We see a variery of suits for younger French boys. Here we are mostly talking about pre-school boys and boys in the first few years of primary school. One of the younger boys dress up styles was the blouse suit. A suit is generally seen as a jacket and matching pants. Three piece suits may include a vest. The actual definition is a matching top and bottom. Thus the top is not always a jacket. We see French boys wearing tops that look more like blouses. Another popular style for younger boys were romper suits. We note one-piece romper suits as well as suspender rmopers worn with blouses. Another style was the Fauntleroy suit and oyther fancy outfits like Zouave suits. We might include the sailor suit here, but this was more of a style for school age children. Tunic suits werte also popular, but this was also a skirted garments. We do not yet have a good assessment of these younger boys' outfits. While we have a substantial French photographic archive, it is mostly 20th century images. The number of 19th century images is still rather limited.
One of the younger boys dress up styles was the blouse suit. A suit is generally seen as a jacket and matching pants. Three piece suits may include a vest. The actual definition is a matching top and bottom. Thus the top is not always a jacket. We see French boys wearing tops that look more like blouses. Te Cherbourg boy here is a good example (figure 1).
Fauntleroy suits were popular in France, although I have not commonly seen the term used to discuss fancy suits made out of velvet and other luxurious materials. Fancy French suits for boys were in fact the inspiration for the famous garment for the litterary hero, Little Lord Fauntleroy. The authoress, Frances Hodgson Burnett, lived in France for a short period with her two young sons before writing the book. The large bows that American boys wore with their suits, however, were not nearly as popular in France. Also it was much less common for French boys to wear their long hair in ringlet curls.
Rompers or "barboteuse" were a popular style in France. France appears to be one of the countries in which rompers were especially popular. HBC still does not yet know, however, just where rompers originated. I do not yet have enough information to develop a time line for French rompers. They appear to have appeared about the turn of the 20th century, but became more common in the 1920s after World War I (1914-18). They were primarily a play suit, but dressy versions also appeared. They were mostly worn by pre-school age boys to about 6 years, althogh boys as old as about 7 might alsdo have worn them for formal dress occasions. They were still being worn by pre-school boys in the 1950s, although by younger boys to about age 3 years. By about the 1960s, however, they became increasingly less common, except for infants and toddlers. Rompers were initially a boys garments, but today both boy and girl infants wear them.
We might include the sailor suit here, but this was more of a style for school age children.
France is one of several countries where sailor suits were quickly adapted for boys wear after first appearing in England. Sailor suits influenced by the English became very popular for French boys by the late-19th century. This was interesting because it was a style begun by royalty, albeit to appeal to the wider public. France until World War I was along with America a rare republic. As un other countries, it becmae popular with the middle class. The popularity of the sailor suit was a Europan-wide development not to mention the United States. We see sailor suits done in many different styles. Some clothing styles have national associations. The sailor suit soon became an international style, but was probably worn more in France and Germany than any other country. As in most countries, the classic English sailor suit was influenced by the uniforms of the national navy. Also in France, designers experimented more with styling inovations than in other countries. In most cases, hoever, it was the classic styling that persisted over time. A popular style was to wear middy blouses with knickers, both above and below the knee styles, with short ankle socks. By the 1920s they were being worn by younger boys, mostly with short and long pants. Sailor suits continued to be popular during the 1930s. French boys wore many kinds of straw hats with their sailor suits, including the wide-brimmed style with streaming ribbons. They also wore them with the soft white caps with red pompoms like the caps worn by French sailors. Sailor suits continued to be popular in the 1930s when they were made in sizes to 12 years in both short pants and long pants styles. This meant French boys through about 13 wore sailor suits. Several different styles were worn. We see far fewer sailor suits and younger boys wearing them after World War II. although we see sone boys wearing them for special occassiins suchn as First Commumion.
Tunic suits werte also popular, but this was also a skirted garments. We notice French boys wearing tunics in the early 19th century, but have only limited information at this time on these tunics. We do not know much about the styles are how prevalent they were. As these tunics were worn before the invention of photography, there is no photographic record. We have many more images of French boys wearing tunics in the early 20th century. This does appear to have been a popular style and widely worn. For these tunics there is a rich photographic record of these tunics.
One might expect that Zouave outfits would have been most popular in France. After all it was a French military style which appeared from France's North African colonies. We have, however not yet found a lot of French Zouave images. Our archive of French images, however, is not large enough to substantiate this, especially 19th century images. We have found one 19th century CDV portrait from a noted abbey town of an uidentified French boy wearing a Zouave outfit with turban-looking headwear. It looks to date from the 1860s. This tells us that French boys did wear these outfits, but not how prevalent they were. We just do not have enough images to make any asessment at this time. The small number of images we have found might just reflect our small French archive. We do note commercial post cards from the early-20th century showing French boys wearing Zouave uniforms. These commercial cards unlike the 19th century studio portrait are not, however, a good indicator of actual usage. A reader writes, "I thought the Zouave outfit was very interesting. I almost want to say the boy was dressed for a costume party which was very popular with the upper class. I notice that the pants have a front fly which I doubt more authentic outfits would. The spats and putties over the spats are interesting because I suspect a mother or some other adult helped him into the costume." These fancy outfits were worn as costumes by the upper class, but we also notice them as being worn as a boys dressed up suit. This was most commonly the case for younger boys. We are not sure about the conventions here.
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