Dressing up as an Edwardian child for World War 1 topic

Postcard of Edwardian children on beach at low tide, 1904 (HA901534)
Postcard of Edwardian children on beach at low tide, 1904 (HA901534)

Earlier this week it was dressing up day for my children at school. They are at junior school and this term, like many other school children across Europe, they’re studying the First World War. They’ve been asked to dress up as Edwardians, the brief halcyon time before the world turned upside down.

During my time at RP&M, I’m really looking forward to the work going on around the Great War.

But today, I’m taking advantage of the fantastic picture resources on the RP&M Image Store to discover what an Edwardian child would dress like.

The exercise threw up some interesting thoughts. We’ve inherited an authentic maid’s apron once worn by a long-distant relative when they were in service. When my daughter said she wanted to be a maid, I instantly – with my feminist instincts tried to guide her into something with a higher status. She wasn’t to be budged though so we were in another quandary.

Postcard showing pupils of St NIcholas's Church School, 1904-10 (HA901539)
Postcard showing pupils of St NIcholas’s Church School, 1904-10 (HA901539)

How the hemline debate started in World War 1

Apparently the First World War bought one of the biggest changes ever in fashion when women’s skirts went from long to short. These days, long skirts for little girls are extremely rare, unless they’re hippy-style multi-coloured maxi skirts. Most girls wear short skirt, trousers or shorts which allow them lots of freedom to run around.

Maids wore long sleeved, long skirted dark dresses with petticoats. So what should she wear? Inauthentic trousers or a short skirt? Or can I find time to make a long skirt and pray it stays together until the end of the school day?

For boys, it’s almost as difficult. None of the items which make a child look like an Edwardian are very easy to find. Top hats, flat caps, waistcoats, braces and tight boots are not the sort of thing we can borrow from Dad or have in the dressing up box.  Most boys these days live a carefree life in jeans and t-shirts or tracksuits without any ‘formal’ clothes unless they are strapped into a shirt for a wedding.

Fortunately we do have an old sailors cap found at a charity shop. We made do with a pair of long socks over trousers to give the impression of  ‘pantaloons’ , a white school shirt and a scarf as a neckerchief and he can go as an Edwardian ragamuffin.  A maid and a scruffy ragamuffin. I’m afraid we’ll have to leave the Lord or Lady of the Edwardian Manor to someone else; we’re strictly below stairs in our house.

  • By the way, it’s really easy to use the RP&M Image Store. Some of the pictures are exquisite and you can send them to your friends as e-cards which would make a great change from the usual card.
  • You just have to register online and you can access hundreds of historic pictures.
  • The pictures featured here are all from the library after searching Edwardian children.
    Postcard of Mayor's Children's Ball, 1904 (HA901542)
    Postcard of Mayor’s Children’s Ball, 1904 (HA901542)

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