Object of the Month – April 2010

boys dress web

Boy’s dress

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, little boys commonly wore dresses. This dress dates from around 1880. We do not know who donated this dress to us or who might have worn it… perhaps a patriarch of one of the paper-baron families!

From the mid-1500s until 1900 it was the norm for boys to wear gowns or dresses instead of pants. One likely reason was toilet training. Another reason was probably that dresses are much easier to adjust for a rapidly-growing child – an important consideration in an era when clothing was expensive.

In earlier centuries, boys wore dresses or gowns until about seven years of age. By the 19th century, boys were making the transition from dresses to pants by the age of two or three. By the end of the century, the custom of dresses for little boys was rapidly disappearing. By World War I, the practice disappeared almost entirely, except for infants.

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