Australian Boys' Clothes: Chronology--19th Century


Figure 1.--This Australian boy was photographed in Bardwell, Tasmania in 1880. I would have guessed a few years earlier. He was 5 years old and wears a fancy suits with cut-away jackets and bloomer knickers. Note how the suit is trimmed.

The colonization of Australia began in the late-18th century. At first it was a prison colony. Rather small numbers of people were involved in the late 18th and early 19th century. By mid-century a substantial colonial population had developed. This mean that tht Australia throughtout the 19th century had a population with very strong family and cultural ties to Britain. One impact of this was that Australian children basically wore the same fashion as worn in England, with some concessions to climate. By the 1860s large numbers of English colonists were arrtiving to take advantage of the the vast expanses of inexpenive land. The clothes worn by Australian boys were basically the same as the styles worn by English boys at the time. We notice younger boys fancy suits ith cut-away jackets and bloomer knickers. We also notice Fauntleroy suits, but sailor suits were more common. The one significant difference that we have noted was that Australian boys commonly went barefoot. Both Australian and English boys in the late 19th Century mostly wore kneepants. English boys wore them with long stockings and shoes. For much of the year it was to cold to go barefoot, which was considered a sign of poverty. In the more benign Australian climate, however, it was much more common to go barefoot. Boys in the country almost alweays did so and it was even common in the growing towns. In Australia it was not considered such a sign of poverty, altough the really well to do insisted on long stockings and shoes for their children.

The 1800s

The colonization of Australia began in the late-18th century. At first it was a prison colony. Rather small numbers of people were involved in the late 18th and early 19th century. By mid-century a substantial colonial population had developed. This mean that tht Australia throughtout the 19th century had a population with very strong family and cultural ties to Britain. One impact of this was that Australian children basically wore the same fashion as worn in England, with some concessions to climate.

The 1850s

Gold was discovered in Australi during the early 1850s, only a few years after the California Gold Ruh. Many new immigrants from Britain, Ireland, Europe, America, and China arrived. We're sure photography (the Daguerreotype) which had been developed in 1839 reached Australia in the 1840s. We have not yet, however, acquired any photographs from the 1850s for the HBC arcive. We have archived a wonderful painted family portrait of the O’Mullane family showing the boys wearing dresses and tunic suits in 1852. Except perhaps for the century plant in the indo, there is not way of telling this was not an English portrait.

The 1860s

Large numbers of English colonists were arrtiving in Australia by the 1860s to take advantage of the the vast expanses of inexpenive land. And thanks to photography for the first time we have large numbers of images of the Australian colonists. It is at theis time that the SDV and a little later the cabinent card ppear with albumen prints. The clothes worn by Australian boys were basically the same as the styles worn by English boys at the time. We notice younger boys fancy suits ith cut-away jackets and bloomer knickers.

The 1870s


The 1880s

We notice Fauntleroy suits appearing in Australia during the 1880s. The sailor suits were more common. The one significant difference that we have noted was that Australian boys commonly went barefoot. This was a concessiointo the climate. Both Australian and English boys in the late 19th Century mostly wore kneepants. English boys wore them with long stockings and shoes. For much of the year in England it was to cold to go barefoot, which was considered a sign of poverty. In the more benign Australian climate, however, it was much more common to go barefoot. Boys in the country almost alweays did so and it was even common in the growing towns. In Australia it was not considered such a sign of poverty, altough the really well to do insisted on long stockings and shoes for their children.

The 1890s

Australian boys continued to dress largely like English boys. Sailor suits were very popular in Australia during the 1890s. We are not sure about the age conventions, but we think they were worn by younger boys to about 10 years of age. There we many different style. We also note Litlle Lord Fauntleroy sutys. Older boys wore knee pants suits. often with vests. There were several tyes pf suits. They were worn with various collars. Eton collars were popular, but there were several other styles of detachable collars such as wing collars. Most boys wore knee pants. Boys for casual wear or to scoolould often go barefoot. When dressing up they would wear lonf syockings. High-top shoes were common.








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Crerated: September 30, 2003
Last updated: 8:26 PM 11/24/2017