Boys Wearing Dresses: Quiz on 19th Century Images

Younger boys and not so very young boys wore dresses or dress-like skirts as part of kilt suits. Boys were also often dressed in smocks, especially in France and other continental countries. Pinafores were less common--but even here boys were sometimes also dressed in pinnies. Often boys did not have their hair cut until they were breeched, allowed to wear knee-pants and trousers. Some boys even wore long, curled hair after they were breeched. Some of the dresses worn by boys were identical or nearly identiacal to those worn by their sisters. All of this makes identifying the gender of the chidren in 19th century photographs, drawings, or paintings difficult unless details on the image are available, making it possible to identify the the children. HBC has provide some guidelines for determining the gender, although admittedly the are only rough guidelines. The authors believe,

Figure 1.--Sometimes even modern images might confuse Do you know who wore shortalls? This one, however, is easy because of the child's hair.
however, that they can be used to determine gender with some degree of accuracy.

We have loaded some images on this page. Some are easy. Others are more difficult. Some are difficult and we haven't really figured out yet. At any rate, see if you can determine the child's gender. Then click on the image to see if you were correct. (The link will take you to the page where the image is discussed.) Good luck.

Figure 2.--Here's an easy one. Can you identify the gender of the young child in the emaculate white dress? He seems to have a large white collar. I haven't decided on on what page to post it yet. The link, however, will take you to the brother-sister page.

Figure 3.--Here is a more difficult image from the 1870s. The pattern, however, should help you determine the child's gender. Note that this is not a kilt, but a proper dress and the child is not a baby like the child in figure 2.

Figure 4.--Here is a really difficult one. The image is French from a large prominent family. The photograph was yaken in the 1870s. A hint there are both boys and girls among the children--and not just the toddlers.

Figure 5.--This is a really difficult French image. The child wears a pinafore over the dress and has long hair tied with a hair bow. The pinafore in America or Britain in the 1900s would almost certainly be a girl--but remember this is a French child. We know just who it is, so there is no guess work involved. The painting was executed in 1906. What do you think?

Figure 6.--This American child is about 10 years old and reportedly liked to hike in the woods and sketch birds--in fact he turned that into a career. Any American boy growing up in the 1920s-30s would have seen his work. My question is what outfits were involved when the child was not dressed up for a formal photograph. At any rate can you identify the gender?

Figure 7.--These siblings were from a small Mossurri (Mid-Western town). I don't have the date, but I would guess the 1870s. The middle child appears to be wearing a plain smock-like garment. The older child, however, wears a fancier dress complete with puff shoulders. I also don't have specific details on the family, but think the gender here is obvious. What do you think?

Figure 8.--.This French child in the 1890s wears a smock, probably over a dress. Note the long, but uncurled hair. Any ideas? In this case we know just who it was, so there is no guessing about the answer.

Figure 9.--.This drawing from am 1867 fashion magazine includes one boy. Can you tell which child is the boy?

Figure 10.--This is probably an immage from the 1880s. It is rather a diificult image. Actually this was a very important day in this child's life.

Figure 11.--This may look like a French image, but it is an American one.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: October 17, 1998
Last updated: November 20, 1998