Archive for October, 2014

Mary Doering on Two Hundred Years of Children’s Clothes from Europe and North America

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 by rjohn

On December 17, 2011, Mary Doering

presented a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program on “Children’s Clothes from Europe and North America, 1750-1950.

Title Slide

Mary is a noted costume collector and independent curator who also teaches at the university level at The Smithsonian.  She gave a recent RTAM program on “waist coats.”  In this session, she said she would hit the highlights on the 200 years of children’s clothes in North America and Europe between 1750 and 1950.

She began with a lecture illustrated with projected images.  Here, below, is a virtual version of that lecture, followed by Mary’s examination of some items she and others had brought in.

Children’s clothing, during the period she treated, are often documented in paintings and publications with known dates such as the one below.


This beautiful life-size painting (1742) of four Graham children is of the by William Hogarth.

It shows Daniel Graham’s three children by his second wife, Mary Crisp, and Mary’s daughter, Henrietta, by her first marriage. The children are (from left to right) the infant Thomas sitting in a gold-leaf gilded go-cart (age 2); Henrietta in a blue dress holding two cherries (age 9); Anna Maria in a flower-print dress (age 5); and Richard who plays the sérinette or bird organ (age 7). Hogarth was a patron of the Foundling Hospital in London and painted portraits of many of the children there. His skill led to commissions such as this one.

The painting shows the tendency of the time to dress children like “little adults.”  The girls stand straight, indicating that they are wearing corsets.

A second item was from a museum exhibition.


Chinese Silk Child’s Dress ca. 1750 from the FIT Exhibition, The Age of Innocence

Although the Museum at FIT  (Fashion Institute of Technology) is known for its cutting edge exhibitions that largely focus upon contemporary or 20th century fashion, the museum has mounted historically themed exhibitions.  Such was the case with “The Age of Innocence” that explored the clothing worn by children during the 18th through 20 centuries. The show was guest curated by Cora Ginsburg, the well known New York collector and dealer. 

The scene shown here depicts a Colonial era christening with the older child dressed in a dress constructed of Chinese silk ca. 1750. 

This dress has a history of having been worn in America; it descended in the Scovil family of Connecticut.  It is displayed with a stomacher and quilted petticoat borrowed from other sources.

The next Item was a set of child’s linen stays, ca. 1775  (MDD Collection)


In the 18th century women and girls wore “stays” or corsets. In addition to insuring that a young girl’s back would be straight, corsets and stays also provided support to the torso when carrying heavy things such as children, milk buckets, cast iron cooking pots, firewood, etc. They also created the desired silhouette for the time period. 

As we saw in the Hogarth painting above, girls started wearing corsets when quite young.  The corset pictured here dates from the period of the American Revolution. and would be called “stays”.  These stays were made for a young girl aged eight to ten.


Mann and Elizabeth Page By John Wollaston ca. 1755 (Virginia Historical Society)

Image Source:  Personal Postcard

As with the Hogarth painting earlier, both Mann and Elizabeth Page are dressed as miniature adults in this painting.  For most of the eighteenth-century children were dressed as young adults. 

Mann is wearing a three piece suit that is similar to what his father might have worn, including the metallic lace trim. 

Elizabeth’s dress was worn over a pair of stays whose rigid silhouette is clearly visible.  The dress appears to be back lacing which was traditional for young girls before the age of puberty. 

In her lap she is holding a fashionably dressed doll that looks too elegant to be a child’s toy.  Fashionably dressed dolls were dispatched across the Atlantic to provide information about the latest English styles.

The next item was a waistcoat.


Whitework embroidered linen waistcoat, ca. 1750.  About age 5 or 6 boys began to wear waist coats.  It was a kind of “rite of passage.”

Here is a closer detail.


Further comments on P5:

Boys in frocks, was usual in the 18th century.


James Badger By Joseph Badger ca. 1750 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This charming portrait of the artist’s son illustrates the androgynous nature of clothing worn by very young girls and boys.  Both girls and boys were dressed in frocks until the age of four or five, when their garments began to reflect traditional adult gender differences. The design of this young boy’s frock references both male and female influences as reflected by the deep cuffs and the wide skirts.

Wool Embroidered Linen Child’s Mid 18th Century Dress (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

P7 front

The wool embroidery on this young child’s dress echoes the designs that were worked on a range of domestic textiles, from pockets to bedhangings.  Unlike expensive silk thread, wool was an affordable and plentiful commodity.  The embroidery was most likely applied to the textile after the garment had been put together, which the symmetry of the design strongly suggests.  The appearance of this charming little dress is also similar to contemporary embroidered men’s waistcoats.  Its survival is quite amazing, and it provides strong evidence of the love bestowed on young children in the eighteenth-century.

Here is a look at its back.

P7 back

Toward the end of the 18th century, styles in children’s clothes turned to  greater comfort and naturalism.  The painting below conveys this new emphasis.


The Shelly Children ca.1791-92 by Sir William Beechey (Museum of the Shenandoah Valley)

Further comment on this new emphasis and on P8:  Boy’s clothing began to follow the exterior outlines of their bodies more explicitly

One item of clothing that did this was called a “skeleton” suit.  The next two images below are of boy’s skeleton suits.

Boy with A a Finch ca. 1800 Attributed to John Brewster (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)


 Right:  Boy’s Early 19th Century Nankeen Cotton Skeleton Suit


Skeleton suits buttoned at the waist and the legs went down to the ankles.

In the period of the later 18th – early 19th century young boys’ dress began to adopt trousers.


The Children of Martin Anton Heckscher:

Johann Gustav Wilhelm Moritz (1797–1865), Carl Martin Adolph (1796–1850), and Leopold (born 1792)

by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein  (German, Haina 1751–1829


Boy’s Early 19th Century Nankeen Cotton Skeleton Suit

Additional comment on the comfort and naturalism movement of children’s cloth styles:

In the early years of the 19th century children’s clothing began to exhibit a “classical” influence.


The Classical Influence

 The Nathanson family, 1818, by C.W. Eckersburg (Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen)

The white gowns some of the girls wear were considered easy to wash.

An example of this classical influence is provided by the girl’s dress below.


Girl’s Embroidered Cotton Dress ca. 1810 (MDD Collection)

Although the detail of the fabric and embroidery of this dress cannot be seen in the image above, we can see that the classical influence included short sleeves, puffed at the shoulders, a square neck opening and a skirt that was less full and followed the outline of the body more closely.

As can be seen in image P14 above, the Classical influence included the introduction of pantalettes, a leg-divided garment worn by girls under a skirt


Fashion Plate, 1810, Costume Parisien (Private Collection)

Here are some additional examples.


Cotton Pantalettes ca. 1815 (MDD Collection)


Child’s Combinations ca.1820 (Manchester City Museums, UK)

Sometimes the pantalettes were part of a more comprehensive garment.

Young girls matured still wearing pantalettes.  About 1825 adult women began to wear them.

Now, we’re well into the 19th century.  Here are some children’s clothes shown in paintings from the period 1825 to 1850.


Young Girl ca. 1840 by Susan Waters (National Gallery of Art)


Child’s Dress ca. 1830 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


 Child in Red Dress ca. 1830 by Erastus Salisbury Field (Baltimore Museum of Art)

Below are some boys’ Outfits ca. 1825-50.


Henry Woodward Cooper & His Brother, 1842 by Daniel Huntington (New York Historical Socety Museum)

Comment on P21: Notice that the older boy’s trousers button onto his shirt.


Fashion Plate ca. 1830 (Private Collection)

Comment on P22:

Below are some boys’ tunic outfits & girls’ dresses ca. 1825-50


William & Susan Augusta Rapalje, 1838, by Frederick R. Spencer (New York Historical Society Museum)



Joseph & Anna Raymond ca. 1835 by Unknown Artist (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The tunics can look a little like a skirt but are open down the front and either belted or buttoned.
Eventually, the boy’s tunic became a frock coat.  The move to a frock coat was another seeming “rite of passage” signaling maturity.
Now we are moving to the second half of the 19th century.
The first item is a boy’s outfit.


Boy’s Wool Plaid Dress ca. 1860 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Formerly the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection)

The boy’s suit seen here mirrors the fashion for plaid which was prevalent at that time, made popular by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. A properly dressed boy would have worn an ensemble such as this. Appropriate for the period, knickers accompanied boy’s ensembles with skirts as an alternative to girl’s pantalettes.

Here is a side view of this outfit.


The boy’s outfit in the two images immediately above references Balmoral and  may be a precursor of the “Little Lord Fauntleroy suit” seen below.

There were also styles in girls’ clothes in the last part of the 19th century that cultivated femininity.  Embroidery was elaborately used to advance this objective.  Here are two examples.


Girl’s Broderie Anglaise Dress ca. 1855-60 (MDD Collection)

The image above is of an excellent example of a little girl’s circa 1850s Broderie Anglaise white muslin dress. 

Impeccably constructed and sewn, and piped at the drop shoulder seams of the pagoda style sleeves.  Finely embroidery accented at the shoulder top seams, the neckline, lace bands, sleeves, and waist.  An amazing pin tuck skirt with a back self fabric button closure, and with a drawstring neckline, and waistband as well. 

Dress measures 12″ from shoulder to shoulder, with a 26″ bust, 23″ waist, and 22″ in length from the shoulder to the front hem.

The dress was most likely never worn.


Image and Text Source: Courtesy of Time-Travelers, eBay Sellers (Sold 05/22/2008)

For most of the 19th century, American girls were most frequently portrayed or  displaying or gathering flowers. The association of girls with flowers was part of a larger network of songs, poems, novel, editorial and representing American girlhood. These representations identified young females as a rooted, stable element of the population that was always in place, following the established social protocol. 

For formal portraits, whether photographic or painted, young girls were frequently dressed in their finest and most feminine outfits.  Dresses decorated with broderie anglaise, a form of openwork embroidery popular in England, were often chosen for portraits.

Here are two more children’s dresses ca. 1860.


Child’s Wool Twill Dress ca. 1860 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Child’s blue-green wool twill dress with applied silk soutache braid trim and linen Valenciennes bobbin lace. The wide neck is trimmed with silk braid and narrow lace; V-shaped front of bodice pleated with side panels extending over shoulders with blue-green braid applied in a dense floral pattern; short sleeves with same silk braid decoration and narrow lace trim; back hook closure; full short skirt with three rows of silk braid decoration down front; cotton lining.


Young Girl’s Dress ca. 1860 (The Connecticut Historical Society)

This young girl’s dress is made of white cotton woven with a tiny diamond pattern and printed with two–tone pink circles.  The neckline is very wide and the short sleeves are gathered at the base of the shoulder. The openings are edged with white bobbin lace. The bodice is gathered into the neckband and is slightly gathered into the waistband. The very full skirt is gathered into the waistband.

We saw the image below at the beginning.  Here it is in its correct place in our chronology.


Children’s Fashions, Le Follet, 1863

As girls mature, skirt hems descend.

We talked earlier about the migration of young boys from dresses to pants.  Apparently, that migration was initially incomplete, since it raises its head again here in the second half of the 19th century.


Young Boys Journey From Dresses to Pants

Boy’s Silk Dress, 1855  (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This is a well-documented boy’s garment which came into the museum collection with a daguerreotype of the owner wearing the dress. Likely, this dress was chosen to represent the child at his best for the photograph. Children’s fashions in the 1860s took on a much less structured silhouette, in stark contrast to the more fitted garments associated with the 1850s. The loose style of this garment is more associated with the 1860s children’s clothing than the 1850s. It is not clear whether the date was specifically associated with the child and the photograph or rather the style of the dress would more clearly date the photograph. Often when there is a clear history of the child, it is a confirmation of the date of the garment.

The passage of a boy from dresses to trousers was a function of age.  The painting below provides an illustration of this progression.


The Colgate Family by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, 1866 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

In “The Colgate Family,” German immigrant Johannes Oertel-an able painter, engraver, and art teacher-painted a portrait that presented a hopeful vision for the future of his adopted country and one that rested upon a new generation of strong young men.

The portrait depicts the wealthy manufacturer Samuel Colgate and his four sons in their Orange, New Jersey, mansion.  Colgate made his fortune developing scented soaps and toothpaste in a tube. 

His four sons range in age from three to twelve illustrates the various stages in the passage from dresses to pants.  

The two youngest boys wear dresses of the type worn by all small children, while Gilbert, at age seven, is old enough to be clothed in the comfortable knickers worn by boys. The oldest son, Richard, sitting on the carpet, is attired in the cadet uniform of a military academy.

These young boys not only create a scene of happy family life, but by their vitality also forecast the nation’s return to health and prosperity.

We talked earlier of moves to accent femininity.  One fashion development that, eventually, did that was the bustle, although the function of early bustles was to prevent a long dress from dragging in the back on the ground/floor. The bustle was a feature of girl’s clothing too in the 1870s, copying adult usage.

Here, below, are two examples of girls dresses with bustles.

Apricot Wool Dress with Blue Trim ca. 1870 (MDD Collection)


Taupe Wool Dress with Pink Silk Trim ca. 1878 (MDD Collection)

The illustration below is of a group of children in the 1880s.  The two older girls are wearing dresses with bustles.


Fashion Plate ca.  1886, Journal Des Demoiselles & Petite Courrier Des Dames Reunis (V & A Museum)

Now we come to “The Little Lord Fauntleroy Suit” mentioned above.  This one is from ca. 1885.


The Little Lord Fauntleroy suit was a prominent style for boy’s dress attire among the privileged classes. The shirt in this ensemble is particularly noteworthy, made of fine silk with an abundance of well-made machine-made lace ruffles. The shirt has been sewn in a manner that will maintain the blouson effect regardless of the child’s movements.

Here are two additional examples.


Now we move to late 19th Century masculine suit styles.


Late 19th Century Young Boy’s Suit (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Formerly the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection)

This is a well made boy’s suit manufactured by a New York tailoring business which expresses the menswear styling of the late nineteenth century. The fabric establishes it as a dress suit made for special occasions or to be worn as the child’s Sunday best. Likely, this suit was made for a child between 10-14 years of age.


 Photo of Boy in Sack Suit ca. 1900 by Unknown Photographer (Private Collection)

The image below summarizes how children’s dress stands at the end of the 19th century.

Children’s Clothing from the Delineator, 1899

Dresses tended to be frilly.  Some had inflated sleeves at the shoulder.

Here is a girl’s dress in the early 20th century.


Olivia by Lydia Field Emmet, 1911 (National Gallery of Art, Washington)

“Sailor’s Suits” were popular for boys.

P42 front

Navy Wool Sailor Suit ca. 1900-25 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Formerly the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection)

P42 back

The sailor suit came in many dress versions, making it appropriate for any time of day and any season. It was a hugely popular style for boys because it expressed patriotism and pride in the male child.  These variations were extremely popular for boys in the late-19th and early-20th century.

The Prince of Wales was painted by Winterhalter in 1846 wearing a sailor suit, which initiated its wide popularity and continued unabated through the mid-20th century. Also interesting to note, the great American designer Norman Norell channeled his aesthetic from a sailor suit that he had fond memories of wearing as a boy.

The next item was a linen suit for a boy.

P43 front

Boy’s Linen Suit, 1914 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Formerly the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection)

P43 back


As noted in a letter from the donor, this suit was worn by the father of the donor, Grant Flynn (b. 1904), as a ten-year-old boy to the opening of the Panama Canal in August 1914. Due to the occasion, it is appropriate that the jacket has a label suggesting a water-related sporting activity. Additionally, the lightweight linen jacket and wool pants are appropriate for the summer climate. The label indicates it was made by the H & C Company.

The next item was:


Illustration for Chilprufe Clothing, 1920s (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Lilian Hocknell (ca. 1891-1977) produced a considerable body of illustrative work, mainly in the form of advertising artwork and book illustration. One of her best-known working relationships was with Chilprufe Ltd, a leading UK manufacturer of children’s clothing, and this illustration was produced for use in their catalogues and advertisements.

The Chilprufe (originally Chillproof) brand was founded by John Adams Bolton (1867-1945) in Leicester in 1906. Chilprufe garments were of high quality, were good value and were very much in mainstream taste for the first sixty years of the twentieth century. Although the company also produced garments for adults, and a range of children’s outer clothing under the brand name ‘Pobbie’, it is best remembered for children’s underwear.


Embroidered Chiffon Girl’s Dress ca. 1925 (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Short day dress made of pink embroidered chiffon. The dress has a square and straight shape, a round and wide neckline, and short sleeves. The long bodice ends at hips level and the skirt of the dress is slightly gathered a the hips. Stylized flowers are embroidered on the front of the bodice and on the skirt, in the tones of green, white and light blue. There is a small white chiffon collar with white embroideries at the neckline.

Stylized Russian embroidery in Western fashion was popular during the first half of the 1920s as a post-war substitute for elegant fabrics. Many Russian refugees who had learned embroidery as children ended up working for major couture houses in Paris.


Rayon Dress with Smocking and Lace, 1938 (Victoria and Albert Museum)


A closer detail of P46.

Many children’s garments of the 19th century and earlier had been made from textiles which were strong but heavy, in order to withstand wear and dirt; few were washable except for various types of cotton and linen, and some textile dyes were not only unstable but poisonous.

One of the major innovations in children’s clothing in the early decades of the 20th century was the use of fabrics like this rayon which were lightweight but strong and easily washable.

Advances in textile production had also provided dyes which were more likely to be ‘colour fast’ so that their colours would not fade, nor present a streaked appearance when washed.

Girl’s Patchwork Party Dress, 1944 (Bethnel Green Museum, London)

This dress was made for a little girl called Jane by her mother in 1944. Jane had received a surprise invitation to a children’s party, but she didn’t have a dress she could wear. Parties did not happen very often by this stage of World War Two. There were shortages of food, and many children were separated from their friends and families because they had been moved to safer areas. Party dresses were also hard to come by because they cost a lot of money and Jane’s mother would have had to use up many rationing coupons to buy one.

The night before the party, when Jane had gone to bed, her mother got out her sewing kit and every scrap of spare fabric she could find. She sat up all night cutting and stitching, and in the morning, there was Jane’s new party dress – cleverly made out of a patchwork of all the pieces.

The next piece was a boy’s suit.



The suit featured here maintains the same form and construction of boy’s suits from the nineteenth century, which includes interior buttons to attach the shirt to the short pants. At this time, there was no longer the graduation from short pants to long pants as a coming of age, which was common practice in the Victorian era and early twentieth century.

During the mid-twentieth century shorts were still an option for young boys to wear, although it was probably less common for a boy of this age. This suit was possibly manufactured by Saks Fifth Avenue, a high end retailer selling the highest quality children’s clothing available.

The last piece in Mary’s projected lecture was a girl’s coat-hat ensemble from the early 1950s.


Girl’s Coat ca. 1950 (Victoria and Albert Museum)


Mary had brought a number of children’s garments (including some treated in her lecture) and moved to treat them next “in the fabric.”

The first garment she brought out was this girl’s dress.


Yellow Chinese Silk Damask Girl’s Robe ca. 1750 (Believed to have been worn in CT)
Note: Dress was worn with a stomacher (at bodice opening) and petticoat (underskirt)

 This piece is silk and was probably made for a girl about 12 years old.

It would have been worn with a “stomacher” over a corset.  The stays would have been flat in front. 

Here is the other side.


The dress is conical shaped.

18th century dresses  were sometimes lined with linen.


This suggests that the lining was seen to be temporary, something that might need to be redone, and for this reason not something to expend much effort on.

Here are some closer details of the silk fabric in M1:



The next piece was a white, embroidered, boy’s waist coat.


Boy’s English Embroidered Linen Whitework Waistcoat ca. 1750

Comments on M2:

Here are some closer details of M2.


The “white-work” is rich.

Here is a look at its back.


Notice that additions have been made in the back to permit the boy to continue to wear this vest as he grew.

The next piece was a set of stays for a young girl.


Girl’s Linen Stays (Corset) with Leather Tabs ca. 1750 (Believed to have been worn in CT)

In the view above, the back of the stays set is in the center.  The two side areas would go around and be laced together in the front.  The side visible here is what would be seen when the stays were worn (although this is an item of under-clothing and wouldn’t be seen in public).

Mary now turned the stays so we could see part of their other side – the inside.


Mary said that stays were made for the individual.  It seems that kits of the components of such stays corsets were sold and the appropriate number of sections were then fitted to the child.  Leather was used at the tabs.  18th century stays were sometimes reinforced over the stomach with pieces of wood.

Here are some detail images of aspects of this set of stays.

In the first one below, I’ve turned M3 so that you can see a larger complete images of this piece.



In these closer details you can see that the stitching that holds the stays in place is of a contrasting color.




Next, Mary brought out a girl’s dress embroidered in white.


Girl’s White Cotton Embroidered Muslin Dress with Cap Sleeves ca. 1810 (Believed to have been worn in New England).

Note: Muslin may have been embroidered in India as a flat textile and exported to America

She said that it has a conical shape characteristic of the early 19th century.  It would have been worn with a corset which was often made of cotton twill.

Here are some detail images of M4.



(color differences are the result of camera, lighting and distance effects; this is the same dress)


I don’t have an image that shows it clearly but this dress has pleating in it back.

The next piece was another white boy’s waist coat.


Boy’s White Cotton Dimity Waistcoat ca. 1810 (Believed to have been worn in America)

Here is a closer, vertical half detail.


Next was a red and white striped cotton dress.


Young Girl’s Red and White Striped Cotton (Similar to Oxford Cloth) Gown with Cap Sleeves ca. 1820

Mary said that this was likely an everyday dress.  She said that everyday clothes got the hardest wear and survive for collectors in sharply smaller numbers.

Here are some additional images of M6.




(color difference is a shadow)

Next was a boy’s vest, done in a lively colored, patterned material .


Young Boy’s Yellow Printed Cotton Waistcoat ca. 1815 (Believed to have been made and worn in France)

A little closer view.


The next piece deserves a little explanation.  The story is that a Lord Spencer once caught the lower part of his jacket on fire.  Put it out, removed the burned part and wore the rest and in the process created a new style:  the Lord Spencer jacket.  It was fashionable in the early 19th century. 

Although, originally a style worn by men, it became one also adopted by women.

The ensemble below is a girl’s version of a Lord Spencer jacket worn above a white skirt.

M8 front

Young Girl’s Ensemble Consisting of Purple Printed Cotton Long Sleeved Spencer Jacket Worn with White Cotton Dress with Bands of Cording at the Hem ca. 1820 (MOUNTED)

M8 back

It is unusual for a Lord Spencer-style jacket to be made with a muted, cotton, printed fabric.



The skirt in this ensemble has some features that aid dating: the bands of cording and hem are characteristic of the 1820s.



The next piece was a boy’s skeleton suit.

M9 front

Young Boy’s Outfit Consisting of Purple Silk Short Sleeved Jacket Printed in a Check Pattern Worn with Ivory Linen Trousers (Buttoned Together) ca. 1837-40

M9 back

The top and bottom are connected with buttons.


Adult clothing of the time also had such shirt-pants hard button arrangements or suspenders.


The shirt buttons are covered, something that required extra effort.  Probably not an everyday outfit.


The next piece was a dress in printed wool.


Girl’s Yellow-Orange Printed Challis Short Sleeved Two Piece Dress (Bodice and Skirt) ca. 1840

Mary was asked by a rug collector in the audience how she was able to estimate the ages of children’s clothing items so closely.  It appeared that she could estimate such age in about 10 to 20 year intervals.  The collector said that with most rugs and textiles, age estimation is one of the things “we do least well,” that we’re often actually “in the dark.”

Mary said that with regard to children’s clothing from 1750 to 1950, there was usually pretty good documentation of style by approximate date.  She said that collectors and curators were able to draw on the indications of paintings, prints, photographs and advertising of the sort she was citing in her presentation.

This dress (M10) was in two parts.


Here are some closer details of M10.






Comments on details of M10:

The next item was a corset- skirt ensemble.


Girl’s White Cotton Twill Corset (Back Lacing with Metal Eyelets) ca. 1840


The corset reflected a mid-19th century emphasis on a natural waist.


Girl’s White Cotton Petticoat with Multiple Bands of Cording (For Supporting Full Skirts) ca. 1850

The skirt is heavily corded.


Women were concerned with the danger of fire that clothing with multiple layers entailed.

The next ensemble featured a dress over pantalettes.


Girl’s Orange and White Striped Cotton Short Sleeved Dress ca. 1855 (Back Fastening with Buttons)

15. Girl’s White Cotton Combinations (with Tucks on Trouser Legs) ca. 1855


Here is a look at the pantalettes alone.


The next item was a dress with full, inflated-looking “leg of mutton”  sleeves.  A corset was worn but the skirts were made more full to make the waist look small.


Here is a closer vertical image.


A closer look at this fabric.


Now we’ve moved to the 1860s with the blue dress below.  It has a “bolero” style jacket.  It is also called a “Zouave” jacket.  The “Zouaves” were French-commanded Algerian colonial troops known, in part, for their colorful uniforms.


Girl’s Teal Blue Silk Dress with Matching Bolero Long Sleeved Jacket ca. 1865 (MOUNTED)

M15 back

Here are vertical half detail images to provide a somewhat closer look.

M15 front vertical half

M15 back vertical half

Next, was the pink girls dress below.  Decorated with white braiding.

M16 front

Young Girl’s Peach Colored Wool Long Sleeved One Piece Dress Decorated with Soutache Embroidery ca. 1868

(color difference is from lighting, distance and camera effects; back is closest to actual)

The silhouette of the back becomes more elongated, a precursor to the bustle.

M16 back

Here are vertical halves of the front and back.  Again color differences occur.

M16 front vertical half

M16 back vertical half

Next is a boy’s suit in brown wool and prominent white buttons.


Boy’s Striped Brown Wool Suit (Jacket and Short Pants Buttoned Together) ca. 1865

The style of the jacket is asymmetrical and has a Russian source.

Here, below, are back views of both this jacket and pants.



Here are vertical halves of this jacket and pants set to bring it a little closer for you.



Detail of the button holes inside the pants.


Mary described the next ensemble as a child’s suit, maroon with black braid.  1870’s.

Labels began to appear in clothing in the late 1860s.


Boy’s Burgundy Wool Two Piece Suit (Jacket and Short Pants) ca. 1875.  Made by L. P. Hollander & Co., Boston (with Label Placed at Neck of Jacket Lining)

Here are vertical half details of these two pieces.



The next piece was wool plaid dress.  Mary said that plaid was popular during the Victorian period.

M19 front

Girl’s Red and Black Wool Plaid Long Sleeved Two Piece Dress ca. 1872 (Overdress with Bustle and Matching Skirt) ca. 1872

Here is a closer detail of its collar and bodice.


Here is a look at its back.


Mary pointed out that the back of this dress is rucked and gathered…


to permit this area to be propelled outward with the insertion of a bustle.

The next piece was a graphically dramatic dress.

M20 front

Girl’s Taupe Wool One Piece Dress Trimmed with Magenta Silk ca. 1880 (MOUNTED)

M20 back

A side view shows that this is a dress with a bustle.

M20 side

The materials used are wool and silk.


The sewing is by sewing machine.  The first sewing machines appeared in 1846.  Instead of giving women more time, one effect of the sewing machine was to enable more complexity of design.

Here are some additional detail images of aspects of this dress.





The next ensemble shown was a “Little Lord Fauntleroy Suit,” done in blue velvet and lace.


Boy’s Dark Blue Velvet “Little Lord Fauntleroy Suit” (with Jacket and Short Pants) ca. 1890

Here are the two components of this piece, seen separately.  First, the coat,

M21 coat

and, then, the short pants.

M21 short pants

Here are some additional details of this garment.




The next item moved to a much simpler world.  It is a cotton girl’s dress of the sort worn in the “Little House on the Prairie” stories.


Girl’s Light Blue and White Printed Cotton Long Sleeved Dress with White Cotton Yoke ca. 1900

Here is the other side of this dress, with a button opening at its neck.


Some closer details of aspects of M22.




The next piece was a white, muslin dress with considerable embroidery.


Girl’s Cotton Embroidered Sheer White Muslin Short-Sleeved Dress ca. 1905

This was a special occasion dress.  Notice the lower waist.

Here is its other side, with buttons above the waist.


Some detail images of aspects of this dress.






Now we’re in the 1920s.  Mary said the flapper dress, below, was of pink silk crepe.


Girl’s Pink Silk Crepe Sleeveless Dress with Dropped Waistline ca. 1925.

Note: The dress is believed to have been made in Paris and worn by a young participant in a wedding procession in Chicago.

Here is its back.


The construction of this dress is more complex than an initial look at it might suggest.

Here are some detail images of parts of it.






An assuredly opaque underskirt is provided.


The last piece from Mary’s collection was a red dress with a white collar and edging on the sleeves.


Young Girl’s Red Cotton Dress with White Polka Dots, Decorated with Smocking at the Chest ca. 1950

Here is a vertical half image to let you see it a little closer.


A few more detail images of M25.




The last piece of the morning was a seeming boy’s “great coat” that someone in the audience had brought.  He said that the seller had said it was from the 1930s.

It had a military cut, looking, its owner said, a little like the great coats West Point cadets wear.

Here is a front view.  It has a cape-like piece over the shoulders.


Below is its back with its distinctive button-decorated treatment.


Its owner said that another feature of the coat that struck him (he is a rug and textile collector) is that it has a lively, colorful lining, a printed cloth decorated with botehs.


The owner asked whether the material of this lining might be helpful in determining whether the estimated date is accurate.


Mary said the material might be “Liberty” a British variety, but that she did not know whether the lining would help in dating.

An expert quilter, who knows her printed fabrics has also said that it is not something she can date, but said that the “caped” style with its added use of material would seem something that most makers would have avoided during the frugal times of the Depression (that’s what the “30s” mostly were).

In addition, she said, it is clear that this coat has been cut down from a larger original size.

This remarks suggest that that this coat was made, either before the Depression years, and cut down during them, OR that it was made at a later date.

Mary answered questions,

and brought her program to a close.

The usual after program examination of the material in the room began.

I want to thank Mary Doering for being willing to have this virtual version of her program made and published, and for her assistance, as I fashioned it.  She has not been able to edit this virtual version and any errors are mine alone.

I hope you have enjoyed this little foray into the world of children’s clothing.


R. John Howe