit might be worn as a dressy or smart casual garment for parties or other special event. Boys might wear a romper duit or bib-front rompers with a nice blouse for formal occassions where as earlier they woukld hve been more formally dressed.
We believe that rompers in Belgium were primarily adopted from the French fashion. We know noted important difference between French and Belgian rompers. Fashion trends and wearing conventions appear to have followed French trends, although there may be more differences in Dutch speaking Flanders. This is something we are not yet sure about. This tendency appaers to be continuing. A Frtench reader reports, "I saw a picture in a Belgian magazine in February 2002 in which there was a boy wearing a romper outfit exactly like a French one."
As in France, we assumed rompers were called "barboteuse" in Belgium. I'm not sure what they were called in Dutch-speaking Flanders. Presumably they used the Dutch term, "speelpakjebut", we are not yet positive about this.
As in France, the romper in Belgium was for many years exclusively a boys garment. All the photographs we gave found show boys wearing them. There might have been more flexibility for beachwear. But so far we have only found boys wearing them, even at the beach. Our Belgian rchive is limited, but we have only found boys wearing rompers in the photographic record. As far as we can tell, the gender conventions were precisely the same in Belgium and France. We are not sure if there was any differences between the Flemiosh and Waloon population. This only changed about the 1980s when rompers became a garment exclusively for infants and younger todlers. Then we see girls also wearing them. .
The ages at which Belgian boys wore rompers followed the same basic pattern as in France, although we do not know if there were differents among tghe more Dutch orinted Flemnish and the French-oriented Waloons. Rompers were commonly worn by boys from about 2-6 years old, primarily pre-school boys. Our assessment is preliminary at this time, primarily becuse we have rlatively few Belgian photographic images. Unlike France we do not have cata;og/,ail order information for Belgium. We are working eclisively with photographic material. Hopefully we cn construct a more definitive age asessment at our Belgian section expands. We have seen a few boys wearing rompers in first grade at 6 years of age. Some boys might continue to wear rompers after school for a year or so or for dress occasions, but we do not believe that boys commonly wore rompers after age 7. This began to change after the the 1950s when rompers became more commonly worn by even younger boys. By the 1980s, they had become a garment excluselvely for infants.
The rompers worn by Belgian boys were made in several different styles. The different styles common in France were also worn in Belgium. We do not know of any destinctive Belgian styles. We are not yet sure about the relative popularity of the different styles. The primary styles were one piece romper suits and suspender romper pants. The one-piece romper suits had top that were very similar to mock tops.
The suspender romper pants worn with fancy blouses for formal wear or various shirts for casual wear.
We have noted photographs of both the one-piece suits and suspender rompers. Belgian boys may have wore other styles of rompers, but we do not yet have actual information to confirm this.
A variety of materials were used. Wollen knit rompers were very popular, especially on cold days. Corduroy was amother popular fabric for cold weather.
There may have been differences in the popularity of rompers between French speaking Walonia and Dutch speaking Flanders. Boys wore rompers in both the Netherlands and Germany, but they were never as popular there as in France. HBC assumed that rompers were more popular in french-speaking Walonia than in Flanders. One report suggests that this was not the case. French reader reports, "There were differences between Walonia and Flanders. My parents bought many rompers in Flanders. They had the same style as French rompers. Rompers were also very common in Flanders, just as common as in Walonia." HBC has noted rompers in the Belgian Dutch-langauage woman's magazine Vrouw en Huis. This suggests that Flemish boys also wore them, although there appear to have been some stylitic differences. The rompers we noted were for beachwear.
Some differences with rompers were a seasonal factor. This also caused differences between Belgium and Framve, at least sunny southern France. The weather in Belgium and northern France can be notably different than southern France where the weather tends to be sunny throughout the year. A French reader growing up in sunny Niece reports during the late 1940s that he usually wore rompers or sunsuits throughout the year. During the colder months, mothers might chose corduroy rompers or wood knits. Often mothers knitted these woolen rompers themselves. Although made for autumn and winter wear, they still commonly had the short leg style. Due to the climate, these cold-weather romers were somewhat more common in Belgium than in France.
A reader writes, "I was brought up in Belgium just after World War II. Boys wore rompers at that time, but it was considered very old fashioned. I had to wear the ones of my older brothers and hated them.
My friends told me I looked like a girl. I think I stopped wearing them at about 4 or 5 years of age. From then on I could look down on the other boys who still had to wear them. As far as I remember by 1955 they were gone. Untill about 1956 occasionally we had to wear knitted swimming trunks. We learned very quickly that if you stretched them to the limit they were discarded." [Deurinck]
Deurinck. Alex. eMail message, December 9, 2007.
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