French Postcards: Garments

Figure 1.--This card look to have been made in the early 1930s, but was ot postally used until 1943. The boy wears a blouse with a Peter Pan collar and matching shorts with white kneesocks and white "T"-strap shoes.

While HBC has used quite a number of French postcards, we have only assessed a few of them in detail for information presented on specific garments. Many of the garments in which the boys were dressed includd kneepants and shortpants. Fancy blouses and ailorsuits were also popular. Some care has to be used in assessing the nationality of the fashins shown. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that many of the cards, especially the French cards, were made in France but marketed in other countries. We do not know to what extent, if any, the French companies altered the clothing and posed to appeal to a country where the cards were to be marketed. French postcard often howded boys with long hai and curls.


This particular card is a bit of a curiosity. It is not clear to HBC why the girls are teasing the boy or indeed even just what the boy is wearing. The three girls here are clearly teasing the boy. He seems rather embarassed about what he has done. But why? A HBC contributor suggests, "I may be mistaken, but I think the card shows a boy who while playing his boyish games broke something. The girls are teasing him for being naughty and having broke whatever is at his feet." This occurred to HBC, but to HBC it looks like what is in front of the boy are flowers, not a broken object. We could well be wrong about this, however, as it is not real clear. A comtributor mentions that the flowers could be from a vase that the boy


Postcards in the 1930s often show boys wearing blouses with short pants and white kneesocks. The blouses are normally white, often with large white collars. Front buttoning styles were the most common, but back buttoning styles were also worn, Some of the sleeves might be slightly puffed, but not in a pronounced way like girls' dresses. Strap shoes were also commonly depicted. Button-on blouses were common.

Sailor Suits

Sailor suits were especially popular in France. They were also popular garments in French post cards. Usually thry were short pants sailor suits, both blue and white. Often younger boys were depicted in button-on suits. Generally longer style kneepants were worn sailor suits in the early 1920s, but by the 1930s short cut, short pants were very common on the cards.

Short Pants Suits

This hand-colored post card was probably printed in the 1920s. It shows an older boy, perhaps 15 or so at a tavle wearing a short pants suit and kneesocks. Most ofthe boys pictured in these French postcards in fact wear short pants which many French mothers considered an attractive style for boys. One exception to this was sailor suits. Sailor suits came with both short and longpants, but less commonly knickers. Mothers that normally dressed their boys in short pants might consider a long pants sailor suit.


HBC has not note French boys dressed in rompers, although a French reader tells HBC that some do exist. This is somewhat surprising given the poularity of rompers in France. This is in part due to the fact that the romper was considered a paly garment in the 1920s and early 30s. Boys were not dressed up in rompers for formal events or special activities. Thus they were not considered aprropriate for the postcards showing well dressed children. Agter 1935/36 the roimper began to appear in dressier, more formal versions. Some postcards were made at this time, but as the fashion of sending cards with children dressed in fancy clothes had become less common. Thus relatuively few of these cards exist with boys dressed in rompers.


French boys mostly wore socks. Boys and girls in the late 19th century wore stockings, but by the time the photographic posrcards appear, most boys are wearing socks. Three-quarter socks were most common. White socks were very common in France. After World War I (1914-18) kneesocks become common and white kneesocks are often worn with dressy outfits.

Strap Shoes

Many of the children, both boys and girls, pictured in French post cards wear strap shoes. We believe, especially in the case of boys, that strap shoes were pictured much more commonly than the extent to which they were worn. This appears to have been part pf the practice as picturing the children to be sweet and innocent. We are unsure to what extent strap shoes were actually worn and by what age group. We do know that before World War II (1939-45) that sneakers were not yet common and boys commonly wore sandals of all styles--including closed toe styles. Strap shoes in fact were worn both as a dress shoe by younger children and a play shoe, although older boys more commonly wore the English "T"-bar style .

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 17, 2001
Last updated: December 4, 2001