Boys in dresses
Many of my customers have written me asking if I knew why boys in Victorian and Edwardian photographs wore dresses. I wondered myself as I have family photos of grandfathers in dresses at an early age. I did a bit of research and this is what I found in a nutshell.
Prior to the late 19th century, boys wore dresses from birth often until the age of between 2 and 6 years old. I have read several reasons for this practice. In the early days, it was traditional in many countries for men to wear robes or dress like attire. It was simply the fashion. Another theory was that clothing was expensive, kids were primarialy kept at home, and there was simply no reason to dress boys any differently than girls. Boys were also likely to have long hair with finger curls and a bow! A child was a child. A baby was a baby, and mothers did most of the sewing of garments. It was also easier to potty train a child in a dress. As a child approached an older age, began to spend time with the father, became ”boy” he would be “breeched” begin wearing ”breeches”. This usually took place once the child was properly potty trained, and at the advent of attending school, or working with his father. There is some speculation that in some instances, boys wore dresses until manhood, well into his teen years. Breeching was a special and celebrated occassion in which a child transitioned into boyhood or manhood. As time went on, with the advent of photography, the schooling of children, and with the opinion of some doctors, psychologists, and authors, feeling that children should be raised in their proper gender assigned roles, and that “boys should identify with their fathers”, people began to dress “boys” in short pants at an earlier age. By the way, it was not until well into the 1930s or later from my understanding that for some reason , “pink” became the color for girls and “blue” for boys. Prior to this, blue was perfectly acceptable for a girl as it was the color of the Virgin Mary, boys often wore pink and it was promoted among major retailers of the time. Times sure have changed, but kids have not. I have photographs of my own grandfater in a dress, he grew up to be the upitomy of a man’s man. This really makes me take a step back, and realize all of the pressures that we as a society put upon ourselves.