First Communion suits changed considerably over time. Kneepants suits were popular in the late 19th century, although the tradition of a new suit for first communiion was just beginning to become established. We note one boy wearing an elaborate lace collr with his suit, probably in the early 20th century. It is not worn with a Fauntleroy suit, but a regular suit. All of the images we note have the decorative sllece ribbon, but we do not yet have any 19th century image, so we are not positive when boys began to wear these. Knicker suits became increasingly common in the early 20th century, but by the 1920s were being replaced with short pants suits. We note a lot of Canadian boys appear to have worn long black stockings with kneepants, knickers, and short pants for First Communion. This style continued into the 1950s, but was gradually replaced by long pants suits. One boy in the early 1950s wore a beret, dark suit, and long black stockings for First Communion.
We do not have many images of Canadian boys doing First Communion in the 1900s. The ones we have found show boys wearing conservative dark suits, usually kneepants suits with dark long stockings. We see basic single-breasted suits. The variation comes mostly from the blouses and collars. We see a wide range of collars, including fancy lace and ruffled collars and Eton collas. We also see various bows worn, both collar bows as well as the First Comminion sleeve bows. The Quebec boy here wears a rather elaborate lace collar with a regular kneeoants single breasted suit, an unusual combination (figure 1). He also has a white bow. The image was undated, but we would guess about 1905. Note the decorative sleeve ribbon. We are not sure to what extent these were worn in the 19th century. He wears long stockings and high-top shoes. Note the rather incongrous hat. The photo was made by "Falardeau," Quebec.
We note a Solemn Communion held in 1928. At the time French Canadians held Solemn Communion at the end of primary school. This would be the end of the schooling for many of these children. After finishing primary school, many will go to work. The children from the more affluent families will continue their education at a classical college. Parish priests might pay for the further education of promising boys, hoping they will have "vocation" in being called by God to the priesthood. This Solemn Communion took place at the small, but charming Québec village of St-André de Kamouraska. Many mothers would have sewn the children's clothes. Several of tese boys wear pants cut down from their fathers' pants. Every child holds in his hand a kind of diploma for eternal salvation.
Our information on Canadian First Communion outfits during the 1930s is still limited. Available images from the 1930s show boys wearing dark suits with Eton collars and white bows. I think they were knicker suits with black long stockings. Here we have an image from a Lithuanian Catholic Church. We think that French Catholic boys commonly wore similar outfits. The girls wore small white wedding dresses with veils and white long stockings.
Here we see Canadian First Communions during the 1940s. The images we have look to be French Canadian boys. The images we have show the boys wearing black suits with large white floppy bows. We do not know if white suits were also worn in the 1940s. One boy wears a short pants suit with back long stockings. A HBC French Canadian tells us about his First Communion during April 1944. It happened at my boarding school It was a boarding school for boys and girls. A reader tells us, "My First Communion took place April 1944, well before Vatican II. It was conducted at my
boarding school . It was a boarding school for boys and girls. When remembering that time when we were 7 years old, the learning of the
little cathechism was more something like rote learning. The most impressing was the list of sins to memorize and the fear of hell . We were not so sure to be saved by Christ Jesus and even
innocent, we felt guilty. And the way to feel better was this coming day of First Communion. Oh the Great day!"
We note one Canadian First Communion service duing the 1950s. We believe it was a 1954 ceremony. The boys wear white suits. There were both short and long pants suits. This is in sarp contrast to the black outfits we note in the 1940s. Of course we have only a very small number of images in our Canadian archive. We are not yet sure how representative these outfits were. We note one boy wearing saddle shoes, showing that they were beginning to be seen as a style suitable for formal dress. The girls long formal wear white wedding dresses. The ceremony was held in May.
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