Counting Cuffs and Analysing Aprons

The long-held assumption that children were dressed as miniature adults in the 16th century is challenged by the findings of a detailed analysis of 1,155 images of children in a variety of sixteenth century artistic representations. Portraits and family paintings made up the largest proportion of the images (28 per cent), closely followed by effigies (24 per cent) and genre paintings (22 per cent). The results of this research were surprisingly robust: specific garments emerged as typical for particular age groups, some trends were consistent across all ranks of society, and there were clear fashions in children’s clothes through the time period which, in some cases, mirrored those for adults. The most interesting results were clear indications of the conventional petticoats for toddlers and long coats worn by small children of both sexes, an insight into “leading strings”, and the items which signalled growing maturity for older girls and youths.
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