*** Italian boys clothes family families

Italian Boys' Clothes: Family Trends

Italian families
Figure 1.-- This family portrait was taken in Carini, a big village near Palermo, Sicily. It is undated, but we would guess was taken during the 1920s. We can see the father and the mother with their seven children. In the center of the photo there is the father with two children. The mother is standing in the second row. This arrangement graphically shows the father's role in the patriarchal Italian family at the time.

Here we will follow Italian family fashions over time. HBC has decided to also gather information on entire families. One of the limitations of HBC is that too often we just view boys' clothing out of contex with what the rest of the family was wearing. Many HBC images are isolated portraits of individual boys that do not show the context of the time. This will help to compare boys' clothing with that worn by mothers, fathers, and sisters. These images will help show show differences in both age and gender appropriate clothing.

The 1830s

Roman peasant family (1836)

Czech artist Leopold Pollak was born in Lodenitz (1806). This is a town in what is now the Czech Republic. At the time it was in Bohemia, part of the Austrian Empire which was under fire from Napoleon's French Empire. Leopold's father was a prosperous Jewish merchant. His talent for drawing was noted as a child. He entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (1819). He studied under the Director of the Academy Joseph Bergler for 5 years. He wnt on to study in Vienna under Johann Peter Krafft. His parents helped him move to Rome so he could finish his artististic education (1831). He studied under an established German arist, Leopold Schutz. He quickly joined the circle of German-speaking artists in Rome (1832). This was a natural development as Bohemia at the time was part of the German cultural sphere. It is difficult to define his nationality. He was born in Austrian Bohemia as part of a Jewish family raised in a German cultural meliu, and painted primarily in Italy (the Roman Papal States). Pollak was a founding member of the Deutscher Kunstler Verein (Federation of German artists). Much of his work was thus done in Italy. He was particularly known for charming genre images.

The 1870s

We don't have much information on 19th century Italian families. We do note an 1870s CDV from Palermo that looks to be a substantial midlle-class family. The portly father is eleganbtly drssed. The mother more plainly. The younger boy wears a tunic suit, the older boy a cut-away jacket, both with long pants.

The 1890s

Campi Bisenzio share cropper families (1890s)

The photo was taken in the late 19th century on a farm in Campi Bisenzio, close to Florence. The portrait is unatd, but we would guess the 1890s. For some occasion, the daughter of the farm owner has a photo taken with the children of the sharecroppers. The children would be comsidered peasant children, but sxhre crioppin is just one system under which the largely landless peasant families worked. Although the peasant children dressed up for the photo (and the girl is wearing her everyday attire), we can clearly note the clothing difference. The outdits in the 20th century would be called folk costumes.

Peasant family (1897)

Here we see an Italian peasant family pictured in a stereo-view card. The only explanatory information is 'Italian peasants' written in different languages. We see the omen of a family with children. The image is not dated, but the mount style suggests the early-20th century. The image was copyrighted in 1897. They are all wearing traditional clothing. By this time it was becoming more common for Italian peasants to wear more modern styles, although for economic reasions they were often old and worn, depnding on the family. A good example is a Fosciandora farm family about the same time. Traditional outfits like you see here were more commonly worn for special occasions. We suspect that the individuals here dressed up to come into the town for some occassion. The location is not indicated, probably somewhere in southern Italy.

The 1900s

The 1910s

There continued toi be enformous differences between Italians based primarily on social class and where people lived in Italy. We see well to-do and middle-class people very fashionbly dressed. And we see peasant families wearing very basic unfashionable clothing. These differences were especially acute in Italy. The north was industrialized similar to countries like France and Germany while the south was essentially still feudal. Even in the north, however, there were differences between the city anbd rural areas, but this was true even in industrial countries like the United States. A major ifference was the carves women and girl wore on their heads. White dresses were popular for children. he convention of younger boywearing drsses was going out of style. We still see some folk outfits, epecially on Sardinia. Many children still commonly went barefoot. Fashions were similar to the 19--s, but World War I (1914-18) brought enormous changes which began to be seen in the 1920s.

The 1920s

Thanks to our Italian readers, we have quite a few images of Italian families from the 1920s. We begin to see more and more modern clothing, but we still see some traditional styles, mostly with older people the more isolated areas such as Sardinia and Sicily. Here head scarves for the women were also still common. Almost all the children are wearing modern styles, although as a result of continuing high levels of poverty, many children are not well dressed. We even see poorly dressed families in these portraits. We see images of very well dresses families with modern styles. Some of the older women still wear very long dresses. We see a range od suit jackers, incliding collar buttoning jacketas and alapel jackets. The collar-buttoning jackets are most common in the traditional areas. Most boy are wearing short pants, although we still see some knee pants in the early 20s. Strap shoes are popular for formal dress. Sandals are becoming popular with boys. Poor boys are still mostly barefoot.

The 1930s

Most Italian boys wore light-weight clothes in the 1930s. We do not see many caps and hats. Headwear was still common in northern Europe. T-shirts and tank top undershorts were very common in the summer. Short pants were very common. Most boys and younger teenagers wore them. But we see some boys wearing long pants. We do not see as many suits as in northern Europe. Climate was a factor, but so was incomr level. Italy continued to be a very poor country. We do not see many boys wearing ties, especially in the south. Boys usually wore their shirts open without buttoning the collar.Long stockings were not very common, especially in the south. We see knee socks a little more commonly, but many boys wore ankle socks or no hosiery at all. Sandals were very common. We see both closed and ipen toe sandals. Open toe sandals were esopecially common.

The 1940s

Italian diictator Benito Mussolini desiruing to follow NAZI Germany and share in the opportunity loot to be had by invading oyher countrues, deckared war on Britain and Frabce (June 1940). Unfortuntely for Mussokloni nd the Fascists, the Italian Army was not a modern army and even in Ethiopia (1935), its military prowess was not impressive. In Europe its militay ooperations were one disastrrr after snother. Not only did the Greek invasion no go well, but the Greeks drive them back into Albania abnd had to be rescued by thec Germans, both in Greece and North Africa. Hitlerr st the end of the War blamed Italy fior a major reasin Germany lost the war. This was only a temporary respite, And after the surrender in Tunisia (May 1943), the Allies invaded Sicily (July 1943) and then Italy proper (September 1943). Even before the invasion, the Allies began bombing Italian cities. The urban damage was, however, a fraction of whast occurred in Germany, the damage in towns and villages as the Allis and Germans fought it out, was worse than in Germany. Italy surrendered to the Allies, but the Germans occuoied the country leading to a long drawn out campasign up the Italian Peninsula leading to wide soread destruction. Italy was not a rich country to begin with. And the result of the fighting and German demolition. Much of Italy's infrastructure was destroyed. Communist Partisans executed Mussolini (April 1945). Hitler cowering in his bunker saw the images of him being strung up by his boots in Milan. The Germans surrendered a few days before the overall capitulation (May 1945). Italy was left a devestated country. Little progress toward revitaslization occurred during the first few years after the war. Most children were barefoot in Italy dyuring the decade and as a result of the War, women in the ciountryside also were commonkly barefoot. The entire European economy was devestate and near collaose. The possibility of a Communist takeover did not encourage investment. As in World War I, American food relif prevented famine. But developments outside of Italy would revolutionize Italy. They included the American Marshall Plan, West German currency reform leading to the German Economic Miracle, and the first steps toward European integration were all underway by the end of the decade.

Farm Family (1940s)

This unidentified farm family was photographed in their home listening to the radio. The photograph was taken in southern Italy after World War II during the late 1940s. The older individuals look to be the grand parents.

Lenzi Family (1943)

Here we see the Lenzi Family. They lived in Avellino, a town in southern Italy near Naples. The pprtrait was taken in 1943 during World War II. It was probably before the Allied invasion (September 1943) which targeted Naples. This was the most important port in southern Italy. The Lenzi family had 12 children. We see the parents and all 12 children. Fascist authorities promoted large families as did the Catholic Church. The younger boy wears a sailor suit, another brother wears a sort of cardigan and two others short pants suits. The three boys that we can see in front wear open-toe sandals without socks. This was more common in southern than northern Italy.

Marino Family (1947)

This photo was taken in Ragusa, a little town in inland Sicily. It show the Marino family in 1947. The girls are wearing white dresses, socks and footwear. The boy, aged 12, wears a suit with short pants. He is wearing open-toe sandals with white ankle-socks. At the time that was a good formal clothing for a boy belonging to a middle or low-middle class family. Today the conventions are changed. short pants suits are unusual and only for younger children. A boy aged 12 wears often short pants in summer, but only with casual clothing. Usually white socks are seen as inappropriate for boys. Many people think that sandals, especially open-toe sandals, must been worn always without socks, so usually sandals are not worn with a suit.

Unidentified Calabrian Pair (1947)

Here we see a little Italian girl looking after her baby brother just after World War II (1947). Italy was tore up from the toe of the boot to the Alps after the Allied landing (September 1943) until the NAZI surrender (May 1945). There were coiuntless children who lost or were separated from their parents. In this case it is likely that mother was just having the girl look after her brother. Their father may have been lost in thg War or taken prisoner by the Allies or Germans. The photograph was taken in southern Italy (probably Calabria). This was the poorer region of Italy. Among peasant and working families, even young girls were tasked with caring for their younger siblings. This was usually a task given to the girls who mostly stayed at home to help mother.

The 1950s

Italy rose like a pheonix out of the ashes of the World War II rubble. Many economists looking and the destruction believed that it would take a generation for Europe to recovder, especially ghe heavily damaged countries, including Italy. Jobs were hard to find, but Germany was the first country to report the first signs of recovery. And quickly German industry had trouble finding needed workers. The German Economic Miracle not only impacted the Germans, but laid the foundation for the recovery throughout Western Europe. Large numbers of Italian workers found jobs in Germzn factories and Italians companies found a ready market for their production in Germany. The Treaty of Rome creating the Common Markert was signed (1956). This all laid the foundation for the Italian Economic Miracle. Bot only did recovery not take a generastion, by the end of the decasde most Italians were far batter off than they had been before the War. And the new prosperity reached souther Italy which had still been virtuslly feudal. Italy was still poorer than northern Euroope, but was rapidly closing the gap by the end of the decade. The rift between northrn anhd southrrn Itsly aklso began to close. One indicator of the improving economy was the children. At the beginning of the decade, most children were barefoot even in the ciies. By the end of the decade we see more and more children wearing shoes.

The 1960s

Huge changes were occuruing in Italy during the 1960s. The most importaht was the increasing prosperity, especially in southern Italy. The German Economic Miracle helped vitalize the Italian economy as well. Italians working in Germany and European integration transformed Italy. Living standards improved notably. And this shows up in both housing and clothing as well as increasing number of Italians with cars. Children are increasingly well dressed. Italian boys still commonly wore short pants, but as in the rest of Europe we see more boys wearing long pants, especially by the end of the decade. Short pants suits are becoming less common. The divide between north and south still existed, but not nearly as pronounced as was the case before World War II. We see some children dressed identically. Sandals were widely worn.

The 1970s


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Created: June 1, 2004
Last updated: 5:01 PM 1/13/2021