Chosen by Rohima, a Tracing Our Tales graduate

About the object

This is a little girl’s uniform worn at the Berkhamsted Foundling Hospital. The design of the uniform changed little from the early days of the Hospital, although some slight updating took place in the 1920s on the advice of the Ladies’ Committee. Each child was issued with a uniform upon returning from foster care, usually at the age of five. This was often a traumatic experience for the children as the clothes they had been given by their foster families were taken away from them.

The girls’ uniforms resembled those worn by domestic servants: the boys’ uniforms were quite military in style. Domestic service was the occupation most female children entered after leaving the Hospital, and many male children joined the services. In the twentieth century, the children had to return their uniforms after they left the Hospital which would then be handed down to the new intake. They would often exchange their Hospital uniform for another when they entered military or domestic service. These uniforms were eventually replaced by simpler clothing in the final years of the Hospital with the exception of formal occasions.

Younger girl’s Foundling Hospital uniform: dress, apron and tippet, c.1940