* historical girls' clothing: garment gender connotations bows

Girls' Skirted Garments

girls dresses
Figure 1.--This half plate cased Daguerreotype is a charming portrait of three American sisters about 8-13 years old weasring matching polkadot print dresses with low necklines and necklasses. Thrir hair is even done alike. The low necklines even for older girls suggesrtsthe 1840s to us. The image is sharp with excellent contrast, but in poor condition. It is in a half case of leather. The overall size is about 6" H x 4 3/4" W.

Girls wore a variety of skirted garments. With few exceptions they only wore skirted garments for centuries. During the medevil era men and women wore similar looking robes. More differentiated atire appeared as Eutope emerrged from from the medievil era. The first step for more varied atire for women and girls began centuries later. More girls began going to school. Secondary school girls began wearing bloomers for school gym (laste-19th century). But except for gym, we do not see girls commonly wearing any garments except skirted garments until the 20th century. And even then we do not see other garments until after World War I in the 1920 and only for play and caual wear. The trend toward other garments varied from country to country and was most prominent in America. Even so, we only see girls dressing up or going to school in skirted grments until well past mid-century in America and some what later in other countries. The most common skirted garment was the dress, and virtually universal when dressing up or going to school. There were a wide range of types and detailing. Blouses and skirts were another very common garment, commonly seen as more informal than a dress. Skirts were also a skirted garment, but unlike dresses not usually supported from the soldiers. Skirts were more common than suggested by the photogrphic record. Mothers tended to dress their daughtersup for astufio portrit, manning adress. Smocks were both a protective garment and an agent of promoting social equality. They varied in use from, country to country and were particularly popular as a school garment in some countries. Pinafores were very common protective garments in the 19th and early-20th century. Girls did not wear kilts.


Dresses are of course primarily associated with girls and until World War II (1939-45), girls mostly wore dresses. It was unusual to see girls in shorts and pants until after the War. In some countries, well after the War. HBC at this time does not have detailed information on girls' dress styles. This would be very helful in helping to ssess undated image and to comapre with styles of dresses boys wore over time. Boys and girls at times have worn identically styled dresses, but toward the alter 19th century some destinctive boys styles appeared. Not all mothers chose these generally plain boy styles, but most did.


Skirts are of course closely rlted to dresses, bring the bottom half or theportion of the dress below the waistline. We do not jave a great deal of information about skirts as a separate garment yet. The word first appeared in Middle English during the 13th century, a word acquired from Norse. We seem to note dresses more commonly in the photographic record than blouses and skirts. We do tend to notice skirts more commonly in the 1890s, but more with young women than girls. That is just an initial assessment at this time. The skirt appears much more common in the early 20th century. The skirt became a staple for girls after World war I and we note girls wearing both dresses and skirts to school. Suspender skirts became a popular style.


Unlike many clothing items such as sailor suits, kilts, Fauntleroy suits, etc., smocks do not appear to have initially been made specifically for boys. Rather they were generic children's clothes, but primarily used for girls. There were many styles of smocks, involving color, buttoning (side, front, or back), embellishments, collars, pockets, trim, belts, ties, etc. Some mothers bought identical smocks for all their children. Some styles seemed to have been preferred by boys and girls. By the 1950s styles specifically for boys or girls evolved in many countries such as France where they were commonly worn.


Pinafores were essentially abbreviated smocks or aprons worn over other clothes for meals and play. I'm not positive when the pinafore first appeared. It appears to have appeared in the late 18th Century, but it is clearly a widely worn garment by the early 19th Century. I am also unsure as to which country or countries it first appeared. Based upon available images, the pinafore was particularly popular in England and France, but this may be just a function of the greater availability of images from those two countries. There may have been a variety of different styles, but by the mid-19th Century back buttoning pinafores seem to have been most common. Pinafore lengths seemed to have been largely determined by the lengths of the dresses in style during any given period. After the turn of the 20th Century pinafores were not commonly worn by boys, although they were worn by French boys after the style had passed out of fashion for boys in England. Pinafores for girls in the 20th Century became very fancy, stylish garments and not the utilitarian garments of the 19th Century.


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Created: 3:42 AM 1/27/2019
Last updated: 3:43 AM 1/27/2019