Figure 1.--These French children photographed about 1950 are done up in their Sunday best. Notice the Peter Pan collars and puffed sleeve blouses that the boys are wearing with button-on shorts. Notice how the boys wear identical outfits which are coordinated with their sister.
HBC believes that fancy blouses were more commonly worn by French boys than in most other countries. We have little information on French blouses in the 19th century. French boys in the late 19th century appear to have worn blouses with large, usually buttoned buttoned collars. By the 1910s the sizes of the collars had declined and some voys began wearing open collars. We notice images from the 1920s showing boys wearing fancy blouses with long sleeves. Even as late as the 1920s, the collars on these blouses could be quite elaborate. This style continued in the 1930s with youngers boys were wearing fancy blouses, often with short puffed sleeves. This style was especially popular after World War II in the late 1940s and early 50s. These blouses were usually front buttoning. Collar styles ranges from plain to fancy. Younger boys for formal occasions might wear suspender romper bottoms or suspender shorts with a fancy blouse. There were also button-on styles. As girls mostly wore dresses, these fancy blouses were worn by boys. A French reader writes about the photograph on this page, "The outfits worn by these three children in the 1950s showed to any French parent that they come from a are of good and attentive family. Parents at the time often dressed their children alike in this style. These fancy blouses were normally worn with button-on or suspender shorts. Fancy blouses for formal occassions were very popular through the 1960s, but since the 1970s have declined in importance. They wre commonly made in sizes to about age 7, but some oldder boys also wore them. Today blouses are mostly worn by girls.
The word blouse was introduced in the early 19th century in France and first appeared during the French Revolution. It may be named after Pelusium in Egypt where blue smocks were produced during the crusades. It developed from the French word "bliaut" or Old French "blialt" a long shirt-smock like overclothing or dress, that was worn during the Middle ages until the 13th century in France. The French words associated with "blouse" are a little complicated, not unlike English. A blouse in English generally means a shirt without tails worn by younger boys, girls, and women. It is also used in the military for a solidiers uniform coat. The French word for blouse, meaning a boy's shirt-like garment, is "blouse "or "guimpe". The use of "guimpe" is now most common when referring to a child's blouse. A girl's blouse translates as "blouse" or "chemisier", but "guimpe" is less commonly also used for a girl's blouse as well. Today mothers often say "chemise" for a blouse. They add "chemise à manches ballon" or "chemise brodée" for puff sleve blouse and embroidered blouse. It must be mentioned say that the word "blouse" can also be used for a smock ("tablier"). A variety of French terms are used for shirt like-garments. There are also garments which used some of the stylistic details used for blouses.
HBC believes that fancy blouses were more commonly worn by French boys than in most other countries. This appears to be especially true in the years after World War I (1914-18). We have less information on the 19th century. Fashion magazines beginning with the 1920s very common cairred patterns for boys' blouses.
We have little information on French blouses in the 19th century. French boys in the late 19th century appear to have worn blouses with large, usually buttoned buttoned collars. The Fauntleroy style with large lace and ruffled collars were very popular in France. They were long sleeved blouses woth collars matching wrist cuffs. By the 1910s the sizes of the collars had declined and some boys began wearing open collars. Blouses became very common for boys, especially beginning with the 1920s. We notice images from the 1920s showing boys wearing fancy blouses with long sleeves. Even as late as the 1920s, the collars on these blouses could be quite elaborate. This style continued in the 1930s with youngers boys were wearing fancy blouses, often with short puffed sleeves. Mpst of the blouses we note during this period are sdhort sleeve styles, often with puff styling. This style was especially popular after World War II (1939-45) in the late 1940s and early 50s. These blouses were usually front buttoning. Collar styles ranges from plain to fancy. Fancy blouses for formal occassions were very popular through the 1960s, but since the 1970s have declined in importance. Blouses are now worn onkly by infant or todler boys and girls.
There are several different types of blouses. The different types relate to the buttoning, collar closure, sleeve type and length, and front treatment. There are virtually endless variations of these different types. Back buttoning blouses for boys were common for very small boys. They were normaly buttoned at front for age 4-6 years
and at back for younger boys. Dressy blouses often come with smocking, embroideries, or many small pleats at the front. The top of rompers were also done in a similar fashion.
Figure 2.--This advertisement shows some of the blouse styles and dresses avilable for boys and girls from 3-5 years of age in the 1950s. Only one of the blouses were for a girl. Rather girls normally wore little dresses.
There were several elements to a blouse. The collar was one of the most important. A popular style was the Peter Pan collar. This is called a col Caudine in France. Peter Pan collars were also used on other garments such as romers and smocks. The sleeves were another impotant element. They were often done as short sleeves, sometimes with ballon or puff styling there were also long sleeve. The front of the blouse was also done in a variety of ways with different styling and detailing.
HBC notes many different styles, although we do not always know the appropriate name.
Most blouses are realtively short garments as they fo not have tails. The most obvious are the Fauntleroy blouses with large collars and cuffs--often with lace or ruffles. There are middy blouses. Fancy blouses for younger boys have appeared in a great variert of stylesm especially beginning in the 1920s. We also note Peter Pan rounded collars (col Claudine). Some had Eton collars, although this was not as popular as the Peter Pan collars. Puffed sleebes with rounded collars were an especially popular combination.
Blouses were made in a range of materials. Some were knitted wool blouses made for Winter wear. They were no as fancvy as blouses done in other material, but knirt=tted v=blouses also had puffed sleeves. They were also worn ith mastching knitted sweaters.
Blouses came with a wide range of detailing. The Peter Pan collars, for example, could come with embroidery, piping ("liseré"), braid, smocking, or other manner of detailing. These could be used in any matter of combinations. Dépassant was once popular, but is now less used. Even lace has been used for the fancier blouses. The derailing can be aplied on the collar or cuffs as well as the front of the blouse. It can also be used around the yoke or pockets. Ruffled and lace trim has sometimes been used to set off the vertical strip of buttons on front buttoning bliuses.
The styling of many blouses were quite similar to the styling of romper tops.
The clothing French boys wore with blouses has varied over time. We have no information at this time concerning the clothes worn with blouses during the 19th century. Younger boys after World War I (1914-18) for formal occasions might wear suspender romper bottoms or suspender shorts with a fancy blouse. There were also button-on styles. These fancy blouses were normally worn with button-on or suspender shorts. The blouse could be worn with romper bottoms ("culotte bouffante"), suspeder and bib-front shorts, or button-short pants. Some boys wore them with long pants, but this was not as common. These were all accepted outfits for boys.
In winter over the vest we wore coats which were cut rather very short and a pair of "chaussettes hautes" (kneesocks). A French reader reports, "I never remember feeling cold, even when the temperature was low. I recall that the style for short pants at the time were a much shorter length than is the case today."
A French reader writes about the photograph on this page, "The outfits worn by these three children in the 1950s showed to any French parent that they come from a are of good and attentive family. Parents at the time often dressed their children alike in this style.
The ages at which boys wore blouses has varied over time. Through the early 1950s they were commonly made in sizes to about age 7, but some older boys also wore them. Till the late-1950s-early 60s, bloyses were worn by the the garçonnet 1 to 6 year old boys, commonly with puffed sleeves. Somewhat older boys might wear them until age 8 with a special outfit for formal occasions. One French reader rembers wearing fancy blouses until he was 9 years old. He writes, "I perfectly recall wearing these blouses. My mother thought my brother and I looked nice in them. We wore matching blouses. At the time I did not mind wearing them. I wore them until I was about 9 years old in the early 1950s. My brother and I normally were dressed in nice blouses for family outings and when we were having visitors at home. Rarely a week went bybwithout some occasions for putting on a nice blouse. In one family photo I was sit beside an important visitor and his wife. I was 8 years old at the time. I wore a suit with suspender short pants and a puffed sleeve blouse." Today they are worn only by baby boys and of course also by girls.
As girls mostly wore dresses, these fancy blouses were worn by boys. Notice that there was practicly no difference between boys' blouses and the tops of girls' dresses. A French reader writes, "They shared many of the stylistic detailing, except for some convertions. The smocking was rather for boy model. Pink color embridery were normally for girls, although the garment itself could be in pink." It was not until the 1970s that girls began wearing blouses. Today blouses are mostly worn by girls.
These blouses could be worn even in chilly weather, normally with a wool sweater. In the south of France these blouses could be worn year round.
Many mothers liked the look of blouses for their younger sons. What mothers did not like was it was quite difficult to iron these blouses. Many mothers would make these blouses at home from patterns. Before 1970 in primary school, girls were taught to sew and knit as well as child care. As a resuklt, most motherscused to have some sewing avbility. Some were quite competent. They were able to make beautiful blouses for their boys.
Today blouses are avilable only for baby boys and to a lesser extent toddlers. Mothers do not find them very practical which is one reason why few are worn. In addition, not very many mothers have the ability to sew and knit beautiful garments.
These fancy blouses weren't normaly worn to school, but the round collar was in fashion till early 1960 and very current every day for boys under 6 years old. More common these fancy blouses were woren for special occasions. A French reader tells us, "I recall wearing a special blouse when I was 6-7 years oldm perhaps even past 8 in some outings. I perfectly remember when I was dressed with the style. I recall how ladies were enchanted with me. Many of the family photograhs taken at the time show me wearing a blouse with short pants. If the weather was a bit colder I had a wool vest, but I never wpre my blouses with a jacket."
Many French mothers saw this style as refecting children from a good family where they were well looked after. This style in paricular seems to have been in fashion for a boy from a good family and was widely preceived this way. A French reader streeses that this does not mean that just children from wealthy families wore these blouses. He tells us, "These fancy blouses were worn by boys of all class society. In France it is difficult to kown if a boy is of rich or ordinary family. Often they are dressed similarly. A fashionable dressy outfit can be worn by a child from a working class or middle class family as well as an affluent family. The French mentality in this regard dies not reflect wealth or titles. It is the consequence of the French revolution!" In this regard, the blouse style was within the reach of mothers from families with moderate incomes--especially when she made the outfit herself. While a formal suit could be quite expensive and difficult to make. A blouse and shorts combination was much less expensive and relatively easy to make at home.
A HBC reader has provided us a little information about the boy seen here in a blouse and button-on short pants (figure 1). His mother was a vry fashionable lady who wore stylish clothes and also dressed her children in expensive, fashionanle clothes. The older boy (8 years old) commonly wore petit garçon modèle style outfits. He wore blouses with puffed sleeves and collar Claudine (Peter Pan collar). Many of his suits were luxury ones. Yhis of course was not realy representative of the garments
wore currently by the little boys in the streets or in school. The outfit here would have been considered a dress-up garment fir church on Sunday or for a special occassion.
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