Figure 1.--This French school boy was photographed in 195? by famed French photographer Doisneau. Note his sleeve. It has a hemline half way up so that the sleeve cam be easily lengthened as needed.
HBC is unsire as to just what size mothers brought smocks on. Some thrifty mothers bouught smocks in large sizes. As the smock was to cover a boys' clothes, presumably a large size that might last more than 1-year would be mlore acceptable that an actual garment bought in a large size. Hopefully French readers will provide us more information on how French mothers approached the question of sizing. This question is probably of greater importance concerning school smocks than regular smocks as older boys tended to wear school smocks. There are two ways in which school smocks were adjusted for growth. The most obvious was letting down the hem. Smocks were generally wore with short pants. The length of shorts changed over time as did the length of the smocks. The other way was letting down the sleeves.
HBC is unsure as to just what size smocks mothers brought. Some thrifty mothers may have brought smocks in large sizes. As the smock was to cover a boys' clothes, presumably a large size that might last more than 1-year would be more acceptable than an actual garment bought in a large size. One reader writes, however, that "The material in which school smocks were made will not allow too long usage, especially knowing how young boys are destructive". This suggests that mothers did not buy sizes that were overly large. A French reader reports that clothes until the 1960s often shrank notably after one or too washings. This was another factor causing mothers to buy garments a size larger. Mothers making their children's clothes could made a hem at the bottom of smock or at the sleeves. This was apparently quite common. Hopefully French readers will provide us more information on how French mothers approached the question of sizing.
A boy might wear several garments for some time, depending on how rapidly he was growing. School smocks were not bought with the idea that they would last a long time. They were, however, worn continously. Many boys had only one school smock at a time. Some might have two. While in use they thus got continous and heavy wear. As a result most lasted only about 12-18 months. Basic smocks were widely available in stores and not very expensive. For many boys they were usally part of the purchases to be made at start of each new school year.
The length of French school smocks has changed over time. Originally the school smocks were quite long. The smocks in the late 19th century were worn quite long. This may have been because boys at the time mostly wore kneepants that extend to the knee. Smocks afyer World War I (1914-18) were generally wore with short pants. The length of shorts changed over time as did the length of the smocks. Worn with shorts, the smocks were generally shorter than worn with kneepants.
There are two ways in which school smocks were adjusted for growth. This is probably of greater importance concerning school smocks than regular smocks as older boys tended to wear school smocks.
The most obvious way of adjusting for growth was letting down the hem. Some smocks came with generous hems which could be let down. This can frequently be seen by the often visible hem line. Commercial smocks usually had a standard 4-5 cm hem that could be adjusted for growth. It was normally quite sufficent for the 12-18 month life span of most smocks. I'm less sure about the standard hem in smock patterns that mothers used to make smocks at home, but a capable sewer could theoretically add a couple centimters of material without great difficulty. As HBC reader believes that such home-made models would have much more hem reserve by double or treble.
The other of adjusting a smock was letting down the sleeves. Here one can also sometimes notice the hem lines of sleeves. Some smocks look as though they may have been short sleeved garments with long sleeves added on. This was not the case. All French school smocks were made with long sleeves. The hem at the sleeves were used only to shorten the sleeve the first year, after the boy growns the mother unsewed its. I believe this was done my mothers sewing smocks. Smocks bought ready made did not generally have this sleeve hem. While this procedure looks awkward, it makes sence. Adding material to a cuff would be difficult. Simply taking out a hem from mid-way up the arm is a much more simple procedure. Another problem is that cuffs and sleeves at the elbow were often worn out before the rest of the smock. Elbows were a special problem, much like knees of longpants. Thus some times mothers who sewed at home when some adjustment of lenght was required, might replace the sleeve and cuff entirely.