For  reasons that are beyond my comprehension, ‘children’ has never been a popular word.’ So says the fashion historian Elizabeth Ewing in her book ‘History of Children’s Costume,’ for ‘child’ described someone without power or say. For sure,  Dickens’ Oliver Twist or Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer were, as children, controlled by adults – if they could catch the youngsters at all. But being a ‘child’ also indicated an innocence and purity – so often enhanced by costume, dress: fashion. They had little say in what they wore or how they dressed until the middle of the twentieth century. Until then, they had mostly (bar baby clothes and the emancipating influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau) dressed in adult attire. Fur is used tell a story about the person commemorated in an image, from royal ceremonial costume lined in ermine, to the little retro muffs carried by Kate Greenaway’s young girls in Empire costume nostalgia, as much victims of Fashion’s whim as any grown up.

There was always a picturesque note to the furs worn by girls, quaint, charming, a bit playful by the end of the nineteenth century, and followed through in the images with the image of Shirley Temple in her little ermine  ‘dolly’ coat. It is so difference from the ermine lining the gown of Margaret of Austria. She is in the height of fashion; can we say the same for little North West  in a fox-like  mini-trapper’s coat or Harper Beckham in her fox trimmed parka? It seems, from these, that the mini-adult in fur is back. To my mind, they lack the charm of yesteryear … may they be seen and not heard indeed.

Royal robes for the Son of God: French banner featuring the figure of Christ as a child, wearing ermine.
Margaret of Austria (1490-91) by Master of Moulins.

Margaret was the daughter and heir of the last Duke of Burgundy. Her gown is either lined or trimmed with ermine; the black decoration is I think budge, very small pieces of black lambskin. Her step-mother was the redoubtable Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, sister of Edward IV and Richard III. There is an informality to the fur – it is practical and fashionable rather than symbolic and ceremonial.
A little boy, unbreeched and therfore in ‘skirts’, in a black velvet peaked cap trimmed wit a white fur. He is holding in his hand a coral teething ring. The black may be fashionable or it may be mourning dress. The lace and collar suggests early seventeenth century. If he is not English or southern European, I would suggest that the trim on the hat is fox and may partly be a ‘pudding;’ protecting the head should he fall. Boys were usually ‘breeched’ at seven years of age.
Hans Holbein, 1545 (reworked 1547), Portrait of Edward Prince of Wales aged six, later Edward VI. He wears an over-gown trimmed or lined with lynx, a fur gaining popularity in the 1540s and 1550s for both sexes.
Cornelius de Vos, c.1610, Portrait of a boy, traditionally Francois de Boisschot, Come d'Erps.
Francesco Pavona, (c. 1695 – 1777), Portrait of Maria Francisca Josefa de Branganza, 1738. It is a formal portrait of this young girl, wearing her robe of state, lined in ermine fur with tails to denote her position as a royal personage. The pug to her left does exactly the same thing, incidentally.
Maurice Quentin de la Tour, French, Rococo pastel portrait of little Mlle. Nicole Ricard carrying a sky blue silk velvet muff trimmed with white fur.
Jean - Etienne Liotard, 1755-56. Portrait of seven year old Maria Fredericke van Reede-Athlone with her black brabançon. She wears a pelisse of blue silk velvet, trimmed with ermine.
From the 1860s. A child in ermine collar and muff with what looks like white fox tassels during the American Civil War.
Sir John Everett Millais, 1863, ‘My First Sermon,’ a portrait of his daughter Effie diligently concentrating a sermon that is clearly over her head, in a flat little hat with fur trim and feather.

This portrait inspired an illustration in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there’ (1871). The drawing titled “In the Train” by Sir John Tenniel shows the same feathered had and fur muff as Millais’ daughter.
The children of Edward, Prince of Wales in 1871. Prince Eddi and Prince George are in highland dress with badger sporrans, their sisters in fur-trimmed hats, coats and skirts.
Taken in 1882, this formal portrait of two girls in their Sunday Best was taken in a studio by a commercial photographer. The fur in the background was a popular prop, as was the abundant mixture of materials dressing the girls. On the left, the first “bangs” appeared, foreshadowing the future popularity of the hairstyle.
‘December’, c. 1880-90s.
Kate Greenaway (1846-1901) was an illustrator who belonged to the artistic and aesthetic dress tradition of Rossetti, Walter Crane and Whistler, creating delightful costume and fantasy images of children based here on the early 19th century.
Kate Greenaway, c. 1880-90s, ‘A Girl with a Muff,’ Oil on canvas.
This watercolour illustration appeared on the invitation to Kate Greenaway’s exhibition in 1902, just two months after the artists’ death.
c. 1880-90s
Taken in Chicago in the early 1900’s, turn of the century girl riding a sleigh pram with ermine scarf and carrying a matching fur muff.
Tiny girl at the turn of the century, c. early 1900’s, with Mongolian-lamb style collar and muff.
Two Inuit children smiling, c. 1900-1908
Petite Fourrure, dated around 1905
Vogue, 1910, Plymouth Fur Advertisement

“Plymouth Furs, For Men and Boys, For Women and Children” – “Children’s Fur Coats: $15 Upwards”
Girl with a teddy bear, c. 1920, photographed in a studio in Julesburg, Colorado.
Shirley Temple in an ermine collar, attending her first film premiere, John Ford’s adapatation of Rudyard Kipling’s Wee Willie Winkie with her mother, also in ermine, on 26 June 1937.
The incredible Jodie Foster, 13, as Tallulah in Bugsy Malone (1976), a musical where children dressed and acted the parts of adult gangsters. Here she is as a flapper vamp, wearing a silver fox wrap in true 1920s style. Costume designer Monica Howe.
Saga Furs Collection, 1996
Len Radin’s portrait of an Inuit child at a Native Alaskan Dance demonstration in Barrow, Alaska, 2009
Harper Beckham, 2013
North West, 2014. Topical. Look at the pug.
Scowling children in fur:

On the left – A Noatak child portrait taken by Edward S. Curtis in 1929

On the right – North West in 2015

Mrs Miniver

‘Miniver’ has all the gorgeous allusions to the age of chivalry, the medieval past and the courts of the Plantagenets and Valois. Fur in fashion repeats itself over and over again, from the white fox lining the robes of ‘Salome’ in the Byzantine Ravenna Mosaics to the mink that trimmed the robes of Henry VIII.

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