Schoolwear Garments: Tunics



Figure 1.--This German CDV portrait shows a German school boy outfitted for his fierst day school portrait. He wears a tam with a velvet trimmed tunic worn with knee pants and long stockings. Writing on reverse identifies the boy as Albert Boelerke along with a March 7, 1886 birthdate. As boys began school at about 6 yeatrs of age, this would mean the portrait was taken about 1892. The gift cone shows it was rememberance of his first school day. The studio was F. Benckert in Halle.

The tunic was a major school garment during the 19th century, espcially the first halfof the 19th century. As far as we can tell, tunics were not usually done as uniforms, at least in modern times. They were a kind of uniform in some grammar schools which can be seen in the uniforms at some of the British hospital school. They appear to have been a widely worn garment to school, especially for younger boys. This was at a time before the foundation of public schools in most countries. Thus we are talking about boys from comfortable middle-class families, meaning a social class factor was present. This may be in part a social-class function with the tunic being less common for working-class children. The early-19th century was also before photograpy was invented And even in the mid-19th cntury as photogrphy was expanding, we have relatively few school images. Tunics were worn throuhout the 19th and into the early-20th century. The tunic was primarily a school garment worn by younger children, although here there was considerable vaiation chronolgically. We believe that pre-teen boys may have worn tunics to school in the early- and mid-19th century. We see a lot of portraits of American children wearing tunics, but very few wearing them to school. We do see tunics in Eastern and Centrl Europe. We are not sure, however, about the chronology because our image archive is vitully non-existent for the early-19th and very limited for the late-19 century. The Russian peasant dress, essentially tunics, were the inspiration for the Russian blouse tunics commonly worn in Western Europe and America during the early-20th century.

Chronology

The tunic was a major school garment during the 19th century, espcially the first halfof the 19th century. As far as we can tell, tunics were not usually done as uniforms, at least in modern times. They were a kind of uniform in some grammar schools which can be seen in the uniforms at some of the British hospital school. They appear to have been a widely worn garment to school, especially for yhounger boy. The early-19th century was also before photograpy was invented. And even in the mid-19th cntury as photogrphy was expanding, we have relatively few school images. Tunics were worn throuhout the 19th and into the early-20th century. But even as even after photography became more common, we do not see many in schools during the late-19th century. Here we see a younger German biy wearing a tunic to school about 1892 (figure 1), but this was not very common.

Social Class

This was at a time before the foundation of public schools in most countries. Thus we are talking about boys from comfortable middle-class families, meaning a social class factor was present. We do not see working-class boys wearing tunics o ay extent. And in the early-19th century, few working-class children had access to much schooling. America and Germany were rare exceptions. As a result we believe that at least as far as scgool wear is involved, the tunic was mostly worn by middle-class children in comfortable circumstances. The tunic seems to have been to an extent, fashionable schoolwear and less common for working-class children.

Age

The tunic was primarily a school garment worn by younger children, although here there was considerable vaiation chronolgically. We believe that pre-teen boys may have worn tunics to school in the early- and mid-19th century. This is diffcicult to assess because photography was not invented until 1839 and was not common until the appearanc of the CDV (1860s). We do have a few paintings providing some insight on he early-19th centuy, but nothing like the immense photographic record of the second half of the 19th century. And we see quite a few European boys still wearing tunic outfits to school in the 1860s. We suspect that the age trends were simlar to the early-19th century, but this nedes to be confirmed. After the 1860s we see fewer and increasingly younger boys wearing tunics to school. Beginning in the 60s we are able tofollow age trends in more detail as there are increasingly large numbers of images available. We see boys up to about 11-12 years old, perhaps even 13 years of age wearing tunics to school. The younger ages were more common, but we so see some older pre-teens wearing tunics. While we do not have a photographic record for the early-19th century, the immense popularity of the CDV means that we at least have a sizeable recors of the 1860. After the 1860s, we no longr see boys much older than about 8 years of age wearing tunics to school.

Countries

We believe that tunics were more widely worn as school grments in Europe than americ. We have quite a substab=ntial archive of merican photograph, beginning in the 1840s with Daguerreotypes. But we see very few boys wearing tunic suits. We do see tunic outfits in the 1860s and 70s. We believe some boys may have worn them to school. but this is difficult to tell becaise school phoograpjy did not begin to become a popular undertaking until the 1880s. We see a lot of portraits of younger American children wearing tunics in the early-20th century, but very few wearing them to school. The pattern appears to have been different in Europe, althouhggh our archive is more limited and European photographs before the appearance of the CDV (1860s) are not nearly as common as in America. We do see quite a number of European boys wearing tunics as school wear in the 1860s. This sugges to us that the tunic was a common chool garment in the early- and mid 1860s. Quite a few of our images come from England, but we believe tht boys in France and Germny also wore tunics to school. Her we have smaller 19th century archivs wjhich may explain why e have fwer tunic school images. We hope to prsue this as HBC expands. We do see tunics in Eastern and Centrl Europe, but we are not sure how common they werebecause our archive is so limited for these countries during the late-19 century. The Russian peasant dress, essentially tunics, were the inspiration for the Russian blouse tunics commonly worn in Western Europe and America during the early-20th century.







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Created: 2:14 AM 5/21/2014
Last updated: 1:42 AM 5/5/2015