French Boys Clothes: Cold Weather Garments

Figure 1.--This photo shows Jeanne Moreau walking a boy on sidewalk to school in 1953. Perhaps it is her son Jérôme. Notice the folio type book case. The boy wears a rather formal overcoat. This probably reflects the gact he comes from a alty family. Moreau was an imprtant actress, singer, screenwriter and director. She was the recipient of a César Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress and a Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award for individual performances, and several lifetime awards. She also enjoyed success as a vocalist. She has released several albums and once performed with Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall. In addition to acting, Moreau has also worked behind the camera, as a writer, director and producer. .

We note a range of warm weather garments worn by French boys in the colder months. France has a varied climate. Warm weather clothing in less needed in the the south along the Mediterranaea, but it can get quite cold in the nortdurung the winter, especailly in th Vouges Montains of the northeast. It does not get as cold in France as in Gemany and the countries to the est, but it can be cold in some areas during the winter and thus warm clothing is needed. We see boys wearin coats, swaters, knits, leggings and long stockings. ome of the garments had dual uses such as knits which were also worn during warmer weather. Long stickings might be worn for formality rather than warmth. Thse garments were of course worn in other countries, although French styles and conventions can vary somewhat.


HBC has just begun to collect information on French coats. At this point we just have some scattered observations.We note that some coats in the mid-9th century were called palentotes. We are unsure, however, just what a palentote was. We notice that French boys are also pictured goung to school in capes rather than coats. We blieve that this was primarily a style at private schools. Beginning about the 1940s we begin to note classic double-breasted coats for little boys, referred to in French as "manteau baby". They coats were also very popular in America and England.


We notice many French bous wearing knit garments in the 20th century. They were especially popular in the winter, but not exclusively worn then. In fact we note a lot of stylish garments that were not warm weather wear. Knit garments seem to have been especially popular in the inter-war era and the post-war era. French knit garments seem much more fashionable than those we have noted in other countries. We note knir patterns in several Frebch sewing magazines as well as speciallized knitting magazines. Younger boys might have, for example, a wool knit romper suit for winter wear. Knit garments were also worn during the summer as casual garments. There were even knit bathing suits, but boys did not like them. One French reader, Jacques, tells us about his wool knit bathing suit. We have, however, lttle information on the French knitwear industry. French boys in the 1950s might wear knit wool cardigans and other tops and short pants.


French boys commonly wore sweaters, especially in the north and during the winter. Many were hand knitted by mothers and grandmothers, but this became less common after the 1960s. French boys during the 1920s began wearing sweaters, which tended to to be made longer than now, over their pants--usuallly short pants. We have observed this same convention in other countries--including Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. We do not know why this convention developed. Later the sweaters became shorter and were cut at the waist and often tucked inside the pants.

Long Stockings


Leggings were best known in France as a military garment. The French Army was still wearing them in the 1970s. We have little historical information about French children wearing leggings, but we assume that they began to become popular in the 19th century when boys began to wear kneeoants. We have some information beginning at the turn of the 20th century. French children wore leggings made out of a white material, I think canvas. There were also knited leggings. They were never made in leather. They appear to have been quite common at the turn of the 20 century, at least for children from wealthy families. After World War I, dresses and pants became much shorter. Children wearing them during the Winter would experience very cold legs, especially as few children worn long stockings in France--unlike Germany. An American sociologist, after having lived in Provence for one year was surprised to see kids with frozen uncovered legs while their faces were hidden by scarves. Leggings were thus useful for French children in covering the leg without having to wear long stockings. Leggings by the 1930s, however, no longer commonly were commonly worn in France. One source tells us that, unlike America, leggings were never worn by girls in France, but we note quite a few images of French girls wearing leggings.


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Created: 8:05 AM 12/18/2014
Last updated: 8:05 AM 12/18/2014