Children’s clothing now represents a specific sector of clothing and follows its own trends, but this has not always been the case. Without going back as far as the Cro-Magnon Age, when newborns, like their parents, were probably covered with coarsely tanned animal skins, we can imagine that, a few millennia later, Neolithic men were already protecting their infants with wet, crushed and dried sheep or goat wool felt. A few millennia later, Neolithic men already protected their infants with wet, crushed and dried sheep’s or goat’s wool felt, but it was in Ancient History, and in particular in Ancient Greece, that the first fabrics made on rudimentary looms with vegetable fibres such as hemp and linen were found.
Often, in Ancient history, children used to wear small metal or leather amulets around their necks from birth until old age. This was the case in Egypt and in ancient Rome with the difference that in Egypt children were free to move and did not wear clothes until the age of four or five, while in the Roman Empire, newborns were swaddled with cloth strips that prevented them from moving at all. As soon as he could walk, the Roman child was dressed in a white gown lined with a red fabric that he will wear until puberty.
With the Middle Ages, a difficult period began for children suffering from high mortality due to poor hygiene and epidemics affecting the entire population. At birth, the child is swaddled tightly and wooden planks introduced into the jersey keep his limbs straight. He will remain so until the age of one year when he will start walking dressed in a very long cotton or linen dress.
During the Renaissance, the Revolution and the Empire, the child is always swaddled at birth and as soon as he begins to walk, he wears the same long dress that will remain his only habit for many centuries to come.
A first differentiation between boys’ and girls’clothing occurred in the 18th century, with the “liberation of the child’s body” advocated by philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. However, this differentiation will only concern boys from bourgeois families who will wear, from the age of three or four, a small “sailor” costume with jacket and trousers, while girls will continue to wear dresses. Boys’ clothing therefore appears to be the indicator of the future social position of the male heir called to a “dominant” role in the patriarchal family, while his sister remains confined to a subordinate role. Thus, through children’s clothes from an early age, the whole social structure is represented.
The differentiation between children’s and adult clothing deepened during the 19th century with the spread of English-style fashion in Europe and the United States.
Until the 19th century, little girls and boys “in English-style” wore blouse dresses of different sizes with large collars often decorated with lace and rather loose sleeves from a very young age and up to 6-8 years old. Since even small boys kept long hair until an advanced age (8 years), it was sometimes difficult to distinguish them from girls at first sight.
It was from the middle of the 19th century that children of all social categories began to wear, after the age of 6-8 years, clothes which were reduced models of their parents’ clothes: boys from bourgeois families often wore tight frock coats and little girls corsets dresses. It is, of course, impossible for them to dress themselves. A very “Victorian” rigour permeates the highest levels of society. Thus, often at the same time, little girls from wealthy social backgrounds wear a thin shirt, panties and even a small skirt under their dress. They wear an apron above their dresses, which, even more than their social rank, defines the role of future housewife that society has assigned them.
These clothes are similar to adult clothing both in the cut and in materials that can be particularly heavy and thick, such as the large velvet or dark wool blouses that children often wear in winter.
Children in rural areas dress in a much less codified way. Boys wear coarse canvas shirts and panties, while little girls wear long dresses made of thick fabric.
A real clothing revolution began at the beginning of the 20th century: man was getting closer to nature and medical science imposed new rules of hygiene incompatible with the clothing constraints of the previous century. The bodies are released, the corsets relax, the frock coats soften. Children’s clothing follows this new trend and comfort becomes the rule. It is also the beginning of a fashion dedicated to children and which is not a “miniature” replica of adult fashion.
The current Princesses do not compromise on the style and performance of their dresses or on the quality of the fabrics, but they do not renounce comfort and freedom of movement: progress is also about that.