Corduroy Clothing: Gender Conventions

Figure 1.--At most English schools it was only the boys that wore corduroy uniforms. The boys might wear cord jackets and trousers, but the girls never wore cord jackets or skirts.

Corduroy throughout the 19th century was exclisively used for men's and boys' clothes. During the first half of the 20th century it continued to be seen as primarily a material for boy's clothing. This image has lingered even into the late 20th century. As a school uniform garment in England it was again almost exclusively a boys garment. Boys wore cord jackets and trousers, but the girls never wore either cord jackets or skirts. We note at one school where the boys were allowed to wear either cord shorts or longs that the girls were allowed to wear the cord longs as an option, but not the cord shorts. We also note that girls' school uniform skirts, as far as we know, were not made in corduroy. We are not sure why given that the fabric was so extensively used for boys' uniforms. Perhaps it has an image as a garment for rought wear and therefore more suitable for boys. This created an unsual situation when many boys' schools began accepting girls. As the boys wore corduroy, it was difficult to coordinate the boys' and girls' uniforms. HBC has noted some girl's garments in America such as cord dresses by the 1960s. A variety of outfits for younger children, both boys and girls, were also made in cord. We're not sure, however, when the first cord garments for girls appeared. We do note that corduroy, long out of style appears to be making a fashion comeback in 2003--especially for girls.


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Created: September 10, 2001
Last updated: September 3, 2003