** boys' skirted garments chronology United States








American Boy Skirted Garments: Chronology


Figure 1.--Here we see three American brothers from Brookfield, Missouri. The portrait is undated, but looks to have been taken in the 1880s. The boys look to be about 2-8 years old. Notice that the younger boy wears a dress. We are not squite sure what the middle boy is wearing. It could be a belted dress or a skirt and matching blouse. The photographer was R.D. Lenhart.

Younger European boys have worn dresses for several centuries. This convention continued in America with European colonization. The skirted garments worn by Ameeican boys have varied over time. We are not yet sure about the 18th century, but they seem to have been mostly dresses. The 19th century was more varied. We see mostly dresses for younger boys in the first half of the 19th century. Somewhat older boys might wear tunics. We note dresses in the second half of the 19th century, although our archive is somewhat limited because phtographic portraits do not become availave until the 1840s. . We also notice both skirts and kilt outfits, especially kilt suits. We notice more boys wearing these skirt or kilt garmrnts than actual dresses, although dresses were very common very little boys. Some of these outfits are a little difficult to identify as we are often not sure if the boy is wearing a blouse and skirt or a dress with a belted waistline. We note some boys wearing smocks, but this was not very common. At the turn of the 20th century, tunic suits become very popular and other skirted garments for boys rapidly go out of style.

17th Century

Younger European boys have worn dresses for several centuries. This convention continued in America with European colonization. Rhe first Engklish colonies appeared along the Atlantic coast inthe early 17th century, Hamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620). We do not yet hsave much information about how children were dressed in these early colonies, but assumed it was very similar to how children were dressed in England at the time.

18th Century

The skirted garments worn by Ameeican boys have varied over time. We are not yet sure about the 18th century, but they seem to have been mostly dresses. Boys would have worn the same dresses as their sisters until breeching. We are not yet sure at what ages boys were breeched. Nor do we know if differences developed between America and Britain.

19th Century

We know much more about skirted garments during the 19th century, especially by the 1840s because of the development of photography. The skirted garments worn by American boys in the 19th century was more varied. We see mostly dresses for younger boys in the first half of the 19th century. Somewhat older boys might wear tunics. We note dresses in the second half of the 19th century, although our archive is somewhat limited because phtographic portraits do not become available until the 1840s. We also notice both skirts and kilt outfits, especially kilt suits. We notice more boys wearing these skirt or kilt garmrnts than actual dresses, although dresses were very common very little boys. Some mothers beginning aboout the 1870s dressed very young boys in dresses and slightlt older boys in kiltv suits. This was a popular convention, but we also notice some olders boys wearing dresses as well. There was not set rule and decessions like this were up to each individual mother. And to futther complicate the issue, we see boys wearing jeaketed dresses looking somewhat like kilt suits. Some of these outfits are a little difficult to identify as we are often not sure if the boy is wearing a blouse and skirt or a dress with a belted waistline. We note some boys wearing smocks, but this was not very common.

20th Century

Boys still wore skirted garments in the early 20th century. The fashion fir the nost psrt had declined significantly. Especialt after the early-1900swe see far fewer boys wearing dresses and kilt suits. There was on exception to thisd, the tunic suit. In fact, the tunic became a very popular boys' garment in both the 1900s ad 10s. At the turn of the 20th century, tunic suits was a major style for boys. Some girls wore them are dresses styled rather like a tunic stuit, but they were much more popular for girls. The popularity of other skirted garments, especially drsses and kilt suits, declined very sharply, especially after about 1905. We saw this decline in the 1890s, but it was especially notablle by the late 1900s. We still see some younger boys wearing dresses, but after World War I (1914-18), the once very popular covention rapidly disappesard as a major fashion. Boys wearing skirted garments rapidly wentout of style. And in the 1920s, tunic suits also disappeared. We only rarely see boys wearing skirted garments after the 30s. It has dissapppeared to the extent that we notice some sellers handling old photographs are agast that boys were ever dressed in skirted garments. The onlt skirted garmets we see boys wearing after World War II (1939-45) are those boys participating in ethnic (Greek, Irish, and Scottish) events. And even boys doing Irish dancing stopped wearing kilts in the 1990s when River Dance with boys wearing long blsack pants became popular.






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Created: July 10, 2002
Last updated: 7:35 PM 1/23/2021