Boys' Clothes During the Early 19th Century

During the 19th century, men's garments, follow- ing the example of the civilian male attire of the French Revolution, developed simple forms much better adapted to a life of activity than the elaborate costumes of the past. The most important development of the century was the transformation of men's knee breeches into trousers, and the creation of the lounge suit, which today is worn for almost all occasions. Men's fashions in the 19th century developed into relatively plain suits compared to the increasing elaboration, especially after the first few decades of the century.

Little boys all through the 19th Century were dressed in dresses and petticoats like girls, especially in affluent families. The dresses chosen varied as to the mothers preferences. Some mothers would make little boyish modifications to their sons' dresses

The age at which a boy was breeched varies from family to family. Some boys as young as 4 might be dressed in more boyish skeleton suits, or later in the decade tunics. Other boys as old as 5 or 6 might continuev wearing dresses.

While the age boys wore girlish dresses varried, The fashion of dressing children in juveile fashions was well esablished by the beginning of the Century. Boys would wear distinctive juvenile fashions until reaching their teens.

Skeleton suits for breeched boys were common from anout 1790 to the 1830s. The skeleton suit consisted of a tight jacket, with two rows of ornamental buttons in front ascending over the shoulders; ankle-length trousers buttoned to and over the jacket round the waist. One writer of the time described the style:

A skeleton suit, one of those straight blue cloth cases in which small boys used to be confined before belts and tunics had come in . . . . An ingenious contrivance for displaying the symmetry of a boy's figure by fastening him into a very tight jacket, with an ornamental row of buttons over each shoulder and then buttoning his trousers over it so as to give his legs the appearance of being hooked on just under

Christopher Wagner

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