French Rompers: Chronology


Figure 1.--This French postcard was postally unused. A French reader dates it to about 1933. We cannot be so precise, but it looks like the late-20s or early-1930s. The color is painted on. We have no idea what the actual color of the romper suit was. Blue and white appear to have been more common. We are unsure about the child's gender, but romper suits were generally seen as a boys' garment in France. Modern color coventions were not yet established.

A French reader tells us that romper suits s first appeared in 1905. We have, however, little information about early French rompers at this time. We know next to nothing about the 19th century. We have found no examples of romper suits in the 19th century, but we have noted romper pants. And we have very little on the early-20th century. They do not appear to have been as popular as in America during the early-20th century. We note rompers in a 1922 ladies' fashion magazine, but they do not appear to have been a major style in the early-1920s. They seem to have gradually grown in popularity during the 1920s. Rompers throuhout the 1920s and early 30s were worn by babies and very young boys. They were exclusively a garment for very young boys. Older French boys, at least older pre-school French boys, began wearing rompers about 1936. This changes took place throughout France. In France was according "Congès payés" rompers were used primarily as a play suit for boys. ["Congés payés" means paid vacations. Guess here it could mean: With introduction in France of paid vacations and resulting extended free time for whole family, rompers were used primarily as play suit for boys.] A new more "puffed" style appeared in 1937, offen buttoned at the crotch. The classic romper appeared in 1938. It was a one-piece suit with both legs and sleeves puffed. They often had "col Claudine" collars (a rounded collar with little ribbon knot). The rompers were worn both with and without embroidery. Some were worn with smocks, but many were worn by themselves without smocks. They usually buttoned at the crotch. They were cut very short. This classic style was worn by French boys whitout modification until 1965-1968. The barboteuse during this period was worn by boy s from age 1-6 years. They were worn as an every day play outfit until they began school (maternelle). There were also barboteuse worn for holidays and special events. Some of the smocks for special events might have elaborate smocking (enbroidered) work on the front. After 1968, the barboteuse was abandoned in France, except for babies. The design of these baby barboteuse employed new styles. In 1980 a back of the barboteuse always classical can be seen. Famous clothing designers ('couturiers') change the look of some rompers.

The 19th Century

We know next to nothing about rompers in France during the 19th century. We have found no examples of romper suits in the 19th century, but we have noted romper pants. We do not even know if the French term for ropmers, barboiteuse, was used in ythe 19th century.Our 19th century French archive is very limited so it is not a good indicator of prevalence. We do see some romper outfits in other counties, including the United States, but thy were not very common. And our American archive is large enough that it is a good indicator of prevalence. The American examples we have found in the 19th century were always worn with long stockings. French boys we have found wearing romper pants or other shortened-length pants were more likely to wear short socks.

The 20th Century

A French reader tells us that romper suits s first appeared in 1905. We have, however, very little on the early-20th century. They do not appear to have been as popular as in Amrerica during the early-20th century. We note rompers in a 1922 ladies' fashion magazine, but they do not appear to have been a major style in the early-1920s. They seem to have gradually grown in popularity during the 1920s. Rompers throuhout the 1920s and early-30s were worn by babies and very young boys. They were exclusively a garment for very young boys. Older French boys, at least older pre-school French boys, began wearing rompers about 1936. This changes took place throughout France. At this time we see romper being worn in France more than in any other country, but only by boys. Rompers seem very popular with French mothers for quite a while and across social class lines. We see them commonly in the photographic record and in clothing catalogs. It was basically a pre-school style, although common in pre-0schols anf kindergarten. These trends continued into the 1960s. By the mid-60s we begin to see the modern conventions of rompers becoming a garment for infants and younger toddlers, both boys and girls.

Early Appearance (1905-20)

A French reader tells us that Musée Galliera notes that rompers first appeared in France during 1905. We have, however, no information about early French rompers at this time. They in the HBC archive. Rompers in France do not appear to have been as popular as in Amrerica during the early 20th century.

Early Period (1920-35)

We note rompers in a 1922 ladies' fashion magazine, but they do not appear to have been aajor style in the ealy 1920s. They seem to have gradually grown in popularity during the 1920s. Rompers in France throuhout the 1920s and early 30s were worn by babies and very young boys. They were exclusively a garment for very young boys. French catalogs in this period show rompers being made only for boys and usually only younger boys. One example shows rompers being offered for boys, but not girls, along with smocks in a unidentified 1935 catalog. During this period the romper was a play suit, worn around the home or for family excursions. Boys were not normally dressed in rompers for formal or special events. This the styling on these rompers is generally plainer than was leter to be seen in the 1940s and 50s. The material used also tended to be durable fabrics that could be easily washed.

Classic Period (1936-68)

Older French boys, at least older pre-school French boys, began wearing rompers about 1936. This changes took place throughout France. In France was according "Congès payés" rompers were used primarily as a play suit for boys. ["Congés payés" means paid vacations. Guess here it could mean: With introduction in France of paid vacations and resulting extended free time for whole family, rompers were used primarily as play suit for boys.] A new more "puffed" style appeared in 1937, offen buttoned at the crotch. The classic romper appeared in 1938. It was a one-piece suit with both legs and sleeves puffed. The expanded bloomer effect or puffyness ("bufante"?) was stlistic inovation which appeared after 1935/36. They often had "col Claudine" collars (a rounded collar with little ribbon knot). The rompers were worn both with and without embroidery. Some were worn with smocks, but many were worn by themselves without smocks. They usually buttoned at the crotch. They were cut very short. This classic style was worn by French boys without modification until 1965-1968. The style was especially popular in the 1940s and early 50s, but had begun to decline somewhat by 1960. The barboteuse during this period was worn by boys from age 1-6 years, although in the 1960s few 5 and 6 year olds were still wearing them. They were worn as an every day play outfit until they began school (maternelle). There were also barboteuse worn for formal and special events. Some of the smocks for special events might have elaborate smocking (enbroidered) work on the front. Thus many different materials were used, including more expensive materials associated with formal or dressy clothes. These dressy rompers for formal or special events, a French contributor says "beautifull circumstances" became very poular about 1938. The dressy versions often had romper bottoms or pants that especially bloomered or puffed out.

Current Period (1986- )

After 1968, the barboteuse was much less used in France, except for babies and younger todlers. The design of these baby barboteuse employed new styles. Famous clothing designers ("couturiers") changed the look of some rompers. The classic romper in France, however, has not totally disappeared. Some mothers who like the look of classic clothing, ciontinue to buy them for their younger boys. This means both the puffed pants and the back buttoning and bow styling. Boys rompers are often blue. The modern romper, however, is no longer an exclusively boys garment.

Sources

Musée Galliera of Paris (The Musée Galliera is the most important museum on clothing and costume trough the ages in France. It has a collection of more than 10,000 garments.)







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Created: October 7, 2001
Last updated: 1:23 AM 6/3/2019