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Standards > Getting Started & Getting it Right > Basic Children's Clothing

Basic Children's Clothing:

Rather than re-invent the wheel, the best article we've seen online about children's clothing is Elizabeth Stewart Clark's article on "Assembling a "Best Bet" Wardrobe: Infants and Children", which we recommend that all parents of young reenactors read.

A couple of key points:

Robert McGarty & his son, McDowell, 2001

At our events, children must be dressed in appropriate civilian attire. There is a tendency in reenacting for parents to dress little boys like pint sized miniature soldiers. There is no documentation for this and it should be avoided (unless of course your son is old enough to be actually portraying a field musician and has the military's permission to perform this role). Sometimes children's styles were military-influenced, such as Zouave jackets, Garibaldi shirts, etc, but actual uniforms must be avoided.

Little boys under the age of 5 or 6 should wear dresses, or little suits with pantaloons not adult trowsers. After age 6, trowsers start to get longer and by 10 or 12, possibly earlier, boys are wearing adult length trowsers

Civilian patterned sack coats or short Eton type jackets are both appropriate for young boys. As they get older, the clothing is the same as older men's civilian clothing.

Boys' hair should be parted on the side; girls' hair should be parted in the middle. Hair parts were a secondary gender characteristic in the era and this is very important.

Dress lengths by
age, from Harpers
(1868) - (click
for larger image)

Girls dresses should fasten in the back and can be either high necked or boat necked styles, with long or short sleeves. By the time a girl gets old enough to wear a front-closing dress, she should also be wearing stays or a corset.

Girls skirt lengths should get progressively longer as they get older. An economical period way of dealing with this is to make dresses with "growth tucks" that can be gradually let out as a child gets older. In addition, the heavily gathered back closing bodices were made in such a way that they could easily be let out as a child grew. As usual, period clothing was a "system" not just a matter of styles.

(image courtesy of

Authentic reproduction children's shoes are an expense that many in the hobby cannot afford. The best budget option is to buy second hand authentic shoes outgrown by another young reenactor. Sometimes period plausible styles can be found at discount shoe places such as Payless and Wal-mart. Avoid thick soles and speed laces. Often the best bet is to buy front lacing "paddock boots" or elastic gusseted "jodphur boots" for horseback riding. Other than having rounded instead of squared toes, these are virtually identical to period shoes. Sometimes the paddock boots come wth speed laces but these can be removed and replaced with metal grommets by a good shoemaker. The can be obtained either on Ebay or from a riding shop. Some tack stores sell outgrown children's items on consightment

Infants should wear gowns. There are examples on Liz Clarke's website. Cloth diapers are preferred. Modern / disposable diapers and other modern items are not permitted at immersion events (most of which are unsuitable for really young infants anyway). At non-immersion events, they are permitted but must be kept hidden at all times.

Children often adapt better to first person immersion situations than adults do -- not surprising, as "make believe" is a staple of child's play. Some of the most skilled reenactor we know are 12 or under. Child reenactors must be encouraged to get into the spirit of the event and "play the game". No modern toys are allowed.

Key Links:

Miscellaneous Supplies for Children:

Period Children's Clothing Patterns: