We note boys wearing various styles of dresses, but they seem less common than the kilt outfits. Boys in the early 19th century wore dresses styled much like their sisters. The problem for HBC is that we just do not know very much about dress styles. We will work on styles that occur to us, but if HBC readers who are more acquainted with dress styles have any suggestions here, we would appreciate your insights. The fact that boys often wore dresses greatly complicates our assessment because it is often difficult to tell if the child in an unidentified portrait was a boy or girl. By the late 19th century destinctive boys styles appeared. Not all mothers selected these boy styles. Some boys were dressed in fancy dresses like their sisters. The boy dresses by the late 19th century had become increasingly common. The most important destinctive feature was that boy styles were more plain than those worn by girls. There were a variety of dress styles worn by boys. One important feature was the waistline. The waistline can be used to categorize many dresses. We note dresses made with defined waists and dresses made without waists.
Boys in the early 19th century wore dresses styled much like their sisters. The only difference in some paintings and phoyographs may be the props introduced as gender clues. By the late 19th century destinctive boys styles appeared. This was, however, largely a family mother--mother's didcression. Not all mothers selected these boy styles. There were no definitive rules on styling boy dresses. Some boys were dressed in fancy dresses like their sisters. The boy dresses by the late 19th century had become increasingly common. The most important destinctive feature was that boy styles were more plain than those worn by girls. They were also more likely to have front buttons. As conventions for boy dresses varied from family to family, the most valuable images for evaluating these conventions are family portraits.
A dress has several different contruction elements. These include among others the neckline, collar, sleeves, yoke, bodice, waitline, and skirt. The style of these various elements might be adopted for gender differences, although boys also wore the same dresses as their sisters. This caried from family to family and chronologically. We will attempt to assess the various construction elements to determine gender-based differences if any. The problem for HBC is that we just do not know very much about dress styles. We will work on styles that occur to us, but if HBC readers who are more acquainted with dress styles have any suggestions here, we would appreciate your insights. Hopefully as we archive more images we can develop more information on gender differences.
Color and patterns are of course an important aspects of dresses. We do not know if boy dressed tended to be different colors than girl dresses. We think this is unlikely in the early 19yth or even mid-19th century. It could have been possible in the late-19yth century, but we do not yet have the information on colors needed to properly assess this. Assessing color trends is of course difficult using old photographs because they wew black and white. There is some color informatioin available in catalogs and paintings, but we have not found a great deal in connection with boy dresses. We do note boys wearing white dresses. This seems to have been a popular color for younger boys. They were also worn seasonally. Patterns are more easilly assessed in the photographic record. Probably the most popular pattern for boys was oplaid because of the connection with Scottih kilts. Other patterns may have been worn by boith girls and boys, but agauin our archive is too limited to mke any firm assessments.
We note boys wearing both light-weifgr summer dresses and heavier winter dresses. We see quite a few American boys wearing white or light-colored dresses. We had thought this was p[rimarily a summer style. But look at the Germantown boy here (figure 1). He is wearing a white dress even though his brother his wearing a heavy suit. This suggests that white dresses were also worn in cold weather. We also note boys wearing heavier dresses, often in darker colors. As most available portraits are taken in studios and undated, it is usually not possible to connect the dress with the season.
We notice a variety of different dress types. Here we are not as well versed as with boys' clothing types. Hopefully HBC readers with a better knowledge of dresses will assist us. There are quite a range of dress styles in clusing A-line, Empire, jacketed, pinafore and many other types. Here we hope to add more different dress types as we learn more anout the subject. Some were more popular for boys than others, but this was in part a factor associated with the chronological popularity of the different styles. While we generally see boys wearing plainer styles than girls, we note many portraits of boys wearing fancy dresses as well. And of course we have the persistent problem resulting from the fact that most old photographs do not idebntify the individuals. Sometimes we can figure out who is who, but often nit with complete certainty.
Fashion did not always play a major role in boys' dresses. Some boys, especially younger boys, wore very basic dresses without any real fashion influence. This was particularly the case for play garments. They were practical garments, an easy way to dress little boys. They were both practical garments and easy to make. They are probably not very well represented in the 19th century photographic record. They changed little over time. Not all the dresses worn by boys were these practical play garments. We also see boys wearing very fancy dresses with many of the fashion features of the dresses worn by women and girls. These were features that did change over time.
The accompanying clothes worn with dresses were limited as the dress covered the child from the neck to below the knees. There are, however several garments to consider. We notice boys wearing a wide range of headwear with dresses. Headwear is a little difficult to assess because children in many instances were photographed without their headwear. This ranged from huge wide-brimmed sailor hats to relatively small caps shaped rather like pillbox caps. We see virtually all kinds of different headwear worn with dresses. The hheadwear boys wore with dresses were not as fancy as the girls wore, but wore more diverse. We seevboys wearing both hats and caps. Boys commonly wore neckwear, but this was less common for boys weaering dresses. American boys and girls both usually wore long stockings with dresses. Long stockings were very commonly worn by boys and girls. There may have been some difference in color, especially by the 1900s. But even as regards color there was much more comonality than difference. As to footwear, boys abnd girls in the 19th century when boys commonly wore dresses, basically wore similar footwear.
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