As the 19th Century progressed, another garment was added to the
small boy's wardrobe--a smock-like tunic. The tunic suit was a form of jacket, close-fitting
to the waist, with a gathered or pleated skirt. Lengths
varied, but many of the early tunics fell
to mid-calf. The length became shorter as the century progressed.
It usually buttoned down the front. Unlike
suit which was not belted, tunics (unlike
smocks), often were belted at the waist. The belt was frequently quite
broad. Tunics suits were worn from the 1820s (some authors give a
later date)to the 1870s.
The tunic was the
costume in all-white linen or merino that American boys were put
into when "breeched," an event which visually took place about the
age of 4-5 years of age, but some doting mothers might delay until 5
or even 6. Little Victorian boys, after they graduated from
their toddler dresses wore a
variety of these smock-like garments before they began wearing more
skeleton suits or
Tunics for little boys even at mid-Century provided many opprtunities
for a doting mother to fuss over her son. Boys wore long pantaletes
(drawers) or pants
under their tunics. Small boys between 3 and 6 might
wear tunics with white frilled drawers showing below the hem. This style lasted
into the 1850s.
Older boys would, of course, wear planer pants.
The tunics themselves tended to be quite plain, often in subdued
colors such as dark blue and brown.
The principal adornment was a ruffled or lace collar. Even older boys wearing
plain pants rather than little boy lacey pantaletes, might wear elaborate
lace collars. In some cases
collars were quite large, some extending to and covering the sholders.
Boys' sleeves were as diversified in shape as were
their sisters', slim, full and leg-o'-mutton.
Boys wore caps and
hats like their fathers' even to the topper.
The suits of older boys
comprising trousers, short jackets, waistcoat and white shirt with
lay-down collar was known to Americans as the
Eton because it was worn by boys at
England's prestigious Eton College, England. The Eton suit set a fashion
standard for a generations of English schoolboys.
During the Romantic Period in the 1830's there was quite a flare
for dressing boys in historical costume, especially in Europe. They
were garbed in doublets, hussar tunics, Spanish dress, the Van Dyck
style and Turkish too. In many
cases the tunics were done up in romantic versions of these outfits,
in other occasions complete outfits were worn. The trend in America was
to emulate preceived British styles. American mothers often
chose Scottish kilt and the
sailor suit, both an influence of
love for Balmoral Castle and the baby Prince of Wales.
All legs whether of boy or girl were covered to the ankles by
trousers, pantaloons which were those fulled or shirred at the
ankles, and pantalets. Another feature of the 1830's was the apron
or pinafore for little girls and small boys. One reads that
those of fine white muslin, white cross-barred cambric and printed
calico were not as fashionable as aprons of silk, green in color and
made with brettelles, the whole edged with self-ruching.
The crinoline ranges between 18-10 and 1865 and was the silhouette
of the period for all females large and small. Like that of the
grown-ups, the crinoline of the 1840s was a full petticoat
corded and stiffened with crin, the French word for horsehair braid.
The crinoline was also bolstered by several starched skirts over one
of flannel. In the 1850s came the petticoat of wire hoops held
together by tapes, an American invention called the American cage in
Europe. It was very light in weight and a wonderful relief after the
wearing of such a clutter of muslin underskirts. By the 1860s
the skirt fullness was being pushed toward the back in the trend to
the bustle of the 1870s. Regardless of full skirts, pantalets were still in the picture but very often they had turned into long frilled drawers. Stockings striped round the legs in bright colors came into vogue for boys and girls. Shoes for both were the flat-soled strap slipper, while for outdoors an ankle-high shoe with elastic sides was proper and popular.
As the century progresed, tunics for boys got progressively
shorter. One of the most popular styles were Russian box-pleated tunics with matching blomers and/or knickers.
In the early decades of the 19th Century boys wore long trousers
tunics which could be quite long. Neither boys or girls exposed
their bare legs.
Some younger boys might wear lace trimed pantalettes under their
tunics instead of long
trousers. As the Century progressed boys knee length garments
for boys appeared. For the most part boys in knee length garments wore long
stockings, but some younger boys began to
appear with bare knees, a fashion to be developed
in the 20th Century. Boys still in tunics by the
end of the 19th Century commonly wore
knee-length bloomers and, unlike his early 19th
rather than long trousers. This fashion disappeared after the First World War.
Some wealthy European children, however, continued to be dressed in
smocks at home into