* pantalettes: country styles

Figure 1.--This 1848 painting shows an 11-year old English boy still wearing dresses and lacey pantelettes to modestly cover his leg below the knee. Note his younger sister is not wearing pantalettes. How indicative of English styles this painting is, HBC can not yet say.

Pantalettes: Country Styles

We believe the style of having boys in dresses and tunics wear pantalettes was a fashion throughout Western Europe, Britain, and America in the 19th Century, especially the first half of the 19th Century. I have not yet noted pantalettes in the 18th Century, but the style probably did appear in the 1790s. Clearly pantalettes were widely worn in Britain, France, and America. The number of images suggest that pantalettes were most common in America and England. However I believe that this is just a function of the fact that America and British images are most accessible to HBC. I have little information, however, on other countries. Hopefully some HBC visitors from other European countries can provide some insights on this. The fashion trends for pantalettes are probably primarily French and passed to America primarily through England. The fact that HBC has a number of American images is probably a function of the HBC's greater access to American images rather than a reflection of the relative popularity of the style in America. I have not yet been able to discern stylistic differences between the various countries or changes in those countries over time. The information I have at present is currently limited making it difficult to discern country trends and stylistic differences. There appear to have differences in social class affecting who wore pantalettes. Boys from affluent families were the most likely to wear them. Class differences appear to have been less in America, but still important. One of our difficulties here is establidhing gender in unidentified images.

Figure 2.--Boys were still wearing pantalettes with kilted skirts even in the late 1880s. I don't have the date for this photograph, but as the boy wears his kilt-like skirt with a Fauntleroy jacket and lace collar, it appears to have been taken after 1885. Also notice the sailor cap and pom--a French influence.


Pantalettes were commonly worn by American boys, especially boys still wearing dresses and younger boys wearing tunics during the first half of the 19th Century. Older boys wearing tunics would wear long trousers. Of course boys wearing dresses never wore trousers under them. Boys in skeleton suits also occasionally wore pantalettes. I believe the American fashion trends with pantalettes were mostly a reflection of European styles, probably English or perhaps French. Pantalettes were still worn after mid-century, but they became less increasingly less common. In the latter oart of the CEntury the boys still wearing pantalettes were boys wearing dresses are the increasingly common kilt suits and other kilted outfits. There are many literary references to pantalettes in America. A good example is Mark Twain's description of Becky Thacher. Almost always they are described as part of a girl's outfit. Tom Sawyer of course would not have been caught dead in them. We know from available images, however, that they were worn by American boys as well as girls. There appear to have been social class and regiinal differences associated with pantalettes. Boys in wealthy families were most likely to wear them, especially the fancier styles. In addition they were most common in the more urbanized Eastern seaboard cities. The work of American primitive art, however, claerly shows that pantalettes were also worn in more rural areas, but the plainer styles appear nost common there. Many of the images showing boys wearing pantalettes loaded in the pantalette section are American boys. This is not because pantalettes were more common in America, but rather because of HBC's greater access to American materials.


No information available on Austria at this time.


HBC has very few sources of information on Belgian pantalettes. We believe, however, that they were widely worn by younger Belgian boys in the early 19th century, presumablty stylessimilar to those worn by Fremch botys and girls. There appears to have been a social class factor involved with boys from wealthy families more likely to wear them. The fashions involved appear to have been primarily French styles. Our information at this time is primarily based on available images from Belgian fashion magazines.

Figure 3.--Pantalettes were worn by elegantly attired young boys and girls. This British boy at mid-century shows the lacey pantalettes worn with his tunic jacket. The boy is Hallam Tennysonm son of Alfred, Lord Tennyson the famous English poet. I think he was a comtempory of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The photo was taken by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) who of course was the author of "Alice and Wonderland".


The pattern described for America above appears to have been similar in England. Quite a few available images show English children, including boys wearing pantalettes. Pantalettes appear to have been more common in England as American travelers to England have commented on the fashion for boys to wear them. Apparently older boys wore them in England. One American visitor to England wrote in Punch during 1850, " ... the children look really punchy. It strikes me the young ones are dressed more boyishly than in America. Quite large children, of both sexes, are dressed exactly alike, and whether girls or boys (they look between both), you cannot guess-girls with fur hats, such as full-grown men wear, and boys in short dresses and pantalettes." Again there appears to have been class distinctions involved here as boys wearing pantalettes appear to have been mostly boys from well to do, affluent families--often boys being schooled at home by tutors. After mid-century the convention od boys beginning their preparatory bparding school at about 8 years of age became increasingly set and thus it became rare to see boys aboue that age wearing dresses or pantalettes.


At this time HBC has only limited information on French pantalettes, but I believe they were widely worn in the first half of the 19th Century. American fashion magazines did show children wearing pantalettes clearly specifying that they were French styles. The limited information available on France is a serious limitation at any serious assessment of pantalettes. This is a limitation HBC evenntually hopes to rectify. While we have cery limited information at this time, we have noted boys wearing pantalettes in many early 19th century French images. Some French images sho girls wearing fancier panatelles than boys. Other French images show boys and girls wearing virtually identical pantalettes. Chronologiacal trends for pantelettes in Frannce seem quite similar to those in America and England.

Figure 4.--This image from an American fashion magazine shows French styles. I think it would have been about the 1850s, but a friend tells me it is an 1880s image. The child on the right is clearly a boy before breeching. Notice that his dress is much plainer than his sisters, but includes a lace collar. His pantalettes are also plainer than his older sisters.


We notice that many German 19th century photographs showing children wearing dresses with patalettes. We are not entirely sure how common they were because in available portrits, the most important source of information on pantalettes, it is often not clear if a child is not wearing pantalettes or if they are covered by the skirt. Dresses were note the only garments worn with pantalettes, but were the most common garment worn with them. We note both boys and girls wearing them. Boys' pantalettes might be more plain than the ones girls wore, but both boys and girls wore them. We have few details about colors at this time, but we believe most were white. We also have very limited information on styles.


HBC believes that pantalettes were commonly worn by boys from affkuent families. The pattern was pribably similar to that in Frnce, but I have virtually no information on Italy.

(The) Netherlands

No information available on the Netherlands at this time.


No information available on Spain at this time.

Other Countries

No information is currently available on other countries at this time.


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Last updated: 1:15 AM 9/16/2013