Children's Clothing in the Late 1700s

Updated April 17, 2017

Fashion for children's clothing in the 1700s transformed dramatically. Due to the American and French revolutions the world economy changed. With that came the invention of the cotton gin where many people began dressing their children in cotton rather than expensive linen. Attitudes also changed as to how children should be raised in the later half of the 18th century. Instead of going from infancy straight to adulthood, an in between stage called childhood was encouraged. Kid's apparel changed from constricting adultlike clothing to loser fitting garments, according to The Colonial Williamsburg website.


Infants were often dressed in cloth diapers called clouts that were held in place with pins, buttons or ties. The diapers were covered by a felt wool garment called a pilcher, which looked like a triangle that was pinned or buttoned in front, according to 18th Century New England Life website. A lose fitting shirt that opened in the front was placed over the pilcher and sometimes a "bellyband" called a surcingle, suppressed the belly button. Infants also wore caps to protect their head from drafts.


At the beginning the 18th century male and female toddlers around 18 months of age wore stays, according to the Colonial Williamsburg website. This type of garment was similar to that of a corset, which supported the back and encouraged good posture. The stays or bodices sometimes had strings attached to the shoulders so adults could assist children in learning how to walk. Formal frocks, which were close-fitted dresses that buttoned in the back and contained sashes at the waist, were worn over the stays. Padded pudding caps were also worn to protect their heads if they fell, according to Colonial Williamsburg. In the later half of the 18th century less formal frocks were worn, and bodices and stays were mostly eliminated from a child's wardrobe. After a child learnt to walk the stay was longer worn. Frocks were worn by both male and female children until they were 5 to 7 years of age, according to the Colonial Williamsburg.


When a boy turned 5 or 6 years old he was breeched, according to William and Mary University. This was a time when a boy went from wearing a frock to trousers. Young boys were given trousers that were cut off at the knee with shirts that opened in the back or front. Sometimes these had jackets and were full suits called skeleton suits. Handkerchiefs were also worn around their necks, crossing in front and tying in the back. As boys got older they were introduced to long trousers and shirts with ruffled collars, according to Colonial Williamsburg website.


When a girl hit puberty she wore a gown as opposed to a frock. Gowns were laced and fit to the form rather than the frock, which was loose fitting. A gown was worn with a petticoat, which had a drawstring waist that would fill out a dress and could also be worn with a frock. During that time girls also wore aprons and bonnets, or a handkerchief on their head or tied around their neck.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Maria Woehr is a journalist with over 10 years of professional writing experience. She started editing in 2006 and has been published in "The Westfield Leader Times," "Insurance & Technology Magazine," "InformationWeek," "Positive Thinking Magazine," "Go Magazine," "The Deal," "The Financial Times" and many other outlets. She is a graduate of Boston University and has a master's degree from Drew University.