French Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1959 "La Redoute" Outfits for Younger Children

Figure 1.--This adverisement appeared in 1959 French "La Redoute" catalog showing a wide range of infant outfits. The romper suits in sizes up to about 4 years for boys.

The "La Redoute" catalog was well known throughhout France. The clothing offered is a good indicator of styles that were widely worn in France and by French people in oberseas locations. The some styles were qlso widely worn in Belgium. This page showing rompers and other items for younger children came from the 1959 catalog. The ad coy does not specify boys or girls, but this is suggested by the child depicted wearing it. At any rate the French mother would have understood which garment was for what child without being told this.

Outfit A

This is clearly a shorts set for a boy. The ad copy reads, "Beau gilet "Redoute" en pure laine mérinos, avec devant garni bandes jacquard : blanches sur fond rouge, rose, bleu nattier ou poussin; ou rouge sur fond gris-clair. 1 an....Fr780, 2 ans....Fr 865, 3 ans....Fr 985" This translates as "Beautiful "Redoute" vest (in this case meaning sweater) pure merino (fine Spanish wool) wool with front furnished Jacquard tapes: white on a red, pink, blue background nattier or chick; or red on light gray background." A boy is pictured wearing it and came in sizes 1-3 years. It cost Fr 780-985, depending on the size. The ad copy describes the sweater and not the shorts. This is interesting, however, as the drawing suggests that such a sweater was worn with shorts, but not rompers. HBC is uncertain as to the conventions involved here.

Outfits B-D

The models appear to be girls because of the hair and skirts, but the garments are sweaters which could presumably be worn by either boys or girls.

Outfit E

Outfit E was a boy's garment. The ad copy read, "Joli costume 2 pièces "Redoute" (veste et bloomer) en beau fil d'Ecosse mercerisé, à fines rayures ciel/blanc ou poussin/blanc. Le col de veste est blanc ainsi que le bord des petites manches . Culotte avec élastique à la taille et aux jambes . Pour enfants jusqu'à 2 ans..... Fr 1525." This translates as, "Pretty 2-piece "Redoute" costume (top and bloomers) in beautiful wire of plaid mercerize, with fine stripes sky blue/white or yellow/white. The collar of the vest is white as well as the edge of the small sleeves. Bloomers with elastic band the size and the legs. For children up to 2 years." Note that in French the words "veste" and "blouse" or used to describe the smock or frock-like garments younger boys wore over bloomer pants. This was for the younger boys, in this case only up to 2 years. This was made in sizes for infants up to 2 years. While the outfit looks like a little girl's dress, the French reader who provided this advertisement tells HBC that this was exclusively a boy's outfit. He explains, "The outfit " E" was only for BOYS and was called: " Costume bloomer " for boys 1 to 4 years old. It was composed of a "blouse" and a "culotte bloomer " This model was in fashion from 1958 till 1966 and had took place often instead of the rompers. A similar garment made for girls had almost the same look, except the dress was longer and the little bloomer pants hadn't no buttoning at the crotch."

Outfit F

The ad copy reads "Barboteuse "Redoute" en zéphyr à damiers rose, bleu, vert ou jaune 1 an...560 et 25F par 1 an jusqu'à 4 ans." This translates as "Redoute rompers made in zephyr with pink, blue, green or yellow checks. Sizes 1-4 years." This bib-front romper suit was a boy's garment in sizes up to 4 years. It was available in several colors, including pink, blue, green, and yellow. Notice the blouse with puffed sleeves that is pictured with it. This was a boys garment and would have only been worn by a boy. Note that young boys in the 1950s were wearing pink garments. A French reader tells HBC that while this is primarily a boys' garment, a girl might wear one at the beech. A French reader describes this garment as a "barboteuse bain de soleil" for boys on a sunny day. Occasionally a girl might wear one for a beach outing.

Figure 2.--This adverisement appeared in 1959 French "La Redoute" catalog showing a wide range of infant outfits. The romper suits are in various styles and available in sizes up to about 4 years for boys. The rompers could be worn with optional smock-like garmenrs called "robettes" or "blouses". HBc is not sire about the conventions as to when these smock-like garments were or were niot worn.

Outfit G

The ad copy reads, "Barboteuse "Redoute" en vichy écossais à damiers rose ou bleu, avec devant garni broderies. Hauteur 40cm....Fr 755, 45cm....Fr770, 50cm....Fr785. La robette assortie. Mèmes colories. Hauteur 40cm....Fr730, 45cm....Fr760 , 50cm....Fr790." This would translate something like, "Redoute rompers in gingham [shelled?] with pink or blue checks, with front furnished embroideries. Sizes in garment height. The matched robette. Various colors. Sizes in height." This one-piece romper suit is described in sizes, which would be for a boy 1-4 years of age. It is back buttoning with waste bands that tie in a bow at the back." I'm not sure what the "robette" mentioned in the ad text is, but appears to a smock or frock-like garment. A French reader tells me that these robettes are for girls and he would translate them as "little dresses". The style was made in rompers (barboteuse) for boys and robettes for girl. The top were the same, only the bottom part was different. The illustration to conserve space just pictures one. Thus a mother with a boy or girl could choose this style. It was also an option for a mother that wanted matching or coordinated garments, perhaps for mothers who either liked the styling or wanted to dress her young son and daughter in coordinated outfits.

Outfit H

This roper is similar to outfit G, but a little dressier. The ad copy reads, "Barboteuse "Redoute" en belle popeline irrétrécissable blanche, bleu ou poussin. Devant garni smocks et broderies, boutonnage dos, ceinture à nouer derrière. Boutonnage à l'entrejambe. Hauteur 40 cm ....Fr790, 45cm....Fr840, 50cm....Fr890. La robette assortie. Mèmes colories. Hauteur 40 cm, 45 cm, 50 cm." This would translate as something like, "Redoute romper in beautiful unshrinkable, blue, white, or check poplin. Embroidered smocking at the front, back buttoning, waist bands to tie behind. Buttoning closures at the crotch. Sizes in garment height. The matching robette in various colors. Sizes in garment height. This one-piece romper suit is described in sizes, which would be for a boy 1-4 years of age. It is back buttoning with waste bands that tie in a bow at the back. This romper suit also had a matching "robette". A French reader tells me that of all the romper suits shown here, outfit H was by far the most common. We note that some of the boys in Robert Doisneau's photographs are shown weating this style of romper suits. He reports that mostvFrench boys in the 1950s wore this style of rompers.

Outfit I

This "robette" is a lottle frock for a girl. A rompersui for a boybis available in a matching style. The illustration for outfit G and H picture the romper suit and not the matching "robette". Here the "robette" is pictured and not the matching rompers. The ad copy reads, "Robette "Redoute" en popeline de nylon blanche. Petites manches, empiècement garni jolies broderies, petit boutonnage dos, grand ourlet (piqûres invisibles); Confection soignée. Haut 40 cm...Fr1.075, Hauteur 45 cm....Fr1.155, 50 cm....Fr1.235 La barboteuse assortie Hauteur.... 40 cm....Fr1.190, 45 cm....Fr1.270, 50cm ....1.350." This would translate as something like, "Redoute robette (smock/frock) in white nylon poplin. Small sleeves, the yoke (top-part joining the shouders and the blouse) finished in pretty embroidery, small buttons at back, large hem (invisible stitches); Neat clothes industry, probably better translated as Well made. Garment height in centimeters. Matching rompers. Height in centimeters."

Outfit J

This outfit was only for girls.

Outfit K

The ad copy read, "Bel ensemble 2 pièces "Redoute" en popeline d'Alsace à damiers bleu ou rose. Blouse vague boutonnant devant, avec empiècement souligné fronces (devant et dos) culotte avec élastiques à la taille et aux jambes. Le 2 ans ....Fr1.035. Le 4 ans....Fr1.115 ." This would translate as something along the lines of, "Beautiful 2-piece outfit parts. Redoute in Alsace (A French province presumably known for the manufacture of polin) poplin with blue or pink checks. Full front buttoning blouse with underlined creases (pleats?) on the yoke (in front of and back) bloomers with elastic bands the size and the legs. Sizes for 2-4 years." Note that the back buttoning smock-like garment is called a "robette" while the front-buttoning garment also looking like a smock is called a "blouse".

Outfit L

The ad copy reads, "De confection irréprochable, un joli costume 2 pièces "Redoute" (veste et bloomer) en très belle popeline irrétrécissable blanche ou poussin. Veste ornée fines broderies couleur devant, avec col et empiècement rond bordés festons , culotte à bretelles, boutonnage à entrejambe . Excellant article recommandé sans rèserves, idéal comme cadeau. 1 an....Fr1.390 et 30F par 1 an jusqu'à 4 ans." This would translate something like, "Of irreproachable manufacture, a pretty two-piece Redoute costume (top and bloomers) in very beautiful unshrinkable white or yellow poplin. Decorated top with fine colored embroidery in front with bordered collar and a round yoke [festoons?], bloomers with straps, bouton crotch closure. Excelling article recommended without reservations, ideal for a gift. 1 year up to 4 years." This was the most expensive a dressy romper suit offered on thius page. Note there there is no difference in the age at which one-piece rompers are worn and the age that these two-pice suits with smock-like tops are worn. HBC notes that these twopiece outfits are sometimes referred to as "costume bloomer" or "Ensemble 2 pièces", the latter suggesting a little better quality garment.


Some of these items specify the size in centimeters (height) of the smock rather than the age of the child. A rough indicatopr would be 40cm (12-18 months), 45 cm (2-3 years), 50 cm (4-5 years), 55 cm (5-6 years), and 57 cm (7 years). A French reader reports that boys are now a little larger than was the case previusly. This is due to better incomes and improved diets. One clothing concern made the following estimates for boys comparing 1946 and 1975. A 1 year old boy in 1946 was about 70 cm tall and by 1975 the average was more like 74 centimeters. The other comparisons were: 2 years (76/86), 3 years (80/94), 4 years (89/94), 4 years (89/102), 5 years (97/108), 6 years (103/114), 7 years (108/?), and 8 years (114/126). A boy would wear a romper about half his height. The company calculated that a boy 76 cm tall could wear a 40 cm romper. Other calculations were a 97 cm boy would wear a 50 cm romper, 105/55 and 108/57.


The modern color conventions of blue for boys and pink for girls had become generally established in France by the 1950s. A French reader advises HBC that in the 1950s the mothers when choosing their children's clothes did not always accept the prevalent color conventions. So little boys might sometimes be seen wearing pink rompers and a girl wearing sky (light) blue dresses. It was the same for smocks which could be seem in pink for a little boy. This was especially true for mothers who made their children's clothing. The color gender conventions were in fact not absolute. Some fashion magazines magazins 1950s-1960s reportedly advised to chooe blue, pink or other colors for boys' clothes. [HBC note: We do not have actual magazine citaions.] One reader reports in 1970 selecting a pink romper suit for a son. I suppose this rule had been the same abroad, one can see on HBC a Swiss or Belgian boy wearing a pink smock. Our French reader points out that while boys may have worn pink garments, this was not the common practice. He also points out that the actual color used was not the light pink now used for girl's clothes, but rather a pink-red shade. [HBC note: Ginham was very popular for rompers and smocks. Red ginham because it mixed red and white has the appearance of pink.] Currently in the 2000s the color conventions are much more entenched. The modern boy wears blue and never pink.

While the modermn gender color conventions were fairly well established by the 1950s, there appears to have been some flexibility for younger boys. One romper bottom outfit here was available in pink. Note that garments E, K, and L were only for boys. E was available in sky (light) and white checks and yellow and white checks. K was available in blue an pink. L was available in white and yellow. Garment F was primarily for boys, but a girl might wear one on a beach trip. It was availale in pink, blue, green or yellow check gingham.


Note that girls under their dresses might wear bloomer-type puffed pants. These pants, however, were never worn as an outer garment like boys' rompers. The girls never, for example, had suspenders on these bottoms like some of the boys' outfits.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: October 16, 2001
Last updated: September 22, 2002