Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and reigned until 1901, so this period is known as the Victorian era. During this time children's clothing had to combine the current fashions with practicality, and the style was dependent on wealth and status. Different occasions called for different outfits, and children needed school wear, day outfits and formal attire. Many museums and galleries display original Victorian children's clothing, which has been preserved for more than 100 years.
Victorian school uniforms featured basic design details that placed practicality over fashion. Boys' uniforms consisted of either pantaloons, trousers or shorts depending on the weather, with a white shirt and waistcoat, basic black shoes and a flat wool cap. Girls wore long-sleeved, full-length dresses, with an apron and practical black shoes or boots. In colder weather boys wore wool coats, and girls wore wool shawls. Those who were wealthy enough were home-schooled by a tutor and could wear their normal daytime attire
Victorian day-wear for children is similar to school-wear but less uniform. Girls wore dresses made from patterned and coloured fabrics, and boys wore patterned waistcoats and dressy jackets. During the warmer months, girls could wear short-sleeved summer dresses, and in the cooler months their dresses would be made of wool. Girls wore bonnets when travelling outdoors. In the summer, boys would substitute their pantaloons for shorts made from cool linens, and in winter they wore wool coats, breeches and if wealthy, a top hat.
Like many children today, Victorian children would save their best clothes for formal occasions. Dances and balls required attendees to adhere to a strict dress code. Girls dresses featured short puff sleeves, high necklines and full skirts. A family's wealth would factor into decisions about what fabric was used in the dresses, but the style was consistent throughout the classes. Boys would wear breeches with stockings underneath, topped by a shirt, waistcoat and jacket. A smartly tied cravat finished the ensemble.
During the Victorian era there was a strict dress etiquette that had to be followed by children, as well as adults. If a child came from a poorer background, their clothes would be simple and practical, and if their background was wealthy, their clothing would be more elaborate in design and made from expensive fabrics. Wealthy families especially liked their clothing to reflect how much money they had. The Victorian period spanned 64 years, during which children's fashion went through some considerable changes. From breeches and pantaloons, to shorts, trousers and flat caps, the Victorian era was a very interesting time for children's clothing.