The kind of clothes that Victorian children wore depended on their place in society. There was a great divide between rich and poor that was immediately evident in a child's clothing. Wealthier children wore elaborate outfits, sometimes in luxurious fabrics such as velvet. The sailor suit look was popular for boys, and girls' clothes were trimmed with lace, satin bows and fur. Poor children often wore hand-me-downs. Re-create the looks using items found in the family closets and scour thrift shops for additional items.
Wealthy Victorian Girls
Girls from wealthy homes were well groomed and elaborately dressed. Dresses had mid-calf-length, full skirts and high necks, with long, puffed sleeves. Fabrics came in strong colours such as puce, scarlet and navy blue. Frills, braids, bows and buttons were abundant. Create the look using a long, plain dress as a base. Tie a long scarf as a sash at the waist with an elaborate bow at the back. Add a short cape over the shoulders. Girls wore heavy fringe with long hair tied back in velvet bows. Accessorise with a hat trimmed with a bow and a fake fur muff.
Wealthy Victorian Boys
Boys from well-to-do families wore dresses until about age 3, then moved on to tunics and loose trousers or breeches that fastened below the knee. Sailor suits were very popular. Older boys wore long trousers and jackets and vests in fine wool over cotton shirts. Clothes were tailored and trimmed with braids and buttons. Create the nautical look by teaming dark, knee-length trousers and a jacket. Cut a sailor collar from a piece of cloth -- velvet was common. Edge it with gold braid and sew ornamental gold buttons to the front of the jacket. Finish with long, dark socks and boots, and add a wide-brimmed straw hat.
School clothes were simple and practical. Boys wore dark trousers and jackets or vests over long trousers or breeches. Tuck long trousers into knee-length grey socks to re-create the look. Add a flat cap. Girls protected their dresses with white aprons. Make one from two rectangles of old white sheeting, adding ribbon ties and lace frills. A simple "mob cap" can be made from a circle of white cotton edged with lace and gathered with elastic thread.
Poor Victorian Children
Poor Victorian children wore ragged hand-me-down clothes that were often too large or too small for them. Sometimes they went without shoes. Search the closets of parents or older siblings for suitable items. For boys, cut the bottom of the legs off an old pair of trousers to leave a jagged hem. Add an oversized coat or vest over a white, preferably collarless, shirt. Finish with a large handkerchief tied as a scarf around the neck and a flat cap. Girls need a dark-coloured dress with a white apron and a mob cap. Throw a crocheted shawl around the shoulders to complete the look.