The Evolution of Children’s Fashion in the 18th Century in England


Eighteenth century is very significant in England history as it marked the evolution of various issues. Particularly, it marked the evolution of children clothing. Initially, children were not taken as such but as inferior beings compared to grown up men and women.

People maintained that they acted without reasoning and since they also lacked experience, they ended up misbehaving in various ways. Before the eighteenth century, children were being dressed the same way as their parents such that there was only a little distinction between their clothes and the clothes of the adults.

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However, towards the end of the eighteenth century, clothes of both boys and girls changed greatly[1]. With that background in mind, this paper shall discus the characteristics of girls’ and boys’ dresses in the eighteenth century as well as the similarities between the dresses of both sexes.

Young Girls Dress In Early 18th Century In England

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a new born child irrespective of sex wore a shirt and was wrapped with a piece of cloth which was referred to as a bed. All parts of the infant were wound with a piece of white cloth and the head was covered with cap consisting three layers.

People by then believed that such clothing allowed the baby to develop a straight posture while growing up. After removing the swaddling at the age of about four months, girls were clothed with frocks which were generally simple dresses that had fastenings at the back.

The bodice of the dress was fitting and was similar to the women’s dresses[2]. In addition, the shoulders and the bodice were attached with strings which were used by the parents especially while the child was learning how to walk. Petticoats were also worn beneath the frock.

Children learning how to walk also wore caps which were referred to as pundings and they were meant to protect their head from damage. Girls wore the flock until the age of twelve after which they were allowed to put on other clothes such as caps, shoes and the bibbed aprons. The shoes were usually colored to match the cap as well as the ribbons [3]

Young Boys Dress in Early 18th Century England

Surprisingly, boys were dressed with frocks as girls since there was no difference in their clothing in the early eighteenth century (Baumgarten 2011).[4] They were also clothed with petticoat or trousers under the frock to act as underwear. After attaining the age of four years, boys were clothed with masculine clothes for the very first time in their lives.

At the beginning of the century, boys of around four to five years of age were clothed with breeches which represented knee length tight trousers. As time went by, not only did the length of the breeches increase but also the size as they became looser.

Generally, boys between the age of four and eight wore attires which were known as a ‘skeleton suit’ which represented a long and a loose trouser. In addition, they also wore a jacket or tunic which was tacked inside. In most cases, boys continued to wear the slash which was initially worn with the frock before the age of four years.

The Similarities between the Dress of the Boys and Girls of 18th Century in England

There were a lot of similarities between the type of clothes which were worn by girls and boys. To begin with, the under wares of both boys and girls were similar up to the age of four years.

Before the same age, both sexes wore frocks which were made in the same way as they contained fastenings at the back. In most cases, stays were worn by both boys and girls with the normal clothing since they supported the back and hence helped to maintain straight body posture[5].

The greatest similarity between the clothes of boys and girls in the early eighteenth century was the fact that both were putting on similar frocks which were mostly white in color. It is only in the mid and towards the end of the eighteenth century that boys started to wear breeches.


The study has illustrated that the eighteenth century was characterized by great changes especially in children fashion. Initially, their clothes were not only restricted but they were designed to look as those of the adults. The era did not only mark the beginning of the clothes specifically made for children but there were other changes as well.

For instance, instead of boys wearing short and tight trousers, they started to be clothed with long and loose trousers[6]. the similarities between the clothes for both boys and girls continued to diminish as time went by.

Although changes continued to occur in the subsequent centuries, the most significant changes occurred in the eighteenth century and laid the foundation for the changes that occurred latter.


Baumgarten, Linda. Children’s Clothing. 2011. (accessed January 25, 2011).

Baumgarten, Linda. Eighteenth-century clothing at Williamsburg. Williamsburg : The Collonial Williamsburg Foundation , 1986.

Brooke, Iris. English Children’s Costume 1775-1920. London: Dover Publications, 2003.

Buck, Anne. Dress in eighteenth-century England. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1979.

Humphreys, Colleen, and Sue Felshin. Children’s Clothing. (accessed January 25, 2011).

Rose, Clare. Children’s Clothes Since 1750 . New York : Drama Book Publishers, 1989.

Iris Brooke. English Children’s Costume 1775-1920 (London: Dover Publications, 2003), 10.
Anne Buck. Dress in eighteenth-century England (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1979), 12.
, Colleen Humphreys and Felshin Sue. Children’s Clothing. (accessed January 25, 2011).
Linda Baumgarten. Children’s Clothing. 2011. (accessed January 25, 2011).
Linda Baumgarten.Eighteenth-century clothing at Williamsburg ( Williamsburg : The Collonial Williamsburg Foundation , 1986), 30.
Clare Rose,. Children’s Clothes Since 1750 ( New York : Drama Book Publishers, 1989), 24.


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