* Australian boys clothes: garments

Australian Boys' Clothes: Garments

Figure 1.--This group perhaps on a church picnic shows children wearing a wide range of garmentsm including ruffled blouses, suits, sailor suits, Fauntleroy suits, and other outfits. Note the wide-brimmed sailor hat one boy is wearing and even larger one on the ground in front of another boy. Also notice the bonnets and pinafores that the girls wear. The photograph is undated, but was probably taken about 1905-10. It is from the collection of the National Library of Australia (an2504973-v).

Australian boys until after World War II (1939-45) esentilly wore the same garments and styles as English boys. Garments such as sailor suits, Eton suits, and Norfolk jackets werewidely worn. Even Fauntleroy suits appeared. The principal difference with England was that because of the climate, more Australian boys went barefoot than in England and it did not have the same social stigma as was the case in England. Short pants were very common in Australia during the 20th century for school, play and even dressing up. After World War II, Australian boys clothes became much more casual and more adapted to the Australian rather than the English climate. These changes were especially notable beginning in the 1960s. There is also a wider range of influences with many American styles like jeans appearing in Australia. By the late 20th century sun-safe garments began to appear.


We note Australian boys wearing a wide range of hats. Until recently they were basically, like fashion in general the same as the headwear worn in England. We note both hats and caps. We have very little information on the 19th century. We know agood bit by the turn-of-the 20th century. And without knowing where the photograpph was taken, it woulkd hard to destinguish between English and Australian fashions. The only clue if the image is a full-length shot is tat Australia boys were commonly barefoot. Hats included wide-brimmed sailor hats. and boaters. Notice all the wide-nbrimmed hats that the younger boys here are wearing (figure 1). We also see sun hats which the Australians often call bucket hats. Australia is know for the bush hat, a kind of reworking of the American stetson. We first see Austrlian soldiers wearing them in World War I. It became an iconic Austrlian style. I recall a travel company in England that wa promting Australia wih these hats and had corks hanging down from them. This is not a style, however, we see boys wearing, at least until well after World War II. The primary cap we see Australian boys wearing is the traditioal English school cap, the style also adopted by Cubs. We also see sailor caps. We see some flat caps, but school caps were much more common. Girl as in England wore very differet styles. After World War II as a result of American influences, we begin to see baseball caps by the 1960s. Generally the usevof headwear declined. By the end of the decade, however, we befin to see sun-safe headwear.

Skirted Garments

We notice Australian boys wearing a varierty of skirted garments. Australian boys like English and other European boys in the 19th century commonly wore dresses until breeched at about 5 years of age. This varied smewhat from family to family and socio-economic factors had an impact on the age of breeching. HBC is not sure if this was more or less common in Australia than England, but the same style of dresses were worn. We still have, however, only limited information on the dresses worn by Australian boys. Pinafores were worn in Australia, much like the pattern in England. HBC has few details, but clothing catalogs at the turn of the 19th century mentioned both childrens and girls pinafores. This suggests, of course, that younger boys and girls both wore pinafores and because they were identical they were sold as children's pinafores. The available advetisment from Lasseters unfortunately lists prices, but not ages and sizes. Smocks do not appear to have been commonly worn in Australia. We have little information about the 19th century. We note an Australian whose family emifrated to Australia I think in the 1940s from Italy ran into trouble when his mother sent him to school in a checked smock with a bug blue bow. British immigration to Australia began to reach significant levels in the mid-19th century. Thus the tunics worn in England during the early 20th century had little imapct on Australia as there was not yey any substantial English population. This was different by the turn of the 20th century. We note some boys wearing tunic suits at this time. The style follows English styles. We do not know how common these suits were in Australia.


Although the weather in Australia is more mildthan Britain, is does get chilly in southern Australia and Tasmania during the winter season. As a result, sweaters are a necessary garment in Australia. Many boys once had sweraters knitted by mums and grandmothers--except for unifirm school sweaters. Thus knitting magazines are an important source of infornation about sweater styles. Since the 1960s, however, this has become incrteasingly less common. Sweaters are now largely bought in stores.


We have very limited information on Australian boys' blouses at this time. We believe that styles were quite similar to those worn in England. Boys commonly wore blouses in the late 19th century, sometimes quite fancy ones. Shirts became more common in the 20ty century. Some boys still wore blouses in the 20th century, especially the early 20th century. Fancy Fauntleroy collars gradually were replaced with plainer styles like the Peter Pan collar.



Fauntleroy Suits

Australia like England and America was caught up in the "Fauntleroy craze" that followed the publication of Mrs. Burnett's book in the mid-1880s. We still have little information on the phenomenon in Australia. We assume that styles followed the English pattern and the chronology was similar to that in England. English boys commonly wore knicker-style pants with their Fauntleroy suits than Ameerican boys who more commonly wore kneepants. As in England the Fauntleroy suits were often worn with wide brimmed sailor hats. By the turn of the 20th century the lace collars had given way to larger ruffled collars.

Sailor Suits

We know virtually nothing about sailor suits in Australia at this time. Our Australian imited. The English princes began wearing sailor suits (1840s). We are not sure when Australian boys began wearing sailor suits. As far as we know the styles and conventions in ustralia were the same as in England. Of course the uniforms for the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy when established were the same. Thus there were no dufferences in the national uniforms. And because Australian fashions were largely set in Britain, we do not yet know of any differences in sailor suits. Climate of course was a factor. This may have affected the fabric and the weight of the material. Hopefully as HBC expzands we will be able to address this topic in grerater detail.


As far as we can tell, Australian pants styles were basically the same as in England, although with provisio made for climate. Heavy winter clothes were not needed. An exception was Tasmania where it was alittle cooler, but that was a small part of the Australian population. For some time the only major dufference between Australian and non-winter English clothing was that Australian boys much more commonly went barefoor in the warm Australian weather. We do not have a larger 19th century photographic archive. But we see boys wearing knee pants. We do not see knickers which were common in Britain durung the 19th century, but our archive is too small to make any definative assessment. We do not yet have enough 19th century images to develop any real asessments of trends. We have much more information on the 20th century. We see knee pants in the early-20th century, but rarely knickers. Here we see boys dressed up for a formal occassion, wearing knee pants and long stockings in the early-20th century as was common in England (figure 1). Other images show younger boys wearing socks rather than long stockings when they dress up. Australiam boys made the transition from knee pants to short pants (1910s). Short pants suits were common, although Australian boys tended to dress more informally than their British counterparts. Shirt aoants were vurtually univrsal in the inter-war era, ifren wirn with kneesocks, This included suits when the biys dressed up. And we mostlty see boys wearing short pants into the post-World War II era. We begin to see more boys wearing long pants by the 1970s, but short pants continued to be common, especially for schoolrar. Shorts as in Britain and in Anerica increasingly became casual wear. As innEurioe we see Australian styles cinverging withe oan-European styles by the end of the century.

Sun Smart Clothes

It was once thought that a deep tan was a healthy look for summer. As we have learned more about skin cancer, modern partents are increasinly aware of the dangers of too much exposure to the sun. The concern is increasingly accepted in New Zealand and Australia. The growing hole in the ozone layer has creating great concer, especially in the countries cloesest to the hole. Clothing companies now market Sunsmart styles and schools are introducing sunsmart garments as part of the school uniform. Sunsmart styles may have a significant impact on school uniforms.

Figure 2.--This cabinent card portrait shows an unidentified Australian boy wearing an elaborate Fauntleoy blouse and knee pants with a wide brimmed hat abd white three-quarter socks. American boys might be dressed like this, but with long stockings. The portrait is undated, but looks like the early-1900s to us. The studio was the Society Studios in Eden. Eden is a coastal town south of Sydney in New South Wales.


We have very little information on Australian hosiery trends during the 19th century. Our Australian 19th century archive is very limited. Our initial assessment is that Australian children dressed the same as English children did with the one exception thar mny more children went barefoot. We have much more information on the 20th century. We continue to see many children going barefoot, even to school or when dressed up. Going barefoot did not have the signa of poverty as was the case in Britain. Of course aajor factor affecting hosiety in Australia was the climate, nuch warmer thn in Britain. Those children that wore shoes commonly wore socks rather than long stockings. We see three quarter socks and knee socks in the first half of the 20th century. We see some chilren wearing long stockings, but it was not nearlky as common as in America. Probably comparable to Britain. We see many children going barefoot through mid-century. This began ti chnge in the 1960s and we begin to see more children wearing ankle socks.


This is not a topic that HBC has been able to address yet to any great extent. We note that going barefoot appears to have been very prevalent in Australia. We have received some comments from readers.


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Crerated: February 6, 2002
Last updated: 4:43 PM 7/20/2020