Clothing & Accoutrements
By Colleen Humphreys
(with Sue Felshin)
Children's clothing goes through several stages as they grow up. From the
books I have, the changes are hazy, and overlap... I have pictures of babes in
shirts, white gowns, and printed and colored gowns, through toddler size. I have
a picture of a two-piece silk printed toddler's gown, back fastening. There are
pictures of little girls in one-piece gowns with vertical bodice tucks that
release into the skirts, and two-piece gowns (when the top and bottom match);
the thing that seems to be the same is that they are always back fastening (for
girls, and nearly always for boys).
So, my best guess, for us, for a baby, is an
open-fronted shirt, with gown over it, in varying
lengths, according to baby's mobility (long for infants, foot length for
pre-walkers, ankle length for walkers). Then when it can sit up, the next set of
shirts should be "closed". It's not clear when the
switch between open and closed shirts comes; it seems you can do it whenever
it's convenient. Then for walkers and up they should be shifts
with gowns, until breeching age for boys and puberty for
girls, when they switch to whatever the adults are wearing (with some child-like
features retained). Petticoats were worn under the
gowns. Oh, and I put aprons over them at walking age; the
paintings show them on very young kids. The paintings mostly show bibbed aprons.
- Diaper/Clout/Pilcher, Bib
- For a diaper, use a square of white cloth folded in a triangle and the
three corners pinned or tied in front. In the 18th century, the word "diaper"
referred to a small, regular pattern on a fabric. When woven in, the pattern
in the cloth made it more absorbent, so diaper cloth was usually used to make
what we now call "diapers". It seems that at the time, they were usually
called clouts, but sometimes called diapers or pilchers or pilches.
- The diaper cover, also called a pilcher or pilch, was made of felted wool.
It was also a triangle, pinned or buttoned in front, with two buttonholes and
one button for the three corners. If you use cloth diapers at home, pilchers
are easy to use and wash; otherwise, use a diaper or pilcher to cover the
modern diaper—when I use disposables in camp, I just cover them with an
unprefolded cloth diaper, folded into a triangle, with ties sewn near the
folded corners. Sew a loop at the third corner and tie it on by passing the
ties through the loop and either tying them in front, or if you have long
ties, passing them around to the back and tying them there. Or you can use a
triangle of wool, with a button and two buttonholes at the points. You can add
a drawstring at the back waist to hold it on better. All are quick and easy to
make; Kannik's Korner's layette
pattern has directions, including for how to use them.
- A detached bib (as opposed to a bib on an apron) is basically rectangular,
with the corners rounded off. The neck hole is circular and slit and hemmed to
the edge in the back to form a keyhole opening, with ties to hold it shut.
(Some modern bibs are still made using the same shape.)
- Shirt for babes
- Open-front for infants
- Kannik's Korner has a pattern for a simple, close-fitting shirt with a
scoop neck and tight straight sleeves, slit straight down the front, all the
way to the hem. These shirts were originally overlapped and pinned; we
recommend using ties for safety.
- Closed-front for toddlers
- The closed-front shirt for toddlers is really more like a shift than a
shirt. It's a narrow shift with an opening big enough for the head, tight
sleeves, no bottom side gussets, and perhaps shorter than a typical shift.
The neckline is not gathered.
- Shift for walking-age children
- Standard shift. If you are concerned about strings, make the neckline only
big enough to clear the child's head and face the hem with tape rather than
using a casing and drawstring. I put any drawstrings in the back, for safety
reasons. You can put growth tucks in to make the shift last longer (this is
undocumented, but makes sense given how many other children's garments have
- An infant would normally wear boned or corded stays "to support its weak
back". We do not recommend putting infants in stays.
- Babes in arms wear a front-opening gown of some sort but patterns are
difficult to document. It's often quite long—well past the babe's feet. Long
gowns still ride up, when you pick up the babe, but even when they do ride up,
they still cover the babe pretty well!
- One infant's gown is cut rather like a woman's bed gown. Kannik's Korner's
infant pattern includes a pattern.
- Once they start walking (or perhaps as soon as they can sit up), gowns for
children close in back and have the bodice and skirt cut separately and seamed
together. Both girls and unbreeched boys wear these gowns. The bodice is
usually cut with a pointed waist in front, but not always. For a young child,
still unsteady on its feet, functional leading strings are very common. For an
older girl, functional or vestigal leading strings are sometimes retained as a
sign of childhood, but probably only on upper class girls.
Around the 1760s, another style of gown becomes common—at least in
paintings of upper class children. This gown has vertical tucks in the bodice
which release into the gown skirts. There are usually horizontal tucks in the
skirt and sleeves, and it is usually made of lightweight white fabric. It is
worn with a wide, colored sash, with the bottom edge of the sash falling at
the natural waistline and the width of the sash covering some or all of the
lower chest. Upper class children wear a great many of these gowns, and they
also wear a great many gowns of the standard cut (gathered skirt seamed onto
smooth bodice) which are white, and it is sometimes difficult to tell one from
the other in art.
Later still—apparently not until after the end of the American
Revolution, a new style of gown evolves where instead of having vertical tucks
in the bodice, the bodice is gathered by means of drawstrings at the neck and
waist. In art, these gowns can look rather similar to the slightly earlier
style with the bodice with vertical tucks, particularly in low-resolution
About the word "frock": This word is sometimes used to refer to particular
children's garments. It may be a synonym for "gown", or it may refer to a
particular style of "gown", or various different styles over time; if so, I
haven't yet found out what particular style or styles. The word is used more
frequently later in the century than earlier; whether that's because different
garments were worn more frequently, or because of a simple vocabulary change,
I don't know.
- Boy's front-closing garment
- Boys sometimes wear a front-closing garment. I'm not entirely sure whether
this is a main garment or an overgarment.
- One version is just like an ordinary back-closing gown (gathered skirt
seamed onto bodice) except that it closes in front rather than in back. The
bodice front meets edge to edge and is sometimes decorated with semi-military
frogging. For an example, see Copley's Thomas
- The other front-closing gown is the "wrapper gown". I'm not sure what the
period name for it is. It is basically a T-shaped garment, a lot like a man's
unfitted banyan. Beth Gilgun's
Tidings from the 18th Century has a pattern for this garment.
(Many children find the neck hole as sketched to be overly wide, or not deep
enough, so try making it considerably smaller, and enlarging it to fit the
child, once the gown is cut out, may be the best choice. An experienced sewer
can make this gown, completely by machine, in an evening. It takes longer, of
course, if sewn by hand, or by a novice, but it is a fine project for a
novice.) Beth Gilgun's pattern says to tie the gown in front but it should
actually overlap and close with a sash.
- These garments may only have been worn by wealthy boys, and they may only
have been worn over regular back-closing gowns.
- Young children often wore a handkerchief around their necks, crossed in
front and tied in back, for sun protection (linen or cotton) or warmth (wool).
A child wearing a woolen handkerchief in this way, along with a cap or hat,
running around and playing, is surprisingly warm.
- Leading strings
- You may wish to put leading strings on the back of a gown. One inch wide
ribbon (such as grosgrain ribbon, cloth tape, or self fabric) sewn into the
shoulder seams (or onto the shoulders if no seams) works very well. They can
be two pieces, or just one piece, which hangs down in a loop. I like the
one-piece-joined kind, rather than two separate strings. Do not ever leave a
child in leading strings unattended, nor allow them on any modern playground
equipment while wearing leading strings, ever, under any circumstances.
Leading strings may increase safety around guns and fire, but in other places
they can wrap around necks, so use good judgment! Vestigial leading strings on
the gowns of older, upper class girls are often two or three inches wide and
made of the gown fabric.
- Just like a woman's petticoat. Drawstring waists are easier with growing
children. You can put in tucks near the bottom and then let them out as the
child grows. (It does not seem that deep hems were ever used.) With enough
tucks and fullness, one petticoat can last a child through four years.
- Basically like a woman's apron, except often has a bib. The bib part can
be pinned at the top corners (in, out, in, out, between layers), or use safety
pins from the inside if you're concerned about straight pins.
- Pudding cap
- Pudding caps were common for those learning to walk, perhaps for older
toddlers as well. They are a band around the head, lined, stuffed, and edged
with leather, tape or suchlike, with ties to hold the circle to the correct
size, and other ties under the chin. Some had criss-cross tapes across the
top, forming the crown, others have 4 triangles, lined and stuffed like the
circle, stitched to it and meeting at the top. Tidings has a
pattern for this. Do not overstuff the pieces; if they are
too round, the cap will not stay put very well.
- Shirt for older boys
- For breeched boys, the shirt is the same as a man's shirt, except that if
you are rich and want to be fancy, you can put a ruffle around the collar.
Younger breeched boys usually wore their shirts open while older ones often
wore them closed like grown men. There is also a shirt for newly breeched boys
with a round ruffle collar, but this may be earlier.
- Hair, hat, accessories
- While an infant boy will wear a cap, an older boy is often seen
bareheaded, with short hair and short bangs, but still in gowns, until at
least age 3, but often far longer, until 5 or 7 years old especially earlier
in the century. In paintings, boys often wear swords, or are playing with
masculine toys (swords, kites, toy guns, shuttlecocks) and animals such as
squirrels, with no hats, while girls have caps and female accessories such as
birds and dogs (especially spaniels). Girls have their hair parted in the
center and boys have their hair parted on the side or combed forward. Girls
sometimes have short bangs showing; short wispy things. Older girls usually do
not. The change from wispy bangs to no bangs seems to be around ages 3-8,
about the age where girls become neater, and have more manageable, thicker
hair. Boys are usually bareheaded. Older boys, if they have a hat, will wear
one like a man's; wealthier little boys will wear a big floppy one, sometimes
silk covered and/or cocked, with a big silk bow like a bow cockade. A linen or
wool work cap is another choice. None of this is hard and fast; it's just
- Reproduction shoes are quite expensive, particularly for children, who
soon outgrow them. In the eighteenth century, they solved this problem by
letting children run barefoot, especially in summer. This can be difficult in
modern times of asphalt roads and broken glass. A reasonable compromise is to
buy black leather dress shoes or sneakers. Tie them with cloth tape instead of
modern shoelaces, and only use two holes. Or for an upscale look, attach
reproduction 18th century buckles over unobtrusive ties. Or get moccasins. Red
leather shoes are common in portraits of baby boys (and to a lesser degree,
girls) with wealthy parents.
An infant wears a long open-fronted shirt over a clout (diaper) and pilcher
(diaper cover), with a cap, and often a bib and apron. (Most reenactors use
shifts for babies since they are not familiar with Kannik's Korner's layette
pattern. A shirt is actually easier to make and use than a shift with a
drawstring: since it's only waist-length and is open in front, it's easy to
change the baby. But if you already have a shift for your baby, it's still okay
to use it as far as I'm concerned.) Make the gown extra long, which will do for
a babe, and "shorten" it with growth tucks (to ankle length) when he shows signs
of walking, and let the tucks back down as he continues to grow! A baby cap has
a deep brim and a flat caul which is shaped via tucks or gathers. The tucks or
gathers terminate at the center of the caul, where there may be a small insert
of plain or white-on-white embroidered fabric or hollie point lace.
Long gowns on babes (2 feet below toes) are practical. I didn't know this
before, but the gowns always ride up when you hold the babe, and when they are
that long, they still cover them completely! Ankle length dresses on
crawling babes slow them down a little, a boon for fireplaces! (However 18th
century people tried to keep their babies from crawling—it was considered
To Carry Your Babe
To carry a baby or small child you can take a length of cloth, square or
nearly so, wool or strong linen (ok, ok, cotton if you must), and fold it into a
triangle (you can use a cut triangle if you are comfortable with the cloth's
stregth, if it is more convenient), and tie the narrow points into a square
knot. Be sure it won't come undone. Put this over one shoulder, and under the
other arm, with the loose point at the hip, under the arm. Arrange it so that
the knot is just in front of the shoulder, with fabric spread on the corner of
you shoulder not on your neck (this is vital for avoiding neck
pain!). Stick the child in the sling, lying down or upright, and while still
supporting the child's back and bottom, pull the loose point up between you and
the child's body, creating a hammock. This friction is what holds the child in
place. Adjust the cloth, folds, tighten or loosen by retying the knot, and
practice, and you'll be amazed at this method's versatility. With a little
practice, you can nurse and walk around with the baby in the sling. And by
practice, I mean to wear the child this way daily for about a week, 20 minutes a
time. One or two sessions are likely to be frustrating, but it's worth the
effort to learn (unless you prefer the next method, of course). This is an
easier method to use with a very young baby than the "on the back" method. I
carried my third child this way, all day, when he was 16 days old, at a
Safety: Simple friction holds this together, but no ties hold the baby
in. Always be aware of your child, and have a hand free to support and control
Documentation: sketchy. Shawls for babies are listed in inventories.
Older people mentioned carrying babies with shawls in Scotland, around the
This is a natural method of baby-carrying, if you are already wearing a
knotted shawl...you tuck the baby into your shawl, for warmth, then pull one arm
out, to get more freedom of motion, and there you have it. Was it done just this
way? I don't know, but we must do something to carry babies, and this
is as close as I can come. If anyone finds any hard documentation or more
information, please let us know.
2. Proven method:
I don't know, for certain, that this is how they tied babies on, but when
done this way, the shoulder area of the mother and baby look exactly
like the child on Mom's back in the troops-leaving-London scene in Hogarth. I'm
willing to bet that this is one of the ways it was done.
When you are experimenting, have a helper!
Take a piece of linen (or any period-appropriate fabric) about 30+ inches
wide (22 is too narrow, I tried!) and 2 1/2 to 3 yards long.
Put the center of the fabric behind the baby's back and under its bottom.
Throw both ends up over mom's shoulders, spreading the fabric out for comfort,
pulling the inside edges tighter than the outside (this bit is obvious when you
are doing it). Put the ends back to the back, and tie in an overhand knot under
the baby's bottom, pull tight, and finish the square knot (some experienced and
confident souls only do the first half, with older kids).
This method works with very small babies up through any child you'll carry
As always, always be aware of your child, and be ready to put a hand or both
hands back to control baby.
Young boys and girls were dressed essentially alike, although boys graduated
to older children's clothing at a younger age (typically 3-5 for a boy, around
puberty for a girl). Boys and girls both wear shifts, back-fastening gowns, and,
optionally, shoes and stockings, and aprons, often with bibs. A toddler may wear
a pudding cap. Boys may optionally wear front-closing gowns (or perhaps these
are worn over the regular gown).
Older girls continue to wear gowns over shifts for everyday. Make the gown
very long and a little wide, with several growth tucks (1 inch tucks work well),
to get a second year out of it; it's fine if the back gapes open several inches
the second year. Around 5-10 they seem to wear stays, at least in portraits. The
records show "stiffened bodices" to their gowns. In portraits, they wear fancier
clothes that are more like women's; everyday clothes continue to be the simple
back-fastening gowns. This continues until about puberty, when the styles are
just like the women's. This is a continual disappointment to 9-year-old girls
who want a shortgown and petticoat or a front-closing gown... One way to help
them be content until they are older is to have them start making their own
clothing, starting with a petticoat, which is easily within the ability of a
novice sewer. ("Mom, I want grown-up clothes!" "No, you are too young" is harder
than, "as soon as you make them"!)
Example: My son at age two (his first drum lesson!)
1. Pudding cap
- The pudding caps keeps a toddler's brains from turning into pudding when
it falls. I used the pattern for the puddin' cap from Tidings. Do
not overstuff the pudding cap. It won't stay on as well. I made my
son's out of wool, and trimmed it with a fancy twill tape. Works great.
- 2. Cap
- A linen cap with tucks and hemstitching, every stitch handsewn to
- 3. Lace
- I obsessively hand-made bobbin lace for my son's cap. His cap is rather
sliding to one side.
- 4. Shift
- 5. Gown
- I used the front-closing gown, too (from Tidings); it's so
fast and easy and cute, although the black and white photo in Tidings
isn't all that nice). It should have overlapped in front, with a sash, rather
than tying at center front.
- 6. Tucks
- Both of the tucks in his gown have been let down.
- 7. Haversack
- Just like Daddy's. This is an indulgence.
Older children were dressed using the same garments as for adult clothing but
with some slight variations.
Boys were breeched at around 3-5. Earlier in the century, they were breeched
older. For modern boys, what I do, is tell them, once they are 3, "as soon as
you stay dry all day at an encampment, then I'll make breeches." This worked for
my training-uninterested boy ... and many boys continue to have accidents, and
this can be a great incentive. Maybe even an authentic incentive! You can also
tell them that George Washington wasn't breeched until he was 7 and look how
well he turned out! (Seven was not an unusual age for breeching when Washington
was a boy.)
Anne Buck's Clothes and the Child has excerpts from diaries and
novels. Page 60 quotes Peter Erondell, a Huguenot writing in England, where he
has a mother talking to her servants and kids about their clothing, and gushes
about the fatness and sweetness of the babe, and sounds just like me, except for
the dialect spoken! This quote is from around the 16th c., which is early for
us, but shows that mothers talked the same way they do now, well before our
period! The mother is speaking to the child's nurse:
Unswaddle him, undoe his swaddling bands, give him his breakfast while I am
heare, make his pappe, take away the firebrand which smoketh for it will taste
of the smoke, wher is his little spoon? wash him before me, have you clean
water? O my little hart! God blesse thee. Rub the crowne of his head, wash his
eares, and put some fine clout behind them to the end to keep them drye and
cleane, wash his face, lift up a little his haires. Is not that some dirt that
I see upon his forehead?...What hath he upon his eyelids? Me thinks that his
eyes are somewhat waterish, make them cleane, how quick is his eyeball, hath
he not a pimple on his nose? His little cheekes are wet, I belive you did
leave him to crye and weepe, picke his nostrils, wipe his tongue, let me see
the pallet of his mouth, he hath a prettie chin. What a fine necke he hath!
Pull off his shirt, thou art pretty and fat my darling, washe his
arme-pits...Now swaddle him him again, but first put on his little biggin and
his little band with an edge, where is his little petticoat? Give him his coat
of changeable taffeta, his satin sleeves. Where is his bibbe? Let him have his
gathered aprone with stringes, and hang a Muckinder to it. You need not yet to
give him his corall with the small gold chayne, for I belive it is better to
let him sleepe untill the afternoon.
Another book, or maybe the same one, has one mother criticizing another to
her husband, about the ridiculously young age the other woman breeched her son.
Boys, once breached, wear breeches like their fathers'. An easier way to deal
with the younger-than-authentically breeched boys is to make "slops". They are
simple drawers, drawstring at the knee and waist. Full bottom. A simple way to
get a pattern is to take a modern sweatpants/sports pants pattern, cut it off
just below the knee, straighten the back crotch seam (adding, of course), and
extend it upwards several inches, then redraw the waist from the side seam to
the new higher center back. Sew the crotch seams, sew the side and inseams, make
a casing with a hole for a drawstring at center front, and add knee cuff/casings
for drawstrings, tied at the outside. To make cheating drawstrings, take a piece
of elastic, about 1/2 the measurement of the knee or waist, sew drawstring
pieces to either end of the elastic, thread it through the casing and tie. It
will still be adjustable, but it won't be necessary to undo it when in the
porta-potty! They look totally authentic, too. If the boy is in regular
breeches, consider using elastic cord (available in white or black) in the back
gusset, to serve the same purpose. Thread it though and tie it off carefully, so
that the ends don't show. That way, your boy can pull his breeches down in a
hurry if he needs to!
Boys shirts: Just like men's. Unlike men's shirts, they were often worn
totally open at the neck, and fancy ones sometimes had a wide ruffle on the
Waistcoats: Also often worn open at the neck. Make it about 1-2 sizes too
big, and put 2 or 3 ribbon bows across the back to draw in the excess. Take them
off when no longer needed.
Jackets: As far as I know, the only commercial pattern is the Mill Farm frock
Smock/overshirt: A heavy woolen overshirt helps keep a boy warm while
A knit cap or cocked hat is appropriate, as is short hair. Little boys often
had lots of ruffles, and fancy bows on their hats (probably boys in wealthy
Girls switch to adult clothing around puberty. There are very few
differences, but an older girl may keep her bangs for a while or wear her hair
in a braid, rather than getting rid of the bangs and putting her hair up like a
grown woman. Ordinarily, however, a girl switches from the trappings of
childhood (back-fastening gown, and optionally bangs, leading strings, and bib
apron) to the trappings of adulthood (front-fastening gown without leading
strings, hair in a neat bun, bib-less apron) all at once.
Buck, Anne. Clothes and the Child. Holmes & Meier Publishers,
Inc., New York. 1979. ISBN 0-8419-0517-7.
Buck, Anne. Dress in Eighteenth-Century England. Holmes & Meier
Publishers, Inc., New York. 1979. ISBN 0-8419-0517-7.
Rose, Claire. Children's Clothes. Printed in Great Britain by
Courier International, Tiptree, Essex, for the publishers B. T. Batsford
Limited, 4 Fitshardinge St., London W1H0AH. 1989. ISBN 0713457414.
Lower class children
Unfortunately, there is not very much pictorial documentation of lower class
children from the Revolutionary War era. As far as I know, there is none at all
for Massachusetts Bay.
- Penny, Edward. The Marquess of Granby aiding a Sick Soldier,
1765. Reproduced in Paintings of the British Social Scene.
- Mercier, Philip, ?1689-1760. A Girl Sewing. Circa 1750. On
at the Tate. I believe this girl is a servant, but I could be wrong. The
girl's cap, perched on the head with a very flat caul and narrow ruffle, is
quite typical for young girls. A barely visible line between her elbow and
sewing indicates that the gown is cut with a pointed bodice and separate
skirt. The stripes on the sleeves indicate that the sleeves are cut
vertically. Her shift appears to be gathered with a drawstring at the neck. By
the lack of a cap, The child at her side is likely a boy, unbreeched. The
gathers at his waist show that his gown also has a separately seamed-on skirt.
Upper class children
- Copley, John Singleton. The Copley Family, 1776/77. National
Gallery of Art, Andrew W. Mellon Fund 1961.7.1. Available on the Web
at The National
Gallery of Art and
at the CGFA. All three girls, and the doll at left, wear white gowns with
gathered skirts seamed on separately. The center girl wears the sort with a
gathered bodice; it's quite sheer and you can just barely see her pink
petticoat showing through. The boy (hugging mother's neck), at four years of
age, is not yet breeched; he wears some sort of gown (?), yellow, with a
collar (?) at the neckline and a bluish sash (slightly better view in
for The Copley Family); note how his clothes are disheveled. The
babe holds a coral rattle. Notice that the three girls have their hair parted
in the center. The oldest girl wears a frilly ruffled cap; her bangs are as
long and thick as you ever see on a little girl.
- Copley, John Singleton. Boy with Squirrel (Henry Pelham).
1765, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 in. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,
Anonymous gift. Photograph © 1996 The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Available
on the Web at the CGFA
and at The National
Gallery of Art (click on image for larger view). The trained squirrel
symbolizes the boy's accomplishments; it may be an invention of the artist.
The wide color of his jacket and the open collar of his shirt are markers of
childhood; his hair is parted on the side. Although his jacket is made from
fine silk, the cut is identical to that of a plain workjacket.
- Copley, John Singleton. Young Lady with a Bird and Dog. 1767,
oil on canvas, The Toledo Museum of Art. Available on the Web
at the CGFA. The
trained bird symbolizes the girl's accomplishments; it may be an invention of
the artist. Her neatly combed hair and lack of bangs also indicate maturity
and sobriety. Her dog (which may symbolize loyalty) is a spaniel; very typical
in portraits of girls. Her shoes are tied, not buckled. Notice how low-cut her
gown is. The narrow sash of the same color as the gown is somewhat unusual. It
isn't clear whether her shift sleeves are tied up or that is an additional
decoration. A bow at her back is probably one of the ties that hold her
back-lacing gown closed. The skirt is gathered and seamed onto a separate
bodice; the bodice does not have a point at the waist in this case.
- Copley, John Singleton. Thomas Aston Coffin.
Available on the Web
at WebMuseum, Paris.
We can tell that the child is a boy by the masculine racket and shuttlecock at
his feet, the lack of cap, and the front-closing gown. His gown fasteners
(which appear to be ball-and-loop fasteners) extend into decorations which
evoke grown men's buttonhole detailing. Birds are usually associated with
girls; perhaps these are homing pigeons, which would seem more masculine. The
giant feather behind the birds belongs to the boy's silver-lace-trimmed hat.
He has a sash tied at the hip.
- Kettle, Tilly. Portrait of Colonel John Fortnum and Family,
1775?, oil on canvas, 90 x 66 in., 1986.2. Available on the Web
at the Blaffer Foundation. The boy's clothing looks more like 1780's;
almost a skeleton suit. The boy has what looks like a top; the older girl hold
a bird. The older girl's hair is pulled back and up, but hangs loose, which is
not unusual for a girl in upper class dress with a fancy cap.
- Romney, George. Mrs. Johnstone and Child. 1775-80. The Tate
Gallery, London. Reproduced in
Children's Clothes. Available on the Web
at the Tate Gallery as Mrs Johnstone and her Son (?). The
boy's gown ties with four sets of ties in back. He wears red shoes.
- West, Benjamin. The Artist's Family (detail). c. 1772. Yale
Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. Reproduced in
- Zoffany, Johan. The Bradshaw Family. Exhibited 1769. Oil on
canvas (Oc). Available on the Web
at the Tate Gallery. The boy at the left has his shirt collar closed,
which is unusual for a boy so young and without a coat on (that's probably his
coat tossed over a rock(?) at the lower left of the image); he is flying a
- Zoffany, Johan.The Lavie Children. c. 1770. Paul Mellon
Collection. Available on the Web
at The National
Gallery of Art. The girl in front has a dog. The three youngest girls all
have tucks on sleeves and hems. The boy on the board has his collar buttoned,
which is unusual for a boy so young but does fit with his generally careful
and adult dress (but his shirt collar is too wide and turned down for adult
dress). His breeches fit relatively loosely with plenty of ease at the knee;
the oldest boy's breeches fit much more tightly.
- Barron, Hugh. The Children of George Bond of Ditchleys. 1768.
On the Web
at the Tate. Four children wear the white gown with tucks in the skirt.
The gown is looped up on the girl at the far left (with pink sash) and you can
see her petticoat under it. The gown is pulled up on another child showing the
petticoat (it could be a shift but it's rather long for that). Based on their
bare heads and short, forward-combed hair, I believe the two youngest children
are boys although the Tate things the right-hand one a girl. Both wear red
shoes. The standing boy in the center, without coat, while old enough to be
breeched, wears his collar open and wears a young style of hat. The two older
boys are dressed in throroughly adult style, with the oldest in a cocked hat
and carrying a book (his double-breasted waistcoat seems rather
forward-thinking for 1768).
- Romney, George, English painter. The Leigh Family c. 1768. On
the Web at the
Web Gallery of Art. The toddler in front at the left is almost certainly a
boy by the somewhat straggly short hair. Ties are visible at the back of his
gown: at least three pairs, maybe four. The open skirt of the gown reveals the
petticoat in back. The gown skirt is gathered to the separately cut bodice.
The other toddler might be a boy or girl. In the center are two girls, one
holding a babe. The babe wears a typical baby cap with a deep brim; it is
edged in front with very narrow lace. As usual, the wide sash is not centered
on the waist, but rather covers the lower chest with the bottom edge at the
waist. The typical baby gown comes down past the feet. The girl facing front
is still dressed as a girl: back-lacing gown, bibbed apron (skirt pulled to
the side), bangs. I believe the other girl is dressed the same but it is
difficult to tell from her profile. While neither girl wears a cap, both have
a decoration of some sort in their hair. The breeched boy at their side is
dressed in adult style with his unruffled shirt collar and his waistcoat
buttoned up to the neck.
- Gainsborough, Thomas. Master John Heathcote, 1770. On the Web
at the National
Gallery of Art and
at the Art
Renewal Center. Master Heathcote's gown has a double breasted bodice with
buttons and lacing but I think this is a decoration and not a front
closure. Except where it is is double breasted, the gown bodice may be done up
in many tiny vertical tucks. As is so typical for wealthy little unbreeched
boys, he wears red shoes.
- Gainsborough, Thomas. The Painter's Daughters Chasing a Butterfly,
1755-56. On the Web at
CGFA. The girls wear very typical plain back-lacing gowns with gathered
skirts seamed on separately to a bodice with a pointed waist. They do not wear
caps. I'm not sure, but I think they have some other sort of decoration in
their hair; it would be unusual if their hair is entirely bare.
- Duyckinck, Gerardus, attributed to. De Peyster Boy, with a Deer,
ca. 1730-1735. On the Web
at the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. Note the
early-century date. The boy wears a blue gown, apparently back-fastening, tied
with a sash. Over this he wears a long coat which buttons at center front (one
button is barely visible by the neck of the deer). His footwear has red heels;
I can't see if it's shoes or boots. The neckline of his gown is filled in with
a partlet as a holdover from 17th century style. By the Revolution, this style
of clothing had no longer been worn for decades.
- Hogarth, William. The Graham Children, 1742. On the Web
at the National Gallery, London,
at Olga's Gallery,
at Humanities Web. Note the early date. The sleeve treatments on the
girl's gowns are in keeping with the date, but would not be seen in the 1770s.
Here we get a fairly good view of a baby cap: you can see how deep the cap
brim is. According to the National Gallery, the baby was dead when the
portrait was painted, and the clock on the mantle, with cupid with a scythe
and an hour glass, symbolizes this.
- Copley, John Singleton. Daniel Crommelin Verplanck, 1771. On the Web
at the Tate. This boy is of a German family in New York.
- Beechey, Sir William. Portrait of Sir Francis Ford's Children Giving
a Coin to a Beggar Boy, exhibited 1793.
at the Tate. While this painting is much too late for our purposes, there
are some interesting features: Despite his abject povery, the beggar boy's
coat collar dates to at least the '80s if not the '90s. Master Ford wears a
good example of a skeleton suit. Miss Ford has pulled up the hem of her gown
to get a coin, and her pocket is visible. Miss Ford's bonnet is very much in
the style of the very late 18th century / early 19th century; definitely not a
Revolutionary War era style.
- Zoffany, Johann. The Porter and the Hare, 1780-1783. On the
the Art Fund for UK Museums. The younger boy's shirt collar is worn open
while the older boy's is worn closed. The older boy appears to have his front
hair cut short and his back hair grown long and drawn into a queue; the
younger boy's hair is probably cut short all around but it is mostly obscured.
- Zoffany, Johann. Henry Knight of Tythegston with his three children,
1769-1771. On the Web
Art Fund for UK Museums. The child at lower left is his daughter Ethelreda.
- Zoffany, Johann. Portrait of Sophia Dumergue, 1779-1781. On
at the Art Fund for UK Museums. Good example of an ornate upper class
girl's cap. I suspect the white line near the top of her gown bodice is the
upper edge of an apron bib, with the rest of the bib being nearly transparent.
Her coiffed curls are typical for an upper class girl in 1779-1781 and the
bangs are typical of any girl still in a back-fastening gown. Really, I only
included this example because of the cute kitten.
- Zoffany, Johann. John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and his
Family, c. 1766.
at the J.
Paul Getty Museum. We can tell that the child on the table is a girl by
her frilly cap. The boys, on the floor, have bare heads and the boy on the
right pulls a masculine toy. All three children have red shoes. Leading
strings are visible on the younger boy's gown; the pink fabric hanging behind
the girl's gown could be either leading strings or the end of her sash. All
three gowns are made with fitted bodices. The skirts of the older boy's gown
are open in front and the bodice has a double breasted closure or false
closure. There was no strict classification of pink for girls and blue for
boys in the 18th century, but as can be seen in this and many other portraits,
there was a tendency for girls to wear pink or red sashes and for
boys to wear blue sashes with white frocks.
- A shirt and 3 caps worn by the infant Lord North in 1732. National Trust
Collection of Costume, Killerton House. Pictured in
- A mid eighteenth-century "slip" babygown. Museum of Costume, Bath.
- A "slip" babygown trimmed with fringing, c. 1770-1790 Blaise Castle House
Museum, Bristol. Pictured in
- 3 cord quilted linen caps, mid eighteenth century. Manchester City
Museums. Pictured in
- A toddler's "pudding cap", eighteenth century. York Castle Museum.
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