Underwear Manufacturers: Petit Bateau (France, 1893- )

Figure 1.--We do not fully understand this ad from the French Petit Bateau company, but it appears to be for underwear. The caps are presumably to chow that they are French children and the strap shoes to underscore that they azre younger children. So presumzbly it is the underwear that is being advertised.

Petit Bateau was a French company producing children clothes. It would be translated "Little Boat". The bottom line of the ad reads, "Cu;lotte 'Petit Bateau' pour bien habiller les enfants." I think that translates as, "Petit Bateau short pants for dressing children well." Petit Bateau "underwear is the most important French Brand . It was a widely recognized brand since the early 1900s. It is very highly regarded and the company's underwear garments served as basic styles copied by other companies and became standard styles. Since 1936 , practically all French children living in cities wore " culotte Petit Bateau ". The Petit Bateau underwear were for both boys and girls even in 1900.


The symbol ad of Marinette was know of everyone. The song " Les petits bateaux qui vont sur l'eau " is a children's song still sung today. The word boat and water are assocvisted with cleaness and the mother were sensible to this aspect. The reader providing this ad was not positive about the date, but thought it was 1937. We do not fully understand this ad from the French Petit Bateau company, but it appears to be for underwear. The caps are presumably to chow that they are French children and the strap shoes to underscore that they are younger children. So presumzbly it is the underwear that is being advertised. There seems to be a little jingle involved. The title is "Marinette Dans Son Répertoire" and has a subtitle, "Sur l'aire de .... 'Papa les Petiits Bateaux'". I think that the company jingle is sung to the tune of this song. We can not read the first line under the music bar. The rest of the text reads, "Maman les P'tits Bateaux, Sent les cul;ottes qu'on préfére, Les P'tits Bagteaux, ma mére, Sant les culottes qu'il me faut". I'm not sure how to translate this. Hopefully our French readers will assist here.

Company History

Pierre Valton in 1893 noticed that the underwear for children were not properly designed fior them. At the time children were wearing the same model as adults. The underwear at the time was called caleçon and chemise (for men) and culotte and chemise (for women). Underwear was made with lightweight cloth with long legs. By the early 20th century, the short fashion for children's clothing became increasingly popular. Girl were wearing shorter dresses and boys were wearing short pants. These styles for children were adopted by bourgeoisy families, especially in the major cities. Children's clothes had a juvenile look. Pierre Valton in 1890 -- father of several children -- found most practical to cut very short the caleçon of his children. This new style of underwear had many advantages. Primarily they were designed to be worn with shorter cut garments and were this more estetically appropriate for short pants and short dresses. In addition, the shorter underwear could be more easily washed, was more hygienic. Pierre Valton in 1893 founded a manufactoring company and began making his new style of underwear. He made other improvemenrs such as using a better materiall, the white ribbed cotton material. The material was softer and more comfortable to wear. His underwear was at first sold in boutiques and magazines, but gradually more and more stores began handling the country's products. By 1920 after Wotrld war I, hus new underwear was being widely worn throughout France.


In the early 20tyh century, this underpant was called " petite culotte ". The shirt was called " maillot de corps ". These terms were used for both boys and girls. Until the 1920s, under wear for bnoys and girls were sligtly different. Boys' underpants had an opening at the front. After 1920, the definitive boys' style appeared. It was no longer open at the front and was more similar to the girl's style, except it was more in a V cut. This way gave more facilities for the boy dressed in very short pants. Many short pants for boys younger than 8-10 years beginning about 1930 were made without flies. This convention continued until the 1970s. About 1936 boys short pants began to appear at even shorter lengths. Petit Bateau underwear was perfectly suited for the new styles. The company in 1937 was awarded the first prize of the Paris exhibition.


Since 1920 , these underpant was very often called " cache-couche " maning diaper cover. This sort of brief was made for children from 1 till 18 years old. Perhaps this terminology was not appreciasted by the children, so a new definitive denomination took place and is always used to day : " slip " for boys' underpant " " culotte " for girs' l underpant " " maillot de corps " for their undershirts.


This underwear were only made in white color. Mothers believed thst children's underwear must be " whiter than the white " In this time one teached to the mothers that the children for a better heath must to have their legs as long as possible in open air. Probably it is the raison why if a boy was for a formal occassion dressed in long pants, afterwards he quicklty changed into short pants. From 1936 most French children in cities wore Petit Bateau model. Although in the country , far of the city influence , still many boys wore old-style caleçon and could be teased for that. The new styles were also gradually adopted by adults. Men by 1936 were wearing these styles. The difference was : the worker could had this underwear in grey or blue color.

Recent Trends

From WWII untill 1980, the underwear Petit Bateau model for boys and girls was practically the same, excepted the boy model was a bit cut in a V shape. This model is large , covering well the back , with elasticated at the waist. This sort of underwear were worn by virtually all French children. In 2004 this original Petit Bateau model is still sold, but only in sizes up to sge 6 years.


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Created: 6:04 AM 10/28/20044
Last updated: 6:04 AM 10/28/2004