What clothes did people wear?

Two girls walking past park benches in 1916 Two young girls dressed for a spring day walk in the park during 1916

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A young girl in the early 1900s wore a knee-length dress, or a high-collared blouse and knee-length skirt, matched with socks and sandals, shoes or ankle boots.

Whites, creams and pastel shades were all popular colours. Light and floaty dresses, made from materials like silk were particularly popular for formal occasions. Cotton and linen suited everyday summer clothes and wool was used for warmer winter clothes.

Outfits were often decorated with lace around the collars or cuffs, as well as dainty bows of ribbon. Girls often wore ribbons in their hair, to keep their curls or plaits in place.

Outdoors, girls wore knee-length coats or capes. On her head, a girl might wear a bonnet, or in summer, a flat, round, straw hat called a 'boater'. Girls were expected not to do anything where they might get dirty.

School uniform

An illustration of a girl outside a house Girls would often wear cotton pinafores that went over their dresses to keep them clean

Straw boaters were often part of the uniform at schools where richer people sent their children. Girls from working families mostly went to 'board schools', which did not have uniforms. School uniforms only became popular at these schools in the 1920s.

Girls from poorer families tended to wear plainer dresses and skirts, made from heavier and more hard-wearing cloth.

Most girls would often cover their dresses with a 'pinafore', a white cotton apron that went over their shoulders, to keep the dress clean.

Girls wore their hair long. By the age of 16 or 17, a girl would pin her hair on the top of her head in a bun, or a swirling, curled, adult style. In the war years, it was fashionable for girls to wear their hair in a bun, or tied back with a big bow ribbon. Some of these 'big bows' were enormous.

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Teachers' notes to accompany the 'What clothes did people wear?' section

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