A bodice is the portion of the dress above the waist. Victorian children might wear stays, corsets, or stiff child's waist or bodices. Both boys and girls might wear them. By the 1830s, corsets for young children had gone out of style, though there were a few die-hards who insisted on keeping children in stays from infancy, so they would develop straight backs. Most physicians, however, and magazine consultants,argued against this as being too confining, and in fact inhibiting of a strong body. Free exercise of the little muscles was better. For this reason, they advised against swaddling infants, as had long been the custom. While corsets for boys went out of style, this was not the case for girls. Mothers when theie girls reached the age of 11 made them start wearing corsets . Every year the waist would become smaller by about an inch, so that by the time they were 16 their waist would only be 16 to 18 inchs. If a girl didn't wear her corset, her mother would sometimes make her wear one at night with her hands tied behind her back to keep her from undoing it. As one modern fashion analyst wrote, "And you thought your Mom was tough." Luckily boys were spared this fashion.
The term bodice also was formerly used to mean a stiffened garmet with stays like a corset. Both boys and girls might be dressed in these garments in the 19th Century. The Brother of Oscar Wilde says, for example, that both his he and his brother wore corsets until they were sixteen.
Young children, both boys and girls, in the Victorian period might wear a bodice kilt rather than a regular kilt. The bodice kilt was a two pice garmet. It had a bodice top sewn on to the kilt. The second piece was a blouse in a variety of styles. The bodice had buttons which were fastened at the back. This simplified dressing the small boy because the bodice held the kilt in place. It was more like a complete dress, however, rather than just a skirt. Boys wearing a bodice kilt had to wear blouses because shirt tails could not be tucked into the kilt.
LITTLE BOYS'BLOUSE COSTUME
Note: Advertisemet fo a boys bodice kilt from a 1890s fasgion magazine.
FIGURE No. 397 A. This illustrates a Little Boys' costume. The pattern, which is No. 4715 and costs 18 or 25 cents, is in six sizes for little boys from two to seven years of age, and is shown in four views on page 257 of this magazine.
The costume is here represented developed in blue and white serge. The skirt is arranged in a broad box-plait at the center of the front, and at the back and sides in well pressed kilt-plaits that turn toward the front. The lower edge of the skirt is finished with a hem, and the top is joined to a sleeveless body, which is .shaped by shoulder and under-arm seams and closed at the back with button-holes and buttons.
The usual shaping seams enter into the adjustment of the blouse; it is closed at the center of the front with button-holes and buttons through a box-plait made in the left front. The lower edge is hemmed for a casing, in which an elastic is run; and the garment droops with the customary fulness over the skirt. The fronts are cut away to disclose a facing of white cloth applied to the front of the sleeveless body, and short, V-shaped facings are arranged upon the backs of the body. The sailor collar falls deep and square at the back, its long, tapering ends are joined to the cut-away edges of the fronts, and upon tne facing revealed between is an embroidered star. The collar is trimmed with fancy braid, and the cuffs which finish the full shirt-sleeves are decorated to correspond. A patch pocket having a pointed lap is applied to the left side of the blouse; it is trimmed with two tows of fancy braid and holds a whistle, which is attached to a lanyard worn about the neck.
Blue-and-white striped flannel, serge and cloth are fashionable For costumes of this kind, and there are numerous cotton fabrics that may be satisfactorily used, such as seersucker, percale, and gingham. Braid embroidered nautical emblems or machine stitching will contribute tasteful garniture, although a plain completion will be in perfect taste.
The hat is a blue sailor banded with white ribbon.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[ Introduction] [ Chronology] [ Clothing styles]
[ Biographies] [ Bibliographies]
[ Contributions] [ Boys' Clothing Home]