Historical Girls' Clothing: Countries--England

English girls sailor dresses
Figure 1.--Girls often adopt boys' fashions. This seems especially true in England. One of those styles was the sailor suit. Here we see an English girl wearing a sailor dress with a white rather than a striped "V-collar. Notice the wide-brimmed hat. We are not sure she wore it like that or she turned it up for the snapshot. Notice how she is holding on to the faithful family pooch.

England was particularly important in setting boy's fashion. It was not quite as important for girl's fashions. Here France was probably more important. That is not to say that English girls' fashions were not influentional. We suspect that not only did England originate fashions, but it was a factor in transmitting French styles throughout the Empire and to the United States. Interestingly, we do not see the significant disparity that developed between English and America boys' fashions also developing in girls' fashions. England of course was a major factor in the development of the fabric and garment industry. We have begun to collect some information on chronological trends. England also stongly influenced styles in its many colonies as well as to a lesser extent the United States. It was England which established many school uniform styles. And school uniform styles influences overal girlswear in England an other countries. We have a page on English girls' underwear.

Importance

England was particularly important in setting boy's fashion. It was not quite as important for girl's fashions. Here France was probably more important. That is not to say that English girls' fashions were not influentional. We suspect that not only did England originate fashions, but it was a factor in transmitting French styles throughout the Empire and to the United States. Interestingly, we do not see the significant disparity that developed between English and America boys' fashions also developing in girls' fashions. England of course was a major factor in the development of the fabric and garment industry. England also stongly influenced styles in its many colonies as well as to a lesser extent the United States.

Chronology

We have begun to collect some information on chronological trends in English girls fashions. Of course girls' fashions depending somewhat on the age of the girl are a deritive of women's fashions. This has varied over time. For centuries girls essentially wore just smaller versions of their mother's dresses. As with boys clothing we begin to see differences developing between girls and womens cloyhing in the 19th century. These differences have varied over time as well as the importance of differentiated clothing. A HBC reader has worked on these differences and variations over time.

School Uniform

There are substantial similarities between boys and girls school uniforms in England. Girls have adopted many items worn by boys such as ties and blazers. We are not sure precisely why this was, but suspect it may be because there was a long tradition of boys' boarding schools in England before the first girls' school was opened. The girls' schools apparently followed the examples of the already prestigious boys' schools. Besides the blazers and ties, girls wore the same sweaters that boys wore. Girls wore different styles of headwear, including berets and brimmed hats. There were of course differences. Girls always wore different headwear than the boys. Also they wore skirts rather than trousers. Here many schools for some reason had blouses and skirts for cool weather wear and light-wight dresses for warm weather. With very few exceptions, English girls do not wear trousers to school. There are a few exceptions. We have noted a few coed prep schools where girls during the Winter were allowed to wear cord long trouswrs like the boys. During the Summer, however, they were not allowed to wear short trousers. A HBC reader writes us that "In The Daily Telegraph newspaper (June 22, 2005) today there is an article about Broadstone Middle School which has now banned girls from wearing skirts to "protect their modesty" during activity lessons such as drama and music; all girls must now wear full length trousers to all lessons, even during very hot weather!" There were also differences in hosiery. Some girls wore grey kneesocks, but white ankle and kneesocks were very common. Also footwear varied. Although both boys and girls wore school sandals, girls commonly wore strap shoes. There were also sturdy school oxfords, but they were styled somewhat differently than the boys' shoes. Hopefully some of our English readers will provide us some more information about girls' school uniform trends.

Garments

We see English girls wearing a variety of headwear. Some of the more popular were berets, tams, and boaters. Headwear seems primarity assiociated with sdchoolwear, at least after World war I in the 1920s. English girls like girls in other counties almost entirely wore dresses and skirts. We see rompers/bloomers for school gym class. They may have also been worn by the Girl Guides. Dresses continued, however, to be the standard girls' garment. This did not begin to change to any extent until after World War II. We are not sure how popular jumpers (sweaters) were for girls. We certainly see girls weering them at school. We are not sure how common they were away from school. The frugality of the War and the stress on practicality undoubtedly had an impact. The overall trend toward casual wear was a another factor. We begin to see girls wearing short and long pants, although the time line was a little slower tyhan in America. The popularity of jeans was another factor. Gender variations in underwear have differed over time. We do not have a great deal of information on this, but believe that the overall trends were similar to those in America. There was obviously boys and girls underwear. At times the underwear for younger children has been fairly standard.

Families

Here we will follow 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 without any context as to what the rest of the family was wearng. Cllecting information and images on what the rest of the family was wearing 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. Much of the photographic evidence here is very stiff formal portraits. This provides important evidence as to the formal clothes worn by English families. The photographic technolgy of the 19th century limit the ability to take candid portrits of family life. The many chilftrn's books and periodical publications provide many wnderful images of family life, although almost always comfortable middle class families. The illustrations of course provide less definitive information, but do give an idea as to what boys wore for various occassions.

Unidentified Images

We rely heavily on the photographic record in building HBC and HGC. Mny of thse images do not identify when or where they were taken or who the subject is and inicators like age. Some of this can be worked iut. One of the easiest matters to figure out is usually genfer. It is usually possible even when the children are not unidentified to work out the gender. We have found a few images forwhich we are unable not able to work out the gender. We see boys wearing skirted garments and girls with short hair. Thus the genfer question is complicated, especilly for younger children. Many of the characteristics of men and women are often not yet apprent ith younger children. We welcome reader insights here.







HGC






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Created: 12:43 AM 9/18/2007
Last updated: 3:06 AM 4/6/2014