*** boys clothing for activities : the home

Boys' Clothing at Home

French chilren's tea party
Figure 1.--A younger child's activities are mostly accociated with the home, both inside in the various rooms and outside in the yard surrounding the home. Here French children are enjoying what looks like an outdoor tea in the back garden (yard).

Many boyhood activities are associated with home life. Most Europeans and Americans until the 19th century lived in small homes often with only limited specialization. The Victorian era changed this. Technological inovations brought on economic expansion and the creation of wealth that brought a substantial middle class into existence. Large affluent homes in the 19th century often had rooms specifically for the children such as the nursery and the school room. As they got older they might have a room of their own or share rooms with siblings in a large family. Other specialized rooms included the parlor and perhaps a sewing room or study. Particularly popular in America was a large front porch, often facing a tree-lined street. Dress reflected the times and could be quite formal--even at home. This began to change as casual dress became more prevalent in the mid-20th century.

The Home

A younger child's activities are mostly accociated with the home, both inside in the various rooms and outside in the yard surrounding the home. The photographic record is much richer outside the himne, because of complications with indoors photography. Of course this is especially true of the 19th century. Even in the 20th century, the complications of indoor photography limited indoor snpshots until after World warII. We have, however, acquired some indoor family snapshots. And in America at least there was the front porch or veranda (back porch) which was a kind of interelated area between the inside and outside play areas. I think the porch is a living space especially identified with America, although we are not entirely sure why. Here there were major differences from country to country. Home archetecture is often very helpful in identifying the location of photographs, in part because homes were often as destinctive as fashion, sometimes more so. And home styles usually do not change as rapidly as fshionand persist longer. They do of course chane along with living styles so there are also chronological differences.

boy's toy steam engine
Figure 2.--I believe that the boy's toy here is a great actial steam engine. He looks to have set it up inthe palor.

Home Activities

There are a range of childhood activities thast are primarily associated with the home. One of the most popular feature of any nursery was the hobby horse. They came in many different times. Not every boy had one, they were expensive. Every Victoria and Edwardian boy, however, and some girls wanted one. People loved having photographs of their children made. The children often wanted the family pet in the portrait. This was a little complicated when the portarits were taken in the photographic studio. One very important activity. This activity varies greatly from family to family. Education and social class are major factors. Some children grow up in homes devoid of books and periodical publications. Other children grow up in homes filled with books. The Victorians and Edwardians, both children and mothers, loved to keep scrapbooks. In the Victorian and Edwardian era, it was comon to find the family scrapbook sitting prominently on a table, in a prominent part of the parlor. Children also kept scrapbooks, but theirs were not kept in the parlor. The limitations of photography in the 19th century limited the photograping of candid home scenes. Some available images, however, provide a variety of glimses of the 19th centutry home and the clothes worn at home. Toys have been found in ancient civilizations. The ancient Roman children loved toys and games. The popularity or at least the availability of toys declined in the general economic decline after the fall of Rome. Toys again begin to become more plentiful as the economy of western Europe develops. As late as the 18th and early 19th century, however, there was a general consensus that toys and games were wasteful indulgences and that even young children should be involved in more beneficial activities. There are some items that can not be called toys because they are more practical items. These are items that boys find interesting. Often we are taliking about older boys such as teengers, but younger boys can get started at an earlier age. Children don't really play with these items, but do tghings with them.

Manners and Ettiquite

Manners and ettiquite were once very important. They governed behavior both at home and outside the home. Magazines and books were published in the 19th century advising on such matters. George Washington, himself, had written a book on such matters. In the 20th century, books on polite behavior have been written specifically for children.

Events and Special Occasions

A wide variety of events and special occassions are celebrated at home. There are of course the big holidays such as Christmas. Some holidays are primarily a private function while others are more community outfings. Christmas is of course the holiday most associasted with the home. There are also a variety of parties and other special occassions that are traditionally heald at home. These vary somewhat from country to country and are strongly affected by religious affiliation.

Media Recreations

BBC and PBS in recent years has produced a remarkable series of programs about homes in different historical periods and settings. They place modern families in historically correct homes and ask them to live for a time as if they were in that period. The producers not only make sure that the houses are properly restored to the time period, but only household products, tools, and appliances actually available at the yime are used. The different productions include a vast amount of information about clothing, fashion, and life styles during different periods of the 19th and 20th cebntury in America and England.


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Created: November 20, 1998
Last updated: 3:11 PM 4/15/2008