Historical Girls' Clothing: Countries--Europe

 English girls pinafores
Figure 1.--One of the most common garments for girls throughout Europe in the 19th century was the pinafore. It was a protective garment. There were two reasons why a protective garments was common. First, clothes were relatively much more expensive than clothing today. Second, laundry wasa much morelavboriousprocess. While the pinafore was basically a utilitarian garment, we see some very fancy ones like the pinafores these London girls are wearing in this cabinet card. It is undated, but looks like the 1890s to us. The studio was H. Hallier in Sydenham, London.

The fashion history of Europe is a well-covered topic, at least women's fashions. And forcenturiesgirlswore small sized dressedstyledkliketheir mother's garments. The basic woman's garment is the dress. It evolved from the robes that both men and women wore in the medieval era. There is a huge body of evidence including vintage clothing, art, fashion magazines, and photographs. Even before the invention of photography, there are large numbers of art work showcasing women's fashions. Most of this evidence relates to adult women. we have less information about girls. We are slowly adding country pages to our HGC fashion site. Here we are looking forwaed to reader contributions to build our country section. At this time much of our information comes from England, France, Germany, and the United States, but we hope to expand these country pages as our HGC site grows. There used to be vast differences between popular fashions from country to country, although elites tended to follow the same fashion trends. As popular fashions became more standardized, a few countries emerged as fashion setters, espoecially England, France, and Germany. France was especially important as during the medieval era it was such a rich country. And in more recent years it continued to dominate female fashions. The United States became important after World War II. As far as we can tell, girls's styles were less country specific than boy' styles, but this is just our initial assessmen.


Austria or more correctly the Austrran Empire for several centuries one of the great powers of Europe. For a time it looked like Austria would be the country that would unify Germany. And Austria was firmly set in the Germanic cultural world. Unlike Prussia, Austria built a substantial non-Germanic empire, far outnumbering the Germanic population in Austria itself. Vienna was an important cultural center. Fashions were influenced by both France and Germany. Frnce was the primary inflience for female fashions througout Europe. Economic and cultural ties to Germany made that country an importnt influence. There were also influences from he non-Germanic peoples to the east tht comprised most of the Empire, especially the Hungarians.


Belgium is a small country pnce part of the Spanish Netherlands in the lowlands between Germany and France. The population is split between the Flemish related wih the Dutch to the North and the Waloons related with the French to the south, but both sharing Catholcism. The country is heavily industrialized with a sizeable agricultural sector. Industrialization meant that the country was fairly affluent with families able to addord the latest fashions. All of this of course affects fashion trends. We do not know of any destinctive modern styles. As was the case throuhjout Europe, girls until the 20th century all wore dresses and skirts. What we see for the most part are styles influenced by French and German trends. Belgium had a substantial African colonial empire which hhad an economic impact, but virtully no impact on fashion. There are some interesting folk styles which basically disappeared around World War I except for festivals and ceremonies.


We do not yet hve much information in aDnish fashions gender trends. Our Sanish archive is very limited making it impossible to go very deeply into the topic. Denmark is a very small country and thus will not have a photographic record like the larger countriesfor wjoch we have substatial archives. Denmark borders Germany to the south. As best we can tell, German children's clothing for both boys and girls were similar to German styles, at least popular styles in northern Germany. We do not see soutern/Alpine styles like Kederhosen. We do noy ter know much about girls' styles. We are not sure, for exmple, about the dirndl. Hopefully as we acquire more images, we can begin to assess gender trends.


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. Interestibgly, we do not see the significant disparity that devedloped 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.


France since the medieval era, but especially the reign of King Louis XIV has been a major force in the world of fashion. This is especially the case in women's and girls' fashions. We believe that the French were very important in establishing dress styles throuhout the 19th century. Thus France was a major factor in girl's clothing. This is similar to how the British played a major role in men and boys' clothing.


We do not know much about German girls fashions in thr 18th century, but have acquired quite a bit of information beginning in the 19th century. Girls wore dresses and skirts in the 19th century and much of the 20th century. de range of different dress styles. Sailor styles as with the boys became very popular. Some garments, especially hosiery and footwear was the same or identical. We first see girls wearing other garments in the early-20th century when girls began wearing bloomer and romper outfits for school gym classes. We later see girls wearing short pants for Hitler Youth athletic avtivities, but the offocial uniform was a blouse and skirt. It was not until after the World War II that we see girls wearing shorts or long pants, but this was only for casual or play activities. For the most part, German girls continued wearing skirts and dresses into the 1960s. The popularity of Jeans in the late-1960s and 70s was was a major factor in changing girls clothing trends. We have not yet have much information on German girls' fashions. We have archived large numbers of images of German girls in the HBC boys section. We have not yet, however, assessed the fashion trends depicted there. We note German sisters in the 1920s. Dressing sisters in identical dresses was very common in Germany, but varied from family to family.


Italian girls like girls throughout Europe mostly wore dresses or other skirted outfits like blouses and skirts. We notice the same basic styles as worn in other countries. It is virtually impossible to identify countries with girls wearing dresses in Europe, accept when some peasant/folk styles are worn. Some girls wore pinafores over their dresses, but this began to decline after the early-20th century. It may have been less connon in Italy because smocks were so common in schools. The prevalence of dresss did not change to an extent until after World War II. Italy was one of the countries where smocks were widely worn for school. Thus school images are not as useful as many nother countries in following chronological dress styles. Both boys and girls wore them, but they were more common for girls and older girls wore them. While they were commonly worn for school, we see very few girls wearing smocks outside of school. We begin to notice other girls' garments first in instituional settingds, especially the summer camps that became common during fascist era of the 1920 and 30s. One of those garments was rompers. We notice girls wearing uniform rompers at a Fascist summer camp during the 1930s. Unlike France, both boys and girls wore rompers in Italy, but we see them mpstly in instituional settings.


Romania until after World War II was a country split between a modern urban population and a peasant rural pipulation. This was the case throughout the Balkans where unlike much of Western Europe was not highly industrialized. There wre a range of reasons for this. Much of the region languished for several centuries unfer backward Ottoman cintrol. Other areas of the region were under Austrian vontrol which did not promote industrislization. The region was also largely untouched by the Reformation. Also the Balkans were outside the major trade routes which helped to make modern Europe. Other factors were involved. For what ever reason the split in Romanian society could be seen in fashion. Girls in yhe contry side still wore peasnt dress which was becoming a kind of folk costume. In the cities girls might wear fashionable dresses and other outfits depending on social class meaning the family finances. We do not notice any spcific Romanian styles, but basic European styles. German fashions seem inflential reflecting the importance of the German fashion industry.



We do not know a great deal about girls' clothing in Scotland. We do know that until after the mid-20th century Scottish girls like girls in other countries mostly wore dresses. as far as we know styles were identical to those worn in England. There were of course plaid dresses and skirts. Presumably they were more common in Scotland thsn Englasnd, but the photographic record does not show that either was particularly common. There does not seem to be anything comparble to boys Highland kilt outfits. This was one reason tht Aboyne outfits were created. There are two different styles, but this is a fairly modern creation and only worn for dance competitions. Unlike the similar dirdl fashion in Germany, it is not a style commonly worn even for folk ce;ebrations. We only see it bing worn by Higland dancers. We have begun to collect information on girls dresses, but at this time see no real difference between England and Scotland.


Swedish girls seem to wear the same basic garments as neigboring countries. We do not yet have much information on Swedish girls, our archive is very limited. The only destinctive styles we see are folk outfits. Unless a photograph is identified, we have no way of knowing if it is Swedish or even Scananavian. German styles seem especially important in Sweden. This presumably affects cultural ties as well as a very large German fashion industry. Swedish girls wore dresses. We do not seen a significant shift until World War II which was the general pattern in Europe and America.


We do not have a lot of information on Swiss girls clothing. Swiss girls mostly wore dresses that look a lot like those worn in neighboring France and Germany. Sailor styles do not seem as popular. We do note quite a number of girls wearing pinafores and not just for school. Boys in French cantons wore smocks and pinafores for school, but not in German Cantons. Girls in both French and German Cantons wore pinafores. Almost all girls wore dresses. We not a few girls wearing pants for casual wear around the home in the 1940s, but this does not seem to be very common and we do not see it at school until. Braids seemed very popular for Swiss girls hair styles.


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Created: 4:03 PM 2/15/2019
Last updated: 4:03 PM 2/15/2019