Swiss Children' Clothes: Pinafores (1950s-60s)

Figure 1.--  

Here are some personal comments on this subject which may fill in some holes in your information. However, I am really referring to the German part of Switzerland and not Germany itself, although both were probably very similar in this respect. I first started to holiday in the Bernese Oberland, in German-speaking Switzerand, in 1954 for several consecutive years, so I am referring to Swiss Children's pinafores in the late 1950s and possibly the early 1960s.

Small Town

I remember one trip by coach over the Brenner Pass into Italy, when the route passed through small towns and villages. We went past a farm where two young peasant boys, probably brothers, were playing outside their house. They both wore little pinafores made of green baize, which were probably home-made by their mother. The pinafores had wide shoulder straps which crossed over at the back. The pinnies did not need waist ties, because the material was so stiff. I had never seen this style before, which is why I particularly noticed them.

Holiday Home

The only other time I saw boys wearing pinafores, or aprons, during this period, was when we passed what seemed to be a holiday home for schoolchildren, or possible an orphanage, when all the girls AND BOYS were gathered on the balcony cleaning their shoes en masse and all had been equiped with matching brown pinafores for the job. It was so typically 'German' of the time and particularly alien to English thinking! "At six o'clock, you will each put on a pinafore and clean your shoes together out on the balcony". By Order! What happened if they had more children than pinafores staying there?


I always stayed at the village of Interlaken and quite often saw schoolgirls going to, or coming home from school, whilst wearing summer frocks and domestic pinafores. These usually had shoulder straps which crossed at the back and went though holes on the waistband before tying in a bow at the waist. This style ensured that the pinny always perfectly fitted different sized girls. At this time, girls in England had long given up wearing pinafores, at least in public, let alone to school, so the contrast of these girls wearing pinafores AND clumpy boots and a big leather satchel full of school books on their backs really brought home the fact that one was abroad in a foreign country.


The next item is not about children but also illustrates the differences then between the two countries. Waitresses in Switzerland (and Germany) usually wore quite tiny white frilly aprons, with large ornimental bows, which were more symbolic than practical. BUT, these were also offered in tourist shops with a notice, IN ENGLISH, calling them 'tea aprons'. Now English working class women were still wearing aprons for housework at that time, but did not visit Switzerland, so I used to wonder if Middle Class ladies did actually buy these items on holiday and then invite their friends round to afternoon tea and wear them during the tea party. I found the idea then, and still now, quite mind-boggling!

Brenner Pass

At the end of this period, The Swiss built a long bypass road to relieve the congestion on the Brenner Pass route. By shear coincidence I last made the trip on the day that they fitted the last section of the new road higher up the mountain. Although the journey will be much quicker now, I doubt if it is anywhere near as interesting! [A reader writes, "Your reader is incorrectly remembering the name of a pass from Switzerland to Italy. The "Brenner" is between Austria and Italy in Tirol, from Innsbruck going to the south, about 150 miles to the east of the Swiss border. The big passes from Central Switzerland (Interlaken) to Italy are the "Gotthard", the "Simplon" and the "Grosse St. Bernhard".]

European Styles

HBC note: Today in Europe, children wear what is essentially a pan-European style. This is rather similar to American styles. You can not longer easily tell wghere children are from by the way they dress. This article from our Biish reader is a good eample of how even after World War II, destinctive natioinal styles were still common.


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Created: 7:09 PM 4/28/2007
Last updated: 7:09 PM 4/28/2007