Trouser Suspension: Bib-front Pants

Figure 1.--The two boys here are wearing bib-front longs. Notice the bibs are attachd by buttons and not clasps as in the case of overalls. They are French Canadian farm children in Quebec, photographed in 1957. A French Canadian reader tells us these bib-front longs were very common in the 1950s. The photographer is Omer Beaudoin who woked for the Québec film board. Jean, le fils de M. et Mme Edgar Comtois, fait boire le cheval devant ses petits compagnons. Saint-Paul-de-Chester.

Related garments to suspender and H-bar pants are bib-front pants. These were generally seen as play garments for children. They were generally worn by younger children, although conventions varied from country to country and over time. There was, however, a work garment for adults--overalls. These were worn by children as well, primarily in rural areas. Overalls gradually were made into children's plat garments as well. We have noted bib-front pants as rompers, shorts, and long pants. For some reason, we have never noted bib-front knickers. The differenve between children's bib-front pants and overalls were the material, color, and size and design of the bib.

Bib-front Rompers

Bib-front rompers were one of the several ways in whih rompers were made. The standard romper suit was a one-piece outfit. There were, however, separate bottoms or pants made with and without attached suspenders in the same material as the pants. Bib-front rompers are often called sunsuits. these appear to have been worn by somewhat older boys than the dressier rompers. This was especially the rompers designed for beachwear. These came in different types og bib fronts. Some tied around the neck. More substantial bibfront had shoulder straps.

Bib-front Shorts

Bib-front shorts were very popular for younger children. They were less common for older boys). Many shorts were made with button attachments. HBC at this time has few details on bib-front short pants. We believe that they appeared in the 1920s. They were particularly popular in Europe, especially France. We also note them in America through the 1940s, but afterwards they were only worn by todlers. Even in Europe they were worn by youngr boys. Common materials included corduroy and later denim. They are similar in many wys to suspender short, although bif-front shorts were mostly a style for playwear and not commonly wore for dressy occasions as suspender shorts could be worn. A French reader reports that the small size were buttoned at the back and the other in front. Bib-front shorts like suspnder shorts did not havet flies. Most bib-front shorts were cut. He reports that in France, short pantss for boys generally did not have flys until about size 8-10 years.

Bib-front Knickers

while we do not want to say categirically that bib-front knickers never existed, we have never seen either clothing advertisements for them or photographs of boys wearing them. We are not entirely sure why they were never made, given the popularity of knickers--espcially in America.

Bib-front Longs

Bib-front longs were essentially the same as bib-front shorts, except the pants were long. Bib-front longs were especially popular in America for younger children. The bib-front style seemed much more common in America than suspender longs. In contrast suspender shorts seem more common than bib-front shorts, but here age was a factor. I'm not sure about the chronology. I begin to notice them commonly in the 1930s. I know that bib-front longs were very common in America during the 1940s and early 50s. I remember wearing them myself. I'm less sure about the extent to which they were worn in Europe. I notice fewer images of bib-front longs in Europe, but this may reflect our greater access to American images.

Bib-front Overalls

No clothing item as assumed more importance in a boy's wardrobe during the second half of the 20th century than blue jeans. The first jeans worn by boys, although it was not a boys' style, was overalls. I have collected relatively little information on this style. It is esentially Aerican. It was worn mostly in rural Americaas work clothes, but in the 1990s has become stylish for both boys and girls. One of the central symbols of modern American culture are blue jeans. They were in fact the creation of a 19th century German Jewish immigrant--Levi Strauss. Levi Strauss overalls began appearing in the 1870s and by the 1880s had become enormously popular as work clothes. The original jeans were workclothes and the idea that they would one day be fashionable would have been inconceivable to 19th Century children. The most popular style of jeans were initially overalls. By the late 19th Century they were widely worn by farmers, miners, and laborers all over America. Boys in rural America commonly went to school in overalls through the 1930s.


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Created: January 4, 2004
Last updated: February 10, 2004