Polish Boys' Clothes: Chronology

Figure 1.--This Polish movie show depicted boys playing on a barge. We did not know what film was, but our Polish readers tells us that it was 'Paagon, Gola" (1969). It looks like post-World War II Poland, but it may have had a contemprary setting.

Poland has played a crucial role in the history of Europe. Poland was for centuries the most powerful kingdom in eastern Europe. It was Polish forces that saved Vienna from Ottoman armies in the 17th century. Yet in the 18th century, Poland disappeared from European maps, partioned by three powerful empires: Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Yet through two centuries of foreign domination, Poland remained alive in the hearts of her people. The idea of Poland was maintained by language, culture, and the Catholic church. Poland and Ireland, two conquered peoples, became the most Catholic countries in Europe. Poland was reborn after the horrors of World War I, but conqured again by the NAZIs on 1939. The NAZIs sought to destroy the idea of Poland with finality, attacking Polish culture and the church. A new Poland was reborn in 1945, but moved east by the Soviets and subjected to a Stalinist dictatorship. Modern democratic Poland was reborn in the 1980s as the Solidarity trade union movement succeded in freeing the country from Communist rule. These political trends have significantly affected fashion trends in Poland.

The 16th and 17th Centuries

Polish boys generaly wore clothes similar to those woen in the rest of Europe. Boys untill they were about 5 years old wore tunics. Older boys wore miniature versions of adult male clothing. In the court of King Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632). In Polish he is known as Zygmunt III Waza, in Sweden he is known as Sigismund I. Boys were dressed in the German-Spain fasion. (At the time the Hapsburgs ruled much of Germany and Spain. The Hapburgs were the most powerful force in Europe. Thus German fashions were very influential in Eastern Europe.) Garments included: pludry [HBC does not know what this means], doublets/jerkins (polish: kaftan), ruffs (polish: krezy) and hats.

The 18th Century

Poland was once one of Europe's major powers. As a result of the rise of Russia and Prussia and a nobility that resisted the establishment of a strong central government, Poland gradually declined. Crushing defeats in war and invasion by foreign armies depleted the power of the Polish nation. The result was the Polish Partitions. After the three partitions (1772, 1793, and 1795), Poland in the late-18th century had ceased to exsist as an independent country. The Polish nobility has suceeded in significantly weakened the monarchy. This made it difficult for Poland to resist foreign incursions. The result was the disappearance of the Polish state. Poles became part of the Russian, German, and Austrian Empires. Most of Poland was acquired by Russia. At first this made relatively little difference in the lives of the Polish people, but in the 19th century the three empires to vary degrees began to institute policies to supress Polish culture, language, and natioal conciousness.

The 19th Century

Polish nationalists were hopeful that a new Polish nation would rise out of the defear of Austria, Prussia, and Russia in the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon's victories allowed him to create the Duchy of Warsaw outside of the new Confederation of the Rhine. We know little about the Duchy at this time. Napoleon's defeat in Russia in the Winter of 1812-13 doomed that hope. These three empires restablished their authority after Napoleon's defeat. Yet through two centuries of foreign domination, Poland remained alive in the hearts of her people. The idea of Poland was maintained by language, culture, and the Catholic church. Poland and Ireland, two conquered peoples, became the most Catholic countries in Europe. There was no Polish state, but there was a Polish people. Each had differing policies on the ability of national groups to express their nationalism, but all in one way or the other sought to supress Polish nationalism. These efforts and the division of Poles among the three great empires wouyls seem to have complicated the development of destinctive Polish styles. I do not have any information on the boys clothing during this period. I believe it was basically the same style of clothes that were commonly worn in Austria, Germany, and Russia at the time. This would have been particularly true of wealty Poles. We do not know about any destinctive Polish styles, but our information is still very limited.

The 20th Century

We have begun to collect some basic information on the 20th century. During the century Poland has gone through many major political changes that have affected fashion and clothing. Boys in the early 20th century seem to dress mostly like Austrian and Prussia boys. Even after the creation od an independent Polish state (1918), Polish fashions tended to be similar to that of neighboring states, especially Germany. Poland had a large Jewish population, many of which dressed destinctly. Poland was occupied by the Germans for a longer period than any other other country, except for Czecheslovakia. The German occupation in Poland, however, was more brutal than in any other country. An incredible 25 percent of the population perished in Wotld War IIWe know little about destinctive Polish styles. Russian "liberation" resulted in the reserection of an independent Poland. The border was pushed far to the west. Territory adquired by the Soviets in the east was replaced by former German Silessia and other territories in the East. Millions of people were forcibly moved, the Poles by the Soviets in the east and the Getmans by the Poles in the west. By 1948 the Russians had coreagraphed the creation of the Polish People's Republic. The Russians did all they could to recast Poland in the Soviet mold. Free elections in 1989 were the beginning of a new democratic Poland. By this time boys' fashions in Pland had become quite sumilar to those worn in the rest of Europe. Today Polish boys wear the same kind of generalized styles worn throughout Europe.


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Created: March 13, 2002
Last updated: 6:34 AM 1/31/2013