J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Children’s Clothing Talk at Otis House, 13 June

On Thursday, 13 June, Historic New England will host a talk by Associate Curator Laura Johnson on “Skirts, Stays, and Skeleton Suits: Clothing Children in New England.” The lecture description says:

When did children wear corsets? When did boys stop wearing skirts and girls begin wearing pants? Learn about the surprising ways we clothed our children from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries at this illustrated lecture by Associate Curator Laura Johnson, using images of many interesting and rare items from Historic New England’s collection of children’s clothing and portraits.
Registration is required. Admission is $5 for Historic New England members, $10 for others. Johnson will start speaking at 6:00 P.M., and the venue is the society’s Otis House at 141 Cambridge Street in Boston.

And as long as this event is in one of Harrison Gray Otis’s houses, I’ll quote what his descendant Samuel Eliot Morison wrote about the clothing Harry wore as a boy in the 1770s:
Every year, on Guy Fawkes’ day, a new pair of leather breeches was given him, and reserved for “best” so long as the breeches of the previous vintage held out.
That November date seems to have been an Otis family tradition, not a general one. Joshua Green, Harry’s classmate at the South Latin School, recorded receiving a pair of leather breeches on 16 Mar 1773.


G. Lovely said...

Every Year in the 1950s: New 'school clothes' (5 sets)in early September, a new pair of courderoys, a vest (made by mom)and bow tie just before Xmas, and a new suit for Easter. Plus two pairs of shoes, a pair of sneakers, and a hat. Socks and underwear were Xmas and June birthday present 'filler'. No older brothers, so no hand-me-downs.

J. L. Bell said...

School in colonial Boston started in July after Harvard commencement, and that doesn’t match with when either of these schoolboys got their new breeches. But for town boys there wasn’t a long summer vacation, so there weren’t months to grow, run around outside, wear shorts, &c. So they didn’t grow out of or wear out their school clothes over that break.

Charles Bahne said...

Today's Boston Globe, page A2, reports that this lecture has been cancelled.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Charlie! The link I had when I wrote this posting has also been broken.