Friday, June 3, 2011

Costume for a Regency child.

How can you not love the family chaos going on in this portrait?

One of my favourite things is to see period family portraits. And not just formal sitting portraits, but ones where there are people unposed, doing ordinary things, the room in disarray or chaotic, children are running about. It’s so intimate to see a glimpse of Regency family life, and even better, to see the things children wore.

The Regency child on the most part (at least from toddlerhood on) was generally dressed in a miniature version of the adult. They were expected to behave like adults in many ways, so it’s not much of a stretch that they would be outfitted like one. In babyhood boys and girls were dressed similarly in little regency frocks. Girls would graduate into their little high-waisted gowns and the boys got their skeleton suits sometime during toddlerhood.

A few garments have survived the tests of time, and are now on display in a variety of museums around the world. Using those garments as examples, a number of people have been able to draft patterns from them or create new ones based on the extant garments.

One of my favourite sets of children’s extant garments (with a pattern made from the garment itself) are the girl’s and boy’s outfits at the Danish Museum collection ‘Tidens Tøj'.

Tidens Tøj' girl's gown.

Tidens Tøj' boy's skeleton suit.

Some wonderful, enterprising person drafted patterns from a number of the pieces and posted them on the website. One of the RSA Forum’s Danish members was kind enough to translate them. The translated patterns can be found here:

View the original museum’s pages for:

The skeleton suit:

The adorable tiny gown:

With the little regency gowns, there are lots of options, just as many as there are with adult gowns, style wise, and now there are several patterns to choose from.

Some of the most popularly available patterns for girls are through Sense & Sensibility:
This website sells a wonderful array of period goods, and their regency selection is absolutely wonderful because it includes patterns that are not readily sold in the US. There are several children’s options on this site (the adult options also offer patterns I’ve never seen sold in the US). They include more than one little girl’s dresses but also includes patterns for boys’ wear (skeleton suits & such).

(click on the Regency button on the left and scroll down on the right).

The Skeleton suit was the mainstay for many years during Georgian, Regency and even into the Victorian era for the little boys. I guess boys need romper wear no matter what age they grow up in. I personally think skeleton suits are ADORABLE. They were appropriate until about 10 or 12 (this is my estimation looking at portraits) and then the boys were put into littler versions of their father’s clothing. The trousers were either long to the ankle, or breech-length, just at the knees or slightly below them.

Here is a picture of an RSA member’s child in his little skeleton suit made by his father. The proud dad’s photo essay on making this item can be viewed here:

This is an interesting link of other children’s garments, including caps and bonnets.

This is a wonderful sample of a young man’s clothing in the early regency that I found on DeviantArt.

Here are lots of images for inspiration:

(photo link provided by:

One of the most famous period images of a young regency girl is 'Pinkie'.

Another portrait has been paired with it--the portrait of Blue Boy.

If you'll notice, the boy’s clothing fashions are more antiquated than the girl’s and there’s a good reason for that. Here’s an interesting history written about these portraits. The girl in the portrait was only 11 years old.