Historical Girls' Clothing: Countries

Figure 1.--Here we see a variety of American dresses. This portrait shows girls (and for some reason possibly even a boy) posing as fashionable folks with raised skirts. The six children wear Springtime hats and dresses. The portrit was taken at the Greenlund studio in Warren, Pennsylvania. It is undated, but the mat style and the informamity suggest the very early 1900s to us rather than the 1890s.

We do not know much about girls clothing in individual countries. Until the 1960s this primarily mean dresses. We do not know dress styles varied chronologically or by country. We keep hoping a reader will assist us with this enterprise. In the interim we will begin to collect images and information from various countries. There are quite a number of images archived in the HBC site that can be useful here. We will eventually index the outfits being collected in the chronology section by countries. We will wait, however, until we have a more extensive number of entries in the chronological section. Here there are both HBC pages with discusss girls and children's clothing.

America, Latin


We note Argentine girls wearing European fashions. We notice two Argentine girls wearging fashionable dresses in 1932.


We have very little informtion on Uruguay. We suspect thht girls fashions were very similar to those of Argentina with a common Spanish foundation and similar levels of European migration in the late-19th and early-20th century. We bote an unidentified Uruguayan girl wearing a smocked fress and striped long stockings in 1877.

America, North


American girls like girls in other countries wore dresses throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century. We do not kow a great deal about dresses at this time. We believe dress styles were largely set in Europe throughout the 19h century. We want to develop information on fashion trends over time. We also want to see how girls' dress styles compared to adult women's styles. This will be very useful in improving our ability to date old photographs, mny of which are not dated. Not only did girls wear dresses in the 19th century, but so did younger boys. Girls continued to wear dresses in the 20th century. Only after World War II do we commonly see girls wearing other garments. Here American girls led the way for a trend that would be followed in ther countries. Grdually in the 20th century it became popular for girls to wear boys' styles like shirts and jeans. In sharp contrast to the 19th century, boys' did not wear girls' styles.



In the world of fashion, surely the most fascinating womens clothes come from Asia. And of course for a Westerner, they are the most exotic costumes we note. Of course Asia is a huge, diverse continent with many styles. Unlike Europe, there is not the same detiled artistic tradition of painted depictions. So we know less about historic eras. And the photographic record is not nearly as extensive as itis for the west. Many of these styles have disappeared. some are rather like folk costuming in the west, worn only for special occassions. In other countries they are still everyday dress. We do not note special styles for children. Girls wore small editions of their mothers' outfits. Today girls in many countries are more likely to wer Western styles, especially for school. Some of the most important styles come from China, India, Japan, and Korea. Thereare also many fascinating styles in Southeast Asia. Of course in large countries like China and India there are many regional differences. Nin additionn to the bright colors and beautiful stylesin much of Asia wealso notice drab cover everything approached in many Muslkim countries. At this time we have just begun our assessment nd would inteested in reader input.


The fashion history of Europe is a well-covered topic, at leadt women's fashions. The basic woman's garment is the dress. It evolved from the robes that both mena 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 photogrphy, there are large numbers of art work sowcasing women's fashions. Most of this evidence relates to adult women. we hve las information bout girls. We are slowly adding country pages to our GGC 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. 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.

Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa include two of the river valley cradles of civilization (Mesopotamia and Egypt). Civilization meant that the socities were generating wealth and far more attention was given to clothing and fashion than hunter-gatherer societies. Persia and Turkish tribes later emerged as another force and genrator of fashion. Much of the arrea was dominated by first Greece abd then Rome/Byzantium which also exerted fashion influences. Other fashion influences were exerted by Arabs and Bedouin tribes. The entire area would be dominated by Islam as a result of the Arab outburst from the Arabian Peninsula and military conquests. And Islam had very definite attitudes toward fashion. Fashionnin the area developed as almagum of Islamic teachings blended with Arab and local trends, including bedouin fashions. Turkish fashions became important as the Ottoman began to conquer the Arab lands (16th century). These early fashion trends sre important because they carried over to modern times which was ot the case in the West. Western fashions began to have some influence, especially after Europeans began to colonize the area (1830s). Western fashions became very imortant in urban areas (early- and mid-20th centutry). Peole in rural areas continued to wear traditional garments. This continued into the de-colonization era after World War II. This began to change with the failure of Arab socialism (1970s) and many in the region began to turn to fundamentalist Islamic movements which was reflected in fashion and dress conventiins, in some cases enforced by Islamic clerics and the fashiion police.



Australia was founded as a Btitish colony in the late-18th century. Girls fashions were essentilly the same as fashions in Britain. The only important difference we can detect is that it was more common for children to go barefoot in Australia. We see the same styles and fashion chnges over time. Australian children spent more time outdoors which affects the clothing chosen, but the stupes and basic garments were the same. Girls only wore dresses and skirts throughout the 19th century. In the 20th century, especilly after World War I we begin to see rompers and shirts, but dresses continued to be the standard garment. World War II was a turning point for Australia. Contacts widen with other countries especilly the United states. We see american styles becoming popular, especially active wear. Dresses comntinue to be stndard wear. Girls only wore drsses to school. By the 1960s we begin to see girls commonly wearing garments other thn dresses. As many Australian schools have British-style uniforms, dresses and skirts coninued to be standrd at school.


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Created: 12:18 AM 3/17/2007
Last updated: 7:12 PM 1/11/2019