*** boys garments : Ireland

Boys' Garments: Ireland

popular Irish styles 1920s
Figure 1.--Here we see a group of Dublin children in 1924 showing how popular styles at the time. It was apparently 'Children's Day. A note on the backs says, "Party given by gentlemen to children, Dublin" Source: Irish National Photographic Archive.

HBC at this time has only limited information on the garments worn by Irish boys. Yonger boys commonly wre dresses, but even some older boys also wore them in rural areas. Kilts have been reported in Ireland, but in modern times they do not appear to have been very common. The caps, suits, shirts, pants, and hosiery worn in Ireland appears to have been very similar to English fashions. Ireland has only a small population and as part of the United Kingdom, the Irish Republic was created in the 1920s, it is understandable that English fashions would have been so influential. Even after independence, people in Ireland and England maintained close ties. Many Irish immigrated to or worked in England.


We do not know much about Irish headwear. We do not see many Irish children with heaswear, although this may redlect our lkimited archive. The endemic poverty oif Ireland may be a factor. Mist chilkdren did nit hace nuch of a wardrobe. Headwear wiukd seem to be an optional garment even though headwear was much more common in the 19th abd early 20th century than is the case today. Most children would not have special headwer. Ireland was the poorest area of the the United Kingdom, poorer than Scotland and Wales. HBC knows of no difference between the caps worn by English and Irish boys. There was a difference in what Irish families could afford to pay for clothing. If they had school caps, that is what they probably wore for everyday wear. Middle and upper-class children of course were better dressed, probaly the same styles as worn in England. Peaked sSchool caps were virtually universal in England, Scotland, and Wales. They do not seem nearly as common in Ireland, but we vdo not have a large Irish archive so we are not entirely sure. We are not entirely sure just how common headwear in general was in ireland. This oncludes both the boys and girls. We are not bsure why this was. The endemic ppverty may have been a factor. We note ore group of boys on the Aran Islans wearing tams with poms along jackets and flannel dresses looking almost like kilts. The flannel dresses were widely worn, but we see few examples of the tams. There may be some similarity with isolated areas of Scotland.

Skirted Garments

We note Irish boys wearing a wide range of skirted garments. Younger Irish boys were commonly outfitted in dresses and some even wore dresses until they were 12 or 13 years old. This practice was most common in rural areas, but it was not unknown in towns. Folk lore warned mothers to hide their boys from the "faries," so they were dressed as girls, usually in long flannel dresses. I have little information on these flannel dresses. Much of the nformation described below is derived solely from an examination of the available photographic images. Please let me know if you have any additional information or note anything in the photographs. HBC has no information about smocks in Ireland. HBC has little information about pinafores in Ireland. We believe that as in England they were very commonly worn by girls before World War I. We have less information about boys. We believe that some younger boys also wore them in the 19th century as shown by the image here (figure 1). The purpose was of course to protective clothing which was more expensive in rlative terms than is the case ofmodern clothing. HBC has little real historical information on Irish kilts, as oposed to Scottish kilts which appears to have been much, more extensively covered in the historical literature. I plan to pursue historical information, but if visitors to this site have some historical information, I would greatly appreciate any insights you could share. One source suggests considerable similarity between the kilts worn by the Galeic people of Ireland and Scotland until the 16th century. The kilts worn by Irish pipers and dancers appear to have little relationship to the actual kilts worn by the Gaelic people of Ireland. The current Irish kilt appears to be a copy of the short kilt fashioned by an Englishman in the 18th century and embraced by a generation of romantic poets and authors and even Queen Victoria herself. Unlike Scotland there appears to have been no real revival of kilt wearing in Ireland beyond ceremonial occasiins or ethnic events. The British Army did adopt a kilt uniform for some Irish units.

Juvenile Outfits

Boys for centuries, even yonger boys, afer breeching basically wore the same clothes as their fathers. At the turn of the 19th century a sea chanhe children's fashions began with dedicated styles for children apparing. This began with boys and the fitrst such garment was the skeleton suit. As the century unfolded, not only did children's fashion appear, but styles for both youngerr and oldren children appear. Ireland is a small country. This meant that the photographic was realtively small. And further limited because Ireland was so poor--in large part because it was giverned as a colony rather than aconstituent part of the Unired Kingdom. We do see some fashionable children's clothing, but not very much. And wghat we do see we believe is mostly among the Anglo-Irish Protestant Accendency. Lityle of this filtered down to the great bulk of the Irish population which was largely rural and poor because they could not afford both fashionable clothing and photographic portraits. As a result, our archive to follow this was is also very limited, especilly in the 19th century.

Older Boy Suits

The first dedicated boy's suit was the skeleton suit as was the case throughout Europe. Modern suit styles began to take shape in the mid-19th century. There were a variety of juvenile suits, but suit jackets for school age boys were similar to adult men, especially after the first few years of primary school. The suit pants, however could be quite different. Irish boys' suit styles in general, as far as we can tell, closely followed English fashions. Of course until after World War I, Ireland was a constient part f Great Brtaine. It was located just across the Irish Sea and the ecomomy was fully integrated, as a result clthing styles as in Scotland and Wales would have been similar. The only basic difference is that Ireland was not as affluentas England. We do yet have a very sustantial Irish archive, but what we have archived so far suggests that this was the case. And even after sepration from Britain, Irish, and English styles have continued to be essetially the same.


Shirts and Collars

Eton Collars

Eton collars were very commonly worn in Ireland. The fashion is nearly identical to that in England as English fashions were adopted in Ireland as until the 1920s the entire island was part of the United Kingdom. We are unsure when Eton collars began to be worn in Ireland, but suspect that it was about the sane time as England. We have few actual images at this time, but one 1889 drawing shows that the Eton collar was a part of smart boys' attire in the 1880s. The only signicant difference in Ireland was probably that the poverty there probably prevented many boys from wearing Eton collars and other fashionable clothes.





We habe not yet done any work on Irish footwear, but we do have an Irish barefoot page.


Wheeler, Harold. Ed. Peoples of the World in Pictures (Odhams Press Limited: London, 1936).


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Created: January 25, 2002
Last updated: 11:08 PM 2/14/2020