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1947.2087 a

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, children were usually dressed in miniature versions of adult dress, encumbered with heavy fabrics and formal styling, and then exhibited socially with their parents. During the eighteenth century, this tradition weakened, so that by 1800, children wore much looser and more practical outfits; girls in muslin or stout cotton frocks, and boys in linen or cotton skeleton suits and later woollen jackets and breeches.

The Gallery has a good collection of nineteenth century children's clothing, particularly girl's dresses, a few examples of which are illustrated. Striped and patterned cottons were the usual material for such dresses, easily washable, and passed on from sibling to sibling, and then to cousins or friends. They were invariably home-made at this time, and often utilised fabric from worn adults' clothing, which could be cut up and re-used. During the nineteenth century, boys wore similar dresses to girls, until the age of 4 or 5, when they were "breeched" and put into little suits, like their fathers. The watercolour portrait shown below has a mother with her 3 children, both boys and girls in similar frocks or dresses, whilst the coloured fashion plate of about 1860 shows a gaggle of girls playing outdoor in replica versions of women's dress, complete with crinolines, but cut shorter to show the pantalettes below.

Full item descriptions:

"dress" [1947.2113]
"dress" [1947.2115]
"dress" [1961.281]
"dress" [1947.2087]
"Peter Maddox Holding a Bird" [1964.155], English School, 19thC
"John Maddox with a Cat" [1964.156], English School, 19thC
"shoes" [1988.108]
"boots" [1964.269], Appleby & Co.

Related Themes:

Victorian Photographs: Children
Materials and Making