French Mail Order Catalogs and Clothing Advertisements with Boys Clothings: The 1950s

Figure 1.--This adverisement appeared in a 1959 French newspaper showing a wide range of infant outfits. The romper suits in sizes up to about 4vyears for boys. The girls might wear culottes bloomers, romper-style bloomer pants under a dress or smock. Actual romper-type outfits were for boys. Outfits "E" and "F" were only for boys.

French mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. French mail order catalogs show a major shift in French boys' clothing in the 1950s. Boys still commonly wore short pants, but it was less common for older boys by the end of the decade. Even for younger boys by the end of the decade shorts were increasingly seen as play and casual wear. Both berets and smocks declined in popularity during the decade, but jeans became very popular, especially among older teenagers.


Readers have sent us some French items that are not dated. We can usually estimate the decade, but not the specific year. We have a few items we believe to date to the 1950s.


A 1950 sewing magazine provide a pattern for an outfit made up of a sleeveless sweater and romper bloomer pants. It was for a boy 5-6 years old. HBC is not sure how commonly such outfits were actually worn by French boys.


We note several pages from a French fashion magazine devoted to children's clothes. One is a knitting pattern page from a magazine which included pattern for younger childrn, including rompers for boys. Unfortunately we do not know what magzine in which it appeared.






We have some limited information from French catalogs in 1956-57. The sewing magazine Votre Mode had patterns for little boys romper suits. We note school smocks offered by Les Galeries Lafayette in 1956-57.


A sewing magazine in 1957 had a coordinated pattern for a brother and sister. Rompers for the boys and an almost identical dress for the girl.



We have some information from 1959 on romper suits that had been popular since 1959. More modern looking shorts sets and bib-front long pants were also available for younger boys. HBC notes that there were many more smocks advertised for girls than boys in 1959. Most smocks were designs specifically for boys are girls, but a few could be wotn by either gender. The popularity for smocks seems to have been declining in France, but we still note newspaper and catalog ads. Younger boys might wear blouses rather than shirts, especially when dressing up for special occassions. The popularity of blouses for younger boys was still quite common in the 1950s, but had befun to decline somewhat by 1959.


HBc as a matter of course includes the prices of garments. We do that for a number of reasons. The price is important information. It provides insights as to how expemsice clothing was and who could afford it. It also helps in comparing garments. One readee was struck at by the seemingly high prices in the 1950s which he notes may confuse modern readers. It's interesting to note that prices are in "anciens francs". France revalued its currency by a factor of 100 sometime after 1960 and used what they called "nouveaux francs" (785.- old = 7.85 new). There are still nowadays some old french people not familiar with new values that have to recompute new francs into old francs.


The modern color conventions of blue for boys and pink for girls had become generally established in France by the 1950s. A French reader advises HBC that in the 1950s the mothers when choosing their children's clothes did not always accept the prevalent color conventions. So little boys might sometimes be seen wearing pink rompers and a girl wearing sky (light) blue dresses. It was the same for smocks which could be seem in pink for a little boy. This was especially true for mothers who made their children's clothing. The color gender conventions were in fact not absolute. Some fashion magazines magazins 1950s-1960s reportedly advised to chooe blue, pink or other colors for boys' clothes. [HBC note: We do not have actual magazine citaions.] One reader reports in 1970 selecting a pink romper suit for a son. I suppose this rule had been the same abroad, one can see on HBC a Swiss or Belgian boy wearing a pink smock. Our French reader points out that while boys may have worn pink garments, this was not the common practice. He also points out that the actual color used was not the light pink now used for girl's clothes, but rather a pink-red shade. [HBC note: Ginham was very popular for rompers and smocks. Red ginham because it mixed red and white has the appearance of pink.] Currently in the 2000s the color conventions are much more entenched. The modern boy wears blue and never pink.


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Created: October 16, 2001
Last updated: 4:52 AM 3/7/2012