Boys' Clothing Glossary: "P"

Figure 1.--.

We have begun to build a glossary of boys' clothing terms. As boys clothes until the 19th century was the sane as adult male clothing, we have included many applicable men's clothing terms. We have also included some women's terms as younger boys commonly wore dresses until the 20th century. As HBC is extensively used by non-native English speakers we plan to give considerable attention to this glossary so that words can be looked up. It will also serve as an index as we will provide links to the appropriate pages. We eventually hope to add foreign words, but that will take some time.

Pajamas: Pajamas are sleepwear consisting of loose-fitting trousers and shirt. The word was a Hindi/Persian term for leg garments and entered the English language during the English colonization of India. Pajamas are commonly made of cotton, light weifht collon suring the summer and flannel during the winter. Expensive adukt garmenrs may be made of silk. Until pajamas became commonly worn in the 1920s, both men and boys commonly slept in night gown or dresses. Several special styles of pajamas have been developed for children, including ski and footed pajamas. Short pants or shorty pajamas are common in the summer and are worn by both men and boys.

Paletot: A paletot is a cloak or coat. I have never heard of it before. I first noted the term in 19th centurty French fashion magazines. I note, however, that it also appears in some English dictionaries. This appears to be more true of English than American dictionaries.

Panties (American): Short underpants for children and women. Also written as pantie and panty. It is an American term appearing about 1835-45. One of the many terms evolving from the term "pantaloons". Current American usage is for women's and girls' underwear, but not boys' underwear. The common comparable word in England is knickers.

Pants: American term for trousers. British term for men and boys' underpants. Trousers were virtually unknown in polite society as the 19th Century dawned. The cloest fashion to trousers was loose fitting breeches worn by workers and the pantaloons worn by sailors. The modern reader may find it difficult to believe that unitl the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, gentlemen would always wear knee breeches and considered long trousers only suitable for laborers and sailors--and small boys in skeleton suits. The story is told that the Duke of Wellington--the renowned Iron Duke at Waterloo--was refused entrance to London's famed Almanak's gambling club during 1815 for arriving in trousers. Long trousers were eventually adopted as appropriate wear for gentlemen. When this happened boys--who were the first to adopt long trousers--were less commonly attired in them, but rather after mid-century in various shortened versions such as knickers, knee pants, and short trousers.

Parkas: A parka is a fur coat cut like a shirt with a hood and commonly worn in northeastern Asia and Alaska. Wool garments marketed as parkas appeared in the late 19th or early 20th century. These garments were made with a detachable hood. I believe the term parka was originally Russian. The parka was adopted by some British and Scottish private schools for winter wear. I first noted this in the 1970s, but presumably it was adopted for schoolwear earlier. American boys were also wearing parkas in the 1970s, but not as school uniforms. There appear to be both a fish tail mod variety and an acrylic snorkel hooded version.

Peddal pushers: Calf-length pants worn by boys and girls, but primarily girls. Similar pants called clam diggers were also worn by boys in the 1960s, but were not very popular. Similar to Capri pants.

Pinafores: Pinafores were essentially abbreviated smocks worn over other clothes for meals and play. I'm not positive when the pinafore first appeared. It appears to have appeared in the late 18th Century, but it is clearly a widely worn garment by the early 19th Century. I am also unsure as to which country or countries it first appeared. Based upon available images, the pinafore was particularly popular in England and France, but this may be just a function of the greater availability of images from those two countries. There may have been a variety of different styles, but by the mid-19th Century back buttoning pinafores seem to have been most common. Pinafore lengths seemed to have been largely determined by the lengths of the dresses in style during any given period. After the turn of the 20th Century pinafores were not commonly worn by boys, although they were worn by French boys after the style had passed out of fashion for boys in England. Pinafores for girls in the 20th Century became very fancy, stylish garments and not the utilitarian garments of the 19th Century.

Pipe major: The musical leader and usually the principal instructor of a pipe band.

Plaid: Any woven checked pattern. Not the same as Tartan. The shawl-like garment worn over the shoulder by some in highland dress. Originally part of the kilt.

Play suits: Boys about the turn of the century began wearing outfits that can becalled play suits. Some were strictly for play, but others could be worn for a variety of dress up occasions. After World War I (1914-18) much more casual styles were becoming acceptable for children, especially younger children. Some had clasic styling details, like the opular button suits that haekened back to early 19th century skeleton suits. Other were novel new inovations like romper suits. Perhaps the first play suit was the Buster Brown or Russion blouse tunic suit that appeared about the turn of the 20th century. One of the primary characteristics was thatwhile they could be worn for play, there were dressier versions that could be worn for more formal occasions. Another feature was that these suits, except for coveralls, usually incorporated either above-the-knee knickers or short pants of various length.

Pleats: A pleat is a fold of definite even with. Accordion pleats are a series of narrow, evenly spaced parallel pleats with alternating raised and recessed folds set into cloth. Made by doubling the cloth on itself. First used in English during the 14th century. Modern pleats are made by commercial pleating machines. In connection with boys clothing most associated with the kilt.

Polyester: Backpackers consider the new formulations of polyester a wonder fiber, even a life-saver. The new polyesters are soft and comfortable to the skin, retain very little water, keep you warm when wet, dry with your own body heat, and wick well. Brand names include Thermax, MTS, and Capilene.

Polypropylene (polypro): Synthetic fiber with excellent wicking and warmth. It retains very little water.

Poncho: Ponchos are the blanket-like garments worn like a cloak by the Andean indiginous population. The wool garments were woven like blankets, but with a slit in the middle for the persons head. There are no sleeve holes. The sleeveless garment worn for warmth by the Incan and other Andean people. It was worn by children and adults of both genders. In English, 'poncho" is often used to mean a water-prrof garments styled like the Andean poncho, but with a hood. Ponchos are popular with many experienced backpackers and utility cannot be denied.

Postcards: One of the sources of images used in HBC are period postcards. The popular postcard provides numerous images of clothing during the early 20th century, especially in France and other European countries. Great care, however, has to be taken in their use as an historical source.

Prodigies: Prodigies were often photographed for publicity. As a result, a lot of images exist of these talented children providing some interesting views of changing fashions over time. There are many famous child music and other prodigies. The most famous is certainly Mozart in the 18th Century, but there have been many others in the 19th and 20th Century. The clothing they wore for their performances were often examples of contemporary formal boys' clothing. Often as they began to grow up their parents liked to keep dressing them in juvenile clothes to emphasize that they were childhood prodigies.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: July 9, 2001
Last updated: July 8, 2002