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5th Minnesota for Kids:Civilians

What?! Boys in dresses? (What kids wore)

Not all of the kids in this picture wearing dresses are girls? Can you guess which one is a boy?

No Jeans, no shorts, and no zippers. Dresses for boys? Girls in corsets and Hoop skirts, cotton, wool and petticoats. What the heck does it all mean? We'll take a look now at the clothes you might have worn if YOU had lived back in the time of the Civil War.

What did boys wear? Children in the era of the CW dressed very differently from kids today. The biggest difference that you would see is that all babies and young kids, even boys, wore dresses. Little babies who weren't walking wore long dresses that covered their feet to keep them warm. When you started walking, your dress would be shortened to the knees so you wouldn't trip. Until you could go to the bathroom on your own (don't even ASK about what the bathroom was like back then!) you would stay in a dress, boys and girls, both, complete with petticoats! It is a lot easier to change a diaper if a boy is wearing a dress than pants. Remember there weren't any snaps or zippers then, just buttons. As you grew your dress would get shorter, look a little less like a girl's dress, and then finally you would put on pants underneath the dress. Around 5 or 6 years old, you would finally wear pants and a shirt, with the shirt buttoned onto the pants so that it didn't pull out and get messy looking. Of course this is only if you lived in town!


If you lived on a farm, your dresses would be very plain, probably the same dress your sister wore when she was little, and you would start wearing a shirt tucked into your pants and held up with suspenders as soon as you could run to the outhouse by yourself and were old enough to start helping Father with the farm work.

Did you know? Boys parted their hair on the side and girls always in the middle. If you see a picture of a baby in a dress with hair parted on the side, it's a boy!

Once you got to the age of 8 or 9 you were dressing just like your father in pants, shirt and almost always a vest, and don't forget your hat when you go to town!
Take a look at these three pictures! In them you can see how as a boy you would go from dress; to tunic with skirt and pants; and finally a nice vest, jacket, and pants!

Also, don't let these pictures fool you. These boys look pretty unhappy in their clothes, don't they? But don't forget that pictures in this time took several seconds to "set", or to capture your image. So even though these boys are not smiling, it is only because they are holding still so as not to blur the picture whe it came out! It's MUCH easier to hold a frown than a smile (honest, it is! Try it for yourself. Find a mirror and try to hold a smile for 3-6 seconds WITHOUT moving at all. See how long YOU can do it. Then, try the same with a frown. See which is easier to hold, and how long you can do it!).
Look, I'm wearing pants finally!
What did girls wear? Little girls stayed in dresses that were usually knee-length, with lots of petticoats (like extra skirts underneath your dress) and if you lived in town, even a very small hoop, which is a skirt that makes your dress stick way out. Your mother would probably put a pinafore over your dress, which is like a big apron to cover it up and keep it clean while you are playing. If you were a girl, you would never ever wear pants, it just wouldn't be proper! You would be sure to wear a bonnet whenever you went out, because you definitely do not want a tan on your face! In your teens, you would start wearing a corset, which goes under your clothes and squeezes your waist to give you a small waist and makes your clothes fit better. Most young girls had short, shoulder-length hair and did not start growing it out until they were teenagers. As you grew up, your skirts got longer, until between 16 and 18 years old, depending on the traditions of your family, your skirts were just about to the floor. Putting your long hair up and wearing your skirts to the floor would show everyone that you were old enough to be married!

Even though boys and girls wore very different clothes than boys and girls do today, they still had just as much fun. They ran around and played games with each other and climbed trees and argued and made up stories just like all of you do today. They just wore different clothes while doing it!

Alright, so-now it's time to test what you have learned! Let's take a look at the picture of all the kids on the couch that was at the top of the page. Remember, one of the kids here in a dress is a boy! But which one? If you look below, you'll see that we have numbered the kids. Which number do you think is really a boy? If your not sure..look above and reread about boys in dresses for a clue!

When you think you have the answer, scroll to the bottom to check to see if you are correct!



Click here to return to the 5th Minnesota Kids Main Page!

It's Number 8! How can you tell? The part of His hair of course, and THAT is the clue we mentioned before!