Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

14/9/2004

Boys’ Clothes: 15th-16th Centuries

Children have not always been dressed in distictive clothes. Children in the 16th and 17th Centuries, once out of their swadling clothes and baby/todler dresses, were dressed virtually as minature adults. The portraits of children of earlier centuries the tiny figures their rich dress-up clothes look like dwarf adults. And adults were what their elders were trying to make of them, not only in appearance but mentally.

In the homes of European upper classes, infants were often put to study under tutors and governesses when about 3 years old. From contemporary letters and diaries, one learns that education was concentrated upon so early .at it was not unusual for a child of four or five to be able to read, write and understand as well as to speak several languages.

Dressing children in adult styles came about during the Renaissance with the increase of wealthy merchant families, especially in the cities. Thus developed love of finery that in earlier times had been accessible only to nobility. And since costly clothes have ever been the outward sign of affluence, it was important that the children be as richly dressed as their parents. However, indoors “en famille” the garb consisted of a coarse, unbleached linen chemise or smock which was the undergarment worn under the handsome dress. This undergarment whether of linen or woolen cloth was the sole piece of underwear worn by men, women and children of both sexes. As the general body garment for babies, it came to be known in the thirteenth century as the “gertrude,” the name still in use today for the flannel petticoat of the new baby. Research reveals that a Saint Gertrude of German birth was “Gertrude the Great,” an abbess of Nivelle in Brabant who lived from 1256 to 1311. She was famed for having received supernatural visions but certainly, too, must always have worn a woolen piece of underwear.

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