Boys' Foreign-Language Clothing Glossary: Italy

Figure 1.-- Thush is rhe Prima Elementare Maria Apolloniin school in 1926-27. We notice many Itlalian school photographs with the children wearing smovks, but this was not always the case. There does not appear to have been any national rule, but we do not yet have any precise details.

We will archive foreign language terms here. We will use English language definitions, although we may try to add foreign language definitions in the future. At the least the alphabetical listing of foreign terms will help our non-English speakers find the topics of interest. We also plan to use this page to follow foreign-language fashion terms which provide insights into fashion developments. Again this project will require some time to persue so it will be a while before we will be able to compile a substantial list. Many German clothing terms are destinct, but there are also some similarities with English.

Italian Language

Er are less familiar with the history of the Italian language than some of the other European languages. It is of course the romance language most closely related to Latin.

Italian and English

English until recently was not widely spoken in Italy. This surprissed us as first because there are so many Italian Americans and many immigrants returned to Italy. Schools generally gave greater priority to teaching German and France. This has gradually changed since World War II. This affects internet usage as so many sites are in English. An Italian reader tells us, "In the past Internet was surely less used in Italy than in other Countries and English less spoken. Now, at least with the young peoples, this gap is not so great."

Clothing Terms

Berretto: (plural "berretti") The cap (with a visor), In past boys used to wear the french style béret, nowadays has been replaced by cap with its visor on side over ear if not completely backwards.

Biancheria: or "biancheria intima" means underwear

Calzamaglia: (plural "calzamaglie") means tights. Tights or garments looking like have been worn for centuries. Ove most of this era they were worn by adults, mostly men, and not children. They fell from style in the late 16th century as men began wearing knee breeches. They appeared again in the 19th century for specialized wear such as theatricals and athletics. They did not become coomonly worn children's clothes until after World War II in the late 1940s and early 50s. Children wore over the knee stockings in the early 20th century, but these were usually stockings and not tights. Conventions for wearing tights have varied from country to country. Very young boys might wear tights in America and England, but they were mostly worn by girls. In coninental Europe and Japan it was more common for boys to wear them.

Calzini: Hosiery or hose are tailored coverings for the feet or legs worn with shoes or sandals. The extent to which legs were covered and not just feet depended on the fashion trnds of the era, especially the hem length of pants, skirts, and related garments. Modern hose are made of knitted or woven fabric, but this has not always been the case throughout history. Hoisery in American usage is synomous with hose, but in Briatain may refer to any machine-knitted garment. The discussion here refers to the American usage.

Calze: (singular "calza") socks

Calzini: (singular "calzino") means ankle-socks

Camicia: (plural "camicie") means shirt. HBC has noted a variety of shirt-like garments. The term "shirt" is a realtively recent term. It only became widely used in the 20th century. In the 19th century, the term "waist" was commonly used to describe what we now call shirts. The term blouse was also used. While it had several meanings, the shirt-like garment was more for children and women than adults.

Camicia da notte: night-shirt

Cappello: (plural "cappelli") Boys and men wore hats and caps much more commonly in the past. No well dressed boy's outfit in the 19th and first half of the 20th century would fail to include a hat or cap. Today headgear is less commonly worn. The difference being a cap is a close-fitting head covering resembling a hat, but differing principally because of the absence of a brim or by having a brim that only partially circumvents the crown.

Calzoni: or "pantaloni" means trousers, slacks.

Calzoni corti or "pantaloni corti" means short pants/trousers.

Calzoni di cuoio: Lederhosen

Calzoncini: or "pantaloncini" means shorts

Calzoncini da bagno: or "costume da bagno" means swimming trunks

Cappotto: (plural "cappotti") Coat or overcoat

Ciabatte: (singular "ciabatta") means = slippers

Cravatta: (plural "cravatte") The neck tie is the most vissible and variable fashion accessory worn by men. "Ties are very related to their times, reflective of trends in society," reports Mark-Evan Blackman, Chairman of the menswear department of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. Neckties as we now know them are a relatively recent fashion accesory. The primary modern male neckwear can be be traced to the 17th-century cravat, a style developed from Croatian mercenaries honored by Louis XIV. As with so much of male fashion, the style is military in origin. Ties have only been worn by boys since the 1900s, although they only became widely accepted in the 1920s. They were extensively worn in the 1920s-40s as boys routeinly wore suits or blazers to school and to a variety of events and activities that now would call for casual clothes. In our more casual modern era, many American boys rarely wear ties and may not, in fact, learn to tie a knot until their teens. Usually British boys learn to handle a tie at an earlier age.

Grembiule: (plural "grembiuli") Smocks are a loose, lightweight over garment worn to protect the clothing while working. Initially the smock was a garment for adult workers, especially farm workers. Eventually mothers faced with the need of protecting expensive garments from the hard wear associated with children began dressing their children in smocks. The smock by the late 19th century had become primarily a child's garment, although it was also wrn by shop workers, artists, and other adults. The smock was essentially a large shirt or overgarment with the fullness controlled by the smocking (embroidery on pleats). The use of smocking (the decorative embroidery can be easily traced to the 15th century). Albrecht Durer's Self Portrait (German) shows a smocked shirt, and the Mona Lisa (Italian) has a smocked chemise. The use of needlework to control fullness is a very old technique and became known as smocking. Smocking needle work continues today and is a popular addition to fancy collars as well as garments for younger children.

Grembiule per la scuola: School-smock

Gonna: (plurale "gonne") means skirt

Kilt: "Kilt" is an English term that has entered the Italian language. The kilt is a knee-length garment skirtlike garment tarditionally worn by men. The kilt as we know it today has ancient origins. It is generally associated today with Scotland or the Gaelic peoples of the British Isles and Normandy, however it has been worn in other countries as well. The kilt became so associated with Scottish nationalism that the English prohibited it for a time. The kilts use as a style of boys' clothing is much more recent in origin. The Higland kilt is simply a skirt, but younger boys might wear bodice kilts. A much more limited kilt-like garment was the kilt suit. This was kilt worn by small boys with matching jacket and skirt which as popular in America during the late 19th century. Today the kilt is primarily worn at ethnic celebrations and at Gaelic dancing competitions, but it is also worn for Scouting and formal events such as weddings.

Lederhosen: "lederhosen" (calzoni di cuoio) is a German term that has entered the Italian language. Lederhosen are worn in the region Alto-Adige (Süd Tirol) in northeast Italy where the people speak also German. Lederhosen or modern leather short pants appeared first in the German state of Bavaria. I'm not sure when they were first worn. I assume they have originated with knee breeches and gradually become shorter. Thus you would assume they probably originated un the 18th Century. There are two types of lederhosen, short pants and knicker-like pants. Lederhosen were also worn in rural parts of Austria and Switzerland. They are often associated with the local popular folk music. Boy scouts and other youth groups in those countries, like the Hitler Youth, also sometimes wore them too. Boys in the 1920s-40s wore them much as modern boys wear jeans.

Mutande: Briefs

Pantaloni: Boys have also worn pants and trousers of different length. [Note: the authors have generally chosen the American word pants. In British English the proper word would be trousers, pants in Britain refer to underwear.] Long trousers were common in the first decade of the 19th Century. Boys wore long pants with their skeleton suits. At mid-century knee-length pants had appeared for boys, but it was not uncommon to see even younger boys wearing long pants, but had generally been replaced by knee-length pants and long stockings by the 1860s boys under 12 years of age, but some older boys were also wearing them. The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine reported in 1863 that the knickerbocker suit "reigns supreme". It contibued to do well into the first half of the 20th Cenuary. The development appears to be a little later in America, but eventually American boys were also in knee-lenght pants. The knee pants were full, closed at the knee with buckles or buttons, or simply cut off at the knee. The age of boys wearing knee pants gradually increased in the late 19th Century. By the turn of the Century even older teenagers, boys of 18 and 19 years of age were commonly wearing knee pants. The pants worn by boys in the 20th Century have varied widely by decade and country. American boys commonly wore knickers in the 1920s and 30s, but in the 1940s increasingly wore long pants. English and European boys commonly wore short pants, but long pants became more common beginning in the 1960s. Since the 1970s American and European boys have begun wearing very similar styles of clothes, both for dress suits as well as play and casual wear.

Pannello esterno: Little American boys until well after the turn of the 20th Century wore dresses and other skirted garments like kilt suits. Other skirted garments include smocks and pinafores. American boys rarely wore actual Highland regalia with bright plaids. One skirted garment I know less about are actual skirts.

Pagliaccetto: (plural "pagliaccetti) Pagliaccetto means rompers. It is a word derived from pagliaccio meaning clown. The connection of course was the baggy pants worn by clowns. The romper was in many ways the beginning of a revolution in children's clothes. It was the first true play suit and the first garment (other than dresses and pantalettes) designed for both boys and girls. One of greatest change in children's clothing occuring after the turn of the century was the declining custom of dressing boys in skirts until the age of 4 to 6 years ended. While the custom did not disappear until the beginning of the 1920s, it became increasingly less common as the century progressed. One of the reason for this decline was the appearance of rompers for younger children. Other fashions appeared for little boys. One of those fashions were one-piece romper suits which were worn by both boys and girls. Older boys wore short pants. In America, School-age boys wore knickers.

Pattini: (singular "pattino") means ice-skates .

Pattini a rotelle: Roller skates

Pantaloni corti: Short pants are cut at or above the knee. Trousers cut below the knee we have generally referred to as knee pants if closed with buttons or left open. Trousers cut below the knee and gathered or closed with buckles we have referred to as knickers. Short pants have been referred to by different names in England. The English generally refer to short pants as "short trousers". They also used to refer to them as "knickers" although that term has for many years not been commonly used and more frequently is used to mean ladies underwear. We have also heard "patalones meches" used for short pants in Ecuador. I don't know how common that is.

Pattino: Boys have worn a wide variety of shoes over time.

Sandali: (singular "sandalo") A sandal is a type of shoe fastened to the foot with thongs or straps. Sandals have been worn since ancient times. There are two basic types of sandals, closed toe and open toe sandals. The Italian term for sandals is "sandali" (plural) / "sandalo" (singular). There are no specific terms for closed-toe and open-toe, but you can say respectively "sandali chiusi" and "sandali aperti". Sandals were always popular in Italy, with some differences in the time and in the regions.

Sandali chiusi: Close-toe sandals

Sandali aperti: Open-toe sandals [sometimes called "sandali da frate" = monk sandals]

Scarpe: (singular "scarpa") means shoes

Uniforme: (plural "uniformi") Boys since the 19th century have worn various types of uniforms. The idea of wearing uniforms have varied greatly in popularity in different historical periods. Uniformks were very popular with boys at the turn of the 20th century. The idea bof wearing a uniform has become much less popular with most boys by the end of the century.

Uniform scolastica/della scuola: School for most children is the major experience with the world outside the home. About a third of the day is spent at school and about half of a child's waking hours. School clothing did not used to be a great issue. Mom and dad chose it or the school had a uniform. In our modern world, kids haver become much more concerned with their clothes. The cost of those clothes and conflicts associated weith them have caused many schools and parents to reaasess the school uniform. Some countries are beginning to reverse the decline in uniform usage. School uniforms have varried from country to country and over time. The school uniform familiar to our British friends consist of a blazer, school tie, and dress pants which is worn by boys in many countries, especially English-speaking countries. This uniform evolvedin the England during the late 19th century. Blazers were at first sports wear, but in the 1920s began to replace Eton suits and stiff Eton collars and by the 1930s had become the standard uniform at many private schools.

Velluto: Velvet

Velluto a coste: This mean corduroy or cord. The manufacture of corduroy was so concentrated in South Lancashire during the 19th century that corduroy became known in Germany as "Manchesterstoff" (Manchester fabric), later abreviated simply as "Manchester". Gradually "kordsamt" (corded velvet) and finally "kord," the modern term.Corduroy is often reported to be a French fabric, litterly "fabric of the king". This appears to be an eronious report. Corduroy instead appears to be a late-18th century English invention. Cotton corduroy was widely used by workers in the 19th century and became a popular childrens fabric by the early 20th century because of its warmth and durability. American boys commonly wore cord knickers and British and French boys cord shorts. The German Wandervogel often wore cord shorts. Corduroy was eclipsed by denim after World War II, but is still commonly used for children's clothing.

Vestiti: Europeans for centuries dressed little children, both boys and girls in the same styles of dresses, often referred to as petticoats. For most of this time, no special clothing existed for childrn, boys or girls. Boys when they were "breeched", were simplly dressed in smaller versions of the knee breeches and other clothes worn by their fathers. Special clothes for children appeared in the late 18th centuty with distinctive styles for boys and girls. Even so, many mothers continued to dress small boys in dresses for more than a century. This fashion also became common in America and persisted well into the 20th century.

Vestito: (plural "vestiti") means dress

Vestito da piccolo Lord/Signore Fauntleroy: Francis Hodgson Burnett, an English-born American, helped popularize a style of dress for boys that proved exceedingly popular among romantically inclined, doting mothers. The author modeled her famous fictional creation, Cedric Erol, after her own son, Vivian, and thereby condemned a generation of "manly little chaps" in America and Britain to elaborate, picturesque outfits. The actual description of Cedie's suits were rather brief in her book, Little Lord Fauntleroy. Perhaps even more influential than her text in popularizing the style were the lavishly detailed drawings by Reginald Birch, the artist who illustrated Mrs. Burnett's story. Whether it was the book or the illustrations, combined they were responsible for an enduring vogue of boy's clothes in the romantic style of the Cavalier/Restoration or Van Dyck Period worn by the young American hero of the story.


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Created: October 6, 2001
Last updated: 3:33 AM 2/12/2005