** French skirted garments

French Skirted Garments

French tunics
Figure 1.--This unidebntified French boy has a CDV portrait made, probably in the 1870s. We know he is French because the studio (A. Trantoul) is stamped on the back. We believe he is wearing a dress, but it looks somewhat like a tunic. He wears it with rather long, wide, and plain pantalettes. Notice the peaked military cap on the chair.

French boys like boys all over Europe wore a variety of skirted garments. The styles and conventions varies among countries, but the basic harments were the same. The most common was the dresses that younger boys wore throug the 19th century. This becamne less common in the lare-19th and early 20-th century. The custom virtually disappeared afer World War I. Tunics appeared in the early-19th century were popular throughout the century and the very early 20h century. during the 19th and early-20th century. Unlike dresses, tunics were a skirted garment only worn by French boys. We see a few boys weaing kiklts, but not as commoly as in Britain. Kilts were most common among the wealthy class that liked to adopt foreign styles. Kilt suits were also not very common, as best we can tell--our 19th century French archive is still relatively limited.One skirted garment strongly associated with France is the smock, especiall the school smock. We think younger boys wore pinafores, mostly in the 19th century.


HBC has only just begun to address French dress styles. We believe it was fairly common for younger French boys in the 19th century to wear dresses, especially boys from affluent families. At this time HBC has only a few images and larger numbers of drawings from fashion magazines. The limited written information, however, makes any assessment of French dress styles for boys and conventions for wearing dresses difficult at this time. We are collecting information so we can more thorougly address this topic. The limited information we suggests that it was somewht common for French boys to wear dresses than boys in many European countries. French boys also seemed to have worn dresses to an older age than boys elsewhere in Europe. And we see boys and girls wering some of the smae dress styles. We also note French boyswearing some fancier dresses than we generally note in other countries. HBC has acquired a variety of images, but very little written information to help interpret the images. Our assessments are still largely preliminary as our French archive is still quite limited.


At this time HBC has only limited information on French pantalettes. Thus we can not yet reasonably assess this fashion. We believe they were widely worn in the first half of the 19th Century just as in America and England. In this regard it is likely that French fashion trends concerning pantalettes sugnificantly incluenced America. American fashion magazines did show children wearing pantalettes clearly specifying that they were French styles. The limited information available on France is a serious limitation at any serious assessment of pantalettes. This is a limitation HBC evenntually hopes to rectify. While we have cery limited information at this time, we have noted boys wearing pantalettes in many early 19th century French images.


French boys are not noted for wearing kilts. French fashion magazines, however, show boys wearing kilts in the 1860s. They appear in full Higland refgalia, indestinguishable from the outfits being worn in Scotland. Queen Victoria introduced the style as boys wear when she began dressing her eldest boy, Bertie, in a kilt in the mid-1840s. We are not sure when the style first appeared in France. It appaears to have been fashionable during the mis-1880s, but little seen by the late-1890s. Some outfits were worn by boys loosly styled on the Scottish kilt. Our information, however, is still very limited.


Smocks are probably more associated with France than any other single country. Smocks were worn by French boys during the late 19th and early 20th Century. It was most common for younger boys still in dresses to wear them, but some older boys wearing bloomer like knickers also wore them, sometimes boys as old as 8 or 9 years of age. They were worn as play clothes--often around the house, but less commonly as dress up clothes.


Tunics were commonly worn by French boys in the early-19th century. They tended to be quite plain. They also became popular around the turn of the 20th century. Some were quite fancy garments. They were worn with both knickers and knee pants. Younger boys in the 19th century might wear them with pantalettes. In the early 20th century they were wore with both knee pants and knickers.

Unknown Garments

Most garments are fairly easy to identify. Some 19th century garments are a little more complicated and we have found it sifficukt identify some. By the 20th century it is very unusual to encounter garments that were difficult to identify. We encountered one while working on a group of snapshots of children playing in a French park, we believe in the 1950. We have found one image of a boy who looks to be wearing a skieted garment, most likely a smock. smock. Bur thus boy's garment does not have long sleeves, at least long sleeves in the same material as the rest of the garment. Perhaps our French readers will have some insights here.


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Created: 11:14 PM 7/12/2009
Last updated: 9:59 AM 2/25/2021