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Vieno Tuulikki KolehmainenThis photograph of 2 boys and a girl was taken around 1910 give or take a decade in Viipuri, Finland

The relative lack of gender definition advertised by the childrens clothes is a pleasant suprise.  All 3 are wearing tunics that look like ‘dresses’ with dropped waistelines and high necklines, dark stockings, sturdy lace-up boots, large collars

These boots were probably purchased from the shoe store at 20 Torkkelinkatu, Viipuri, owned by the children’s father Alpo Kolehmainen or his later ‘factory’ at Mikkeli

The gender differences are also clear with the boys in larger white collars, and shorts below their tunics. The girl in paler coloured dress with elbow length sleeves and no obvious shorts

I suspect that this dress style is mainly specific to children, though drop waistlines became popular for adult female dresses in the 1920s

I wonder whether these dress style choices were specific to this family or part of a broader fashion?

rate wendys scribble

4 bits of lovely banter on “boots”

  1. Grumps writes:

    These look like play, or school, cloths – not their sunday best. Was clothing more expensive, and expected to be passed on to siblings regardless of gender? Would Best Clothes be more gender obvious?
    I suppose the need to identify gender reflects society’s obsession therewith. In the 70’s jeans and a tee was ubiquitous because teenagers wanted to show gender didn’t matter (as opposed to sex – which mattered more than ever). We’ve got rid of that nonsense thank heavens. Girls back in pink, boys in grunge as nature intended.*

    *May contain irony.



  2. wendy writes:

    Grrumps, I want a children’s clothing historian to answer these questions because they are fascinating (on long winter evenings),alas, my pink’s are a bit permanently grunged up, its been confusing me and the locals for a while now



  3. p-g writes:

    Our family album contained many such images from Victorian times. I seem to recall hearing a theory that it was connected with superstition related to death/plague – and was hoping that someone would come up with an answer. A more prosaic view is:

    “For centuries, boys had worn dresses (instead of breeches or trousers) as babies and up until
    they were around five years old. The most likely theory for this is that it was easier to change
    babies’ nappies and for little boys to go to the toilet as breeches and trousers often had
    complicated fastenings. Apart from babies’ and toddlers’ dresses, which were usually white,
    boys’ dresses were often in darker or brighter colours than girls’ were. They were often also
    more tailored with metal, rather than fabric covered, buttons.”

    That from



    wendy writes

    p-g – I really enjoyed reading that V & A article, thankyou. What a fabulous museum. I wonder what the story was for children’s dress in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries… Looks like the Victoria era dressed and treated children differently from adults. I suspect in the 16th century they were dressed as mini adults – which appears to be the current fashion



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