English Boys: Blouses--Chronology


Figure 1.--Here two English brothes in a postcard-back portrait wear Fauntleroy blouses. The portraot was probably taken about 1910. They are not as fabcy as 19th century blouses. The collars are large unrulled collars done in the Eton shape with lacy starrwork aed. Mother has added white nows. Notice how they blouse at the waist.

We noted significant changes in blouses over time. Our information on English blouses is still quite limited because of our small 19th centuty archive. We do, however, have some information. We have very little infotmation on blouses in the ealy-19th century. This appears to be when the Eton collar appeared, the most English of all collar styles. We begin to learn more with the advent of the CDV and the exponential increase in available images (1860s). Eton collars seem popular throughout the 19th century and into the eatly-20th century. We see a range of styles in the mid-19th century. But they seem generally small and often hidden by the clothes. The size of collars grew (1870s) and reached large sizes (1880s). This continued until the turn-of-the 20th century. We have a much larger archive of 20th century images. The large fancy Fauntleroy collars began to decline in popularity during the 1910s, especially during World War I (1914-18). Soft collars generally replaced detachable collars, including Eton collars (1920s). As in America, by this time boys began to increasingly wearing shirts rather than blouses. American boys complained about weating blouses.We suspect a similar dynamic was at play in England. We still see some younger boys wearing blouses when dressing up, but most modern boys wear shirts.

The 18th Century

We do not know a graest deal about 18th century blouses. They apparently were worn by peasants, both men and women and their children as well as working men. This connection with peasants would emerge at the turn of the 20th century when Russian blouses became an imporyant style for boys. the 18th century blouse was a loose designed garment and gathered at the waist by a waistband or some kind of belt. It was not a garment particulaly associated with women's wear as it is today. In fact it was seen as such an unfassionable garment for women of any status did not wear them. We are not sure about children, but the common practive in the 18th century as for earlier centuries was or children to wear scaled down versins of their parents clothing.

The 19th Century

We noted significant changes in blouses in the 19th century. We believe that the 18th centrury trens concerning the blouse persisted into the early-19th century. The blouse continued to be worn by workimg men, peasants, and lower-class women, After the Napoleonic Wars we see aristic men beginning to wear fancy blouses. Artistic women at the time were less common and as as far as we know did not wear blouses. Lord Byron was especailly famous for his fancy blouses worn with open necks. We do not know much about early-19th cetury bouses. Without photography fashion trends are difficult to follow. The English phtographic record is sparse at mid-century, much smaller than the case in America. This is unfortnate as weotice a lot of boys wearing shirts or blouses (1840s-50s). Suddenly photographic image become available in large numbers (1860s). The increase was exponential. We note small collars just barely peeping out from suit jackets in most studio portaits. The cut-away jacket might have exposed more of the shirt-like garment excepthey were connony worn with vests (1860s-70s). Thus it is often not clear just what the boys are wearing under their jackets. And almost all studio portaits showed boys wearing suit jackers. We see a range of collar styles, basically all we can sse of the blouse or shirt. in the mid-19th century. But they seem generally small and often hidden by the clothes. Men of any staus did not waer blouses. The most famous blouse of the 1860s was the Italian Garibaldi blouse, a style adopted from the Italian peasntry. We see somewhat larger collars (1870s) As detachable Eton collars became popular this was commonly a shirt-waist, not a blouse. The Eton collar was the most English of all collar styles. We see some younger boys weating fancy blouses (1870s). This appears to have been a fashion trend begun in France. Major changes occured with the elaborate Fauntleroy blouses (1880s). We begin to see another major develoment with the ladies. Throughout most of the 19th century, women saw the blouse as unfashionable. Many women might not even have a blouse in their wardrobe. It was seen as a garment for working people and very informal. This also changed at the end of the decade. The blouse began to emrge as part of the normal working women’s wear as middle-class women began to enter the work force. The basic dress code for women employed in an office was a plain skirt with a simple blouse. This was captured by the Gibson Girl in America, but the same trnd was work in England.

The 20th Century

We have a much larger archive of 20th century images so we can follow fashion trends in much greater detail. We see boys, including school age boys commonly wearing blouses in the early-20th century. Trends in the 1890s continued in the 1900s. Younger boys might still wear fancy or large collared blouses (1900s). The portait here is a good example of the fancy blouses still worn (figure 1). Older boys wore plainer blouses. Eton collars continued to be common. One major change ealy on was the apearance of the Russian blouse a plain, paractical style for boys. The large fancy Fauntleroy collars began to decline in popularity during the 1910s, especially during World War I (1914-18). The war was a factor in the emrgence of more informal, practical clothing, especially for children. Soft, attached collars began replacing detachable collars, including Eton collars (1920s). Schoolwear was blouses for girls and shirts for boys. And we see blouses without collars. Part of the increasing trend toward informal dress. As in America, boys began to increasingly wearing shirts rather than blouses (1930s). We still see some yonger boys wearing blouses. But mostly it was girls and women wearing blouses. American boys began complaining about wearing blouses, seeing them as type of girl's shirt. We suspect a similar dynamic was at play in England. We still see some younger boys wearing blouses when dressing up at mid-century. There were also social class factors involved. Which is why blouses gradually decline in the phoographic record. Most English boys wore shirts and increasingly casual shirtss (late-20th century). The major exception was younger boys participating in formal occassions like weddings.







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Created: 5:01 AM 11/13/2014
Last updated: 8:11 AM 5/10/2019