Costumes: Chronology

Figure 1.--This boy in a historical-era costume had his portrait taken in 1896. I'm not sure just what the costume is, but might guess one of Dumas' Three Muskateers. We believe he is British, but we are not sure. The studio information was clipped off. Most of the costumes we see children wearing in the 19th century were elaborate, expensive outfits like this. We are sure what the costume here is for. We might guess a costume party. A school play is another possibility. Image courtesy of PB Collection.

We are not sure when children began to wear costumes. As it is something children (and many adults) love to do, we suspect that it is something tht has historical roots.

The 18th Century

We know macarade balls date at least to the 18th century. Of course children were limited in how they could dress up because of limited money for costumes and available play time. Thus all the early images we have are of relatively well-to-do chldren.

The 19th Century

We begin to see children wearing costumes in the 19th century because this is when photograph made such images relatively inexpensive to make. The chronology varied somewhat from country to country. Early photographic portraits were relatively serious affairs. Boys of course esecally liked to dress up in military uniforms. President Lincolm's son Tad had a great Army uniform. Here with many portraits of less well known children, it is a little difficult in available American images to diferentiate between play costumes and military school uniforms. The first American costume portrait we have noted looks to be have been taken in the 1870s. It shows Basil Kite in a circus aerelist costume. We have archived another early costume portrait, probanly from the 1880s. We see two children in York, Pennsylvania. We are unsure if costume parties for children became more popular at this time or if this is a reflection on the greater availability of costume pgotographic portraits. Many of the costumes in the 19th century seem to be expesive, tailor-made outfits. Many seem to be for costume parties or perhaps school plays.

The 20th Century

After the turn of the 20th-century we begin to see inexpensive tailor made costumes for children available from the major catalog stores. A good example is an army uniform worn by a boy we think in the 1910s. In contrast to early costumes, these are play costumes for younger children. We nore that Indian costumes were very popular in the early 20th century and not just in America. It looks to us to be a Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher pose. The costume here looks like a massed produced costume from the 1990s.


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Created: 12:46 PM 7/21/2005
Last updated: 12:46 PM 7/21/2005