** boys clothing during the 1810s

Boys' Clothes During the 1810s

Figure 1.--This painting of Mrs. Henry Bartig by English portriatist Sir Thomas Lawrence was painted in 1817. I do not know details on the children. The child on the left may be a girl or a boy who has not yet been breeched. The boy on the right wears a long pants skeleton suit with a kind of open front pinafore.

The hems of dresses, including those for little boys began the rise and women, girls, and little boys began wearing pantalettes as bare legs were not considerd approriate--even for children. Tunics and skeleton suits were the primary clothes worn by boys after breeching. Large ruffled collars were commonly worn by boys, especially with skeleton suits. Knee breches had entirely disappeared for boys and by the end of the decade were becoming less common for men. Younger boys might wear tunics with pantalettes, but older boys wore tunics. A boy might also wear his first skeleton suit with pantalettes showing at the ankles of his long pants. Pantalettes were less commonly worn in America than Britain and Europe.

Historical Background

The Napoleonic Wars raged at the beginning of the decade. The Emperor Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 and his defeat there was the beginning of his fall. He was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815 by Wellington and Bucher. The American War of 1812 also occurred during this decade, although a side event to the Napoleonic wars raging in Europe, it in effect sealed the future of North America. The Congress of Vienna also held in 1815 attempted to restore the Ancien Regime Regime in Europe. As a result, Ametrica would stand along as a constitutional, but not yet very democratic republic for decades. Despite the work of Austrian Foreign Minister Meternich to restore a reactionary Ancien Regimes, the continuing progress of the Industrial Revolution was changing Europe--creating a rising middle class and despeately poor working class that were fundamentally changing Europe.

Men's Attire

D uring the early 19th century, men's garments, following the example of the civilian male attire of the French Revolution, developed simple forms much better adapted to a life of activity than the elaborate costumes of the past. Boys fashions led the way. Boys commonly wore long pants skeleton suits. Men still wore knee breeches, especially for formal occasions, but long trousers were increasingly being worn by men also. The decade was especially known for elegant dandies like Beau Brummel. Popular styles were jackets with padded shoulders and tightly corseted waists. Trousers became increasingly fashionable. Tunics and skeleton suits were some of the most important garments worn by boys.



Women wore simple classical styles. With the French Revolution the style of democratic Athens wre instyle. After Napoleon was crowned emperor, styles of imperial Rome became more favored. Popular styles were straight muslim dresses in white or pastel colours. Little boys all through the 19th Century were dressed in dresses and petticoats like girls, especially in affluent families. Small children of both genders might include chintz dresses and gay, printed cottons in the Empire style. They were worn with small white caps and long ruffled pantalettes (pantaloons). While this changed as the century progressed, in the early 19th century there was virtually no differences between dresses for boys and girls, perhaps only the color of the sash. Romantic influences began to appear in the details of women's clothing after 1820. Thewaistline went from the "Empire" style back to its natural location. The Grecian gown gave way to a bell-shaped skirt, which became progressively more voluminous with each decade, until, by the 1850s, hoops or crinolines were once again used to support them. Dresses in the early 19th century might include chintz and gay, printed cottons in the Empire style.


These were worn with small white caps and long ruffled pantaloons. The dresses chosen varied as to the mothers preferences. Some mothers would make little boyish modifications to their sons' dresses. By the 1830s dresses included printed cottons with high tucked waists and gigot sleeves. Some mothers decided on somewhat more boyish tunic. A typical tunic might be made of earth brown sateen trimmed with dark blue braid. Many fashions of the early 19th century seemingly come directly out of the pages of a story-book.


The age at which a boy was breeched varies from family to family. Some boys as young as 4 might be dressed in more boyish skeleton suits, or later in the decade tunics. Other boys as old as 5 or 6 might continue wearing dresses.


While the age boys wore girlish dresses varried, The fashion of dressing children in juveile fashions was well esablished by the beginning of the Century. Boys would wear distinctive juvenile fashions until reaching their teens.

Figure 2.--This image is unidentified and undated, but it shows the more adult style high collar popular in the early 19th century. Boys would have began wearing an outfit like thuis after he passed from skeleton suits and tunics. This boy looks to be about 12 or 13 years old. Note the military styling.


The comfortable, unrestrictive stles of the 1800s continued into the 1810s.

Skeleton suits

Skeleton suits for breeched boys were common from about 1790 to the 1830s. The skeleton suit consisted of a tight jacket, with two rows of ornamental buttons in front ascending over the shoulders; ankle-length trousers buttoned to and over the jacket round the waist. The open ruffled collar comtinued to be the most common for the skeleton suit. Closed collars appeared in the 1810s, a harbinger of the large restictive collars so common in the late 19th century.



We note suit jackets with high collars that were popular in the early 19th century. Boys would have began wearing an outfit like thuis after he passed from skeleton suits and tunics. Some had decidely military styling (figure 2).


The British in 1810 introduced a tax on hair powder. The wering of wigs began to decline in the with the French Revolution and this tax virtually ended it in England.

Country Trends

We do not yet have individual country pages for the 1810s. There are several HBC pages, however, which have information on the 1810s. A interesing glimse at a recreation of England in the 1810s is available on the Sudbury Hall pages. We only have a general early 19th century page for America, England, and France.

Individual Boys

We do not yet have any detailed information on individual boys during the 1810s. We note a Regency miniature probably painted in the 1810s, but we do noy yet know who the noy was.



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Created: April 20, 1998
Last updated: April 23, 2004