Smocks are a loose, lightweight overgarment worn to protect the clothing while working.
European farm workers wore smock frocks in the 19th Century. They
were also widely used by European and American mothers to protect the
often elaborate and expensive clothing of their children. Before the turn of the Century
when children's clothes became simpler, the smock was very useful to protect those clothes.
An offshoot of the smock was the
pinafore, a garmet which protected, but not compleletly
cover the clothes. Pinafores were worn by
small boys, but were prin\marily
worn by girls. Girls well into the 20th Century would wear "pinnies"
to protect their clothes.
Boys in the
19th Century and early 20th Century also wore smock-like
various styles. One collection of Victorian nursery rimes decribes
English boys in smocks:
NURSERY RHYMES OF LONDON TOWN by Eleanor Farjeon
The first of Eleanor Farjeon's London nursery rhymes appeared anonymously in Punch in 1916 and were an immediate success. They recalled a London of long lost innocence and simple pleasures, of little villages and boys and girls in linen smocks. It may never have existed, but it was a London that Londoners took to their hearts. This is a facsimile of the complete edition published in 1938, containing all 106 rhymes and illustrated by Macdonald Gill.
Unlike many clothing items such as
sailor suits, kilts,
Fautleroy suits, etc.
do not appear to have been made specifically for
boys. Rather they were generic children's clothes, but primarily used for
girls. Mothers in the 19th Century, however, had much more latitude on
how they dressed their children. Wealthy families often schooled children
at home which meant they could dress them as they liked. Mothers with
large families might dress all of them, sons and daughters alike, in smocks.
Charming photos exist of large families of boys and girls from babyhood
to 12 or 13 years dressed in smock frocks. Some mothers
would insist on dressing their sons and daughters, in matching smocks. Other nothers might
purchase slightly less elborate smocks for their sons, especially
the older boys. Smocks for boys, for example, might have less lace and
smocking or other aplique. In all cases the smocks buttoned or tied
ast the back or pulled over the
head like a frock. Generally by the
time a boy reached 5 or 6, he would be dressed in more boyish clothes, such
as kilts or
Buster Brown suits. Some boys as old as 10 or 12, however,
are known to have been kept in smocks by meticulous mothers.
opting for smocks would use them for every day wear or play to save wear
and tear on their best suits.
Smocks were particularly popular on the Continent. Children in
wore school smocks. Blue smocks were the
common dress of French school boys by the turn of the Century. French
boys continued wearing smocks to school until well after the Second
World War. Smocks were also commonly worn by Italian school chidren.
The colors varied some what, but the style usually included a large
white collar and colorful bow. Quite a number
of Italian school
boys and girls still
wear them. Many schools have different colors or styles for the boys and girls.
Other schools have boys and girls in idential colors and styles. Often the girls continue
to wear back buttoning smocks while boys wear front buttoning ones. Some
schools, however, continue to have both boys and girls wear the back
Smocks were adopted by two Latin American countries,
Argentina, with large
Itlalian populations. The children
there wear white smocks with blue bows. Smock styles were oiginally
back buttoning, but now the boys' smocks button at the front. School
smocks for boys were never as popular in the English speaking countries.
A few British schools required
smocks for very young children, but that
was an anomaly.
Dressing boys in smocks at home and for playing outside was known
in England as late as the 1920s and 30s. Boys
until they reached 8 and were ready for their preparatory school might be
dressed in smocks, especially during the summer for play. Chistopher
who served as his father's prottoype for
Christopher Robbin of Winnie the Poo fame, was
dressed in gingham smocks
until he had passed his 8th birthday. This was, however, unusual. When
he went off to his boarding school, the other boys teased him for being
Christopher Robin and wearing
smocks as they had all read the Winnie the Poo books and seen the drawings.
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