English Personal Experiences: The 1900s--Sailor Suits


Figure 1.--These English boys are wearing emaculate white sailor suits with wide-brimmed sailor hats. HBC would date this image about 1895-1900. Here the hats, including their mother's hat, and the stickings are the best clues. Image used courtesy of the MD Collection.

The boys a few year before these portraits were taken wore immaculate white kneepants sailor suits. They are all-white suits, except for the "V" collar which has stripped and colored trim--presumably white. The suits Both boys wear wide brimmed sailor hats. There are only three major differences in the outfits worn by the two boys. One, the older boy wars a slightly smaller wide-brimmed sailor hat. Two, the younger brother wears three-quarter white socks with strap shoes. The older brother wears long dark stockings, but with the same strap shoes. We believe that this was not just a random choice. Rather we believe that short white socks were considered more appropriate for younger boys and long dark stockings for older boys. Three, the younger boy's sailor suit appear to have colored wrist cuffs.

Chronology

This image like the others availble on these boys is undated. HBC wuld date it about 1900. There are sevral reasons for this. The white sailor suits suggest a summer portrait. We believe that in the 1900-10 period, younger began to more commonly wear socks during the summer. The longstockings worn by the older boy here suggests that it was taken about 1900 and not later in the decade. Also the popularity of these wide-brimmed sailor hats was greater in 1900 than by the end of the decade when boys' hat styles began to change. Another factor is hat the kneepant do not have creases. Creases began to be more common in the 1910s. Their mother's hat also seems a more popular style in 1900 than 1910.

Ages

The boy look to HBC like they are about 5 and 7 years old. British boys from well-off families often ore sailor suits to about age 8. Once they began their preparatory school, often as boarders, it became much less common.

The Suits

The boys a few year before the portraits of them in Eton suits were taken wore immaculate white kneepants sailor suits. The suits have very traditional styling. They are all-white suits, except for the dark, presumably blue "V" collars with white stripping. Both boys wear wide brimmed sailor hats.

Differences

There are only three major differences in the outfits worn by the two boys.

Hats

The wide-brimmed sailor hat was a very poular boys' style. It was widely worn with sailor suits as well as otherstles like Fauntleroy suits. The older boy wars a slightly smaller wide-brimmed sailor hat. Note how the younger boy with the larger hat wers his hat well back on his head. I am not sure this is related to a fashion statement, but rather becaus it would have been difficult to photograph the three together if the hats had been properly seated on their heads. Another possibility is that mother wanted their hair to show. Then again it may have been the photographer that posed them like this.

Hosiery

The younger brother wears three-quarter white socks with strap shoes. The older brother wears long dark stockings, but with the same strap shoes. We believe that this was not just a random choice. Rather we believe that short white socks were considered more appropriate for younger boys and long dark stockings for older boys. Note the older boy's long stockings are a nbit baggy.

Wrist cuffs

The younger boy's sailor suit appear to have colored wrist cuffs. We find it a bit unusual that such identical suits would have this difference.

Other Items

Sarve

The boys seem to have the same scarves. The older boy's scarve, however, is not very well tied. Note the lanyards wound around the scarves. Presumably there is a wistle attached.

Footwear

Both boys wear the same ankle strap, strap patent leather shoes.

Mother's Clothes

The mother's hat is rather nondescipt. Her boater hat, however, can probably be dated by ladies milinery experts. It looks to HBC like a turn-of-the century style, but we are not experts on ladies' hats. We were a little surprised how plainly mother was dressed given how well the oys were dresed.

Portrait

Mother for some reason has a small footrest. I am not sure what the purose for that was. The quality of the portrait and the informal posing suggests to HBC that this was probably not a 1980s portrait, at least the early 1890s.





Christopher Wagner





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Created: April 12, 2002
Last updated: April 12, 2002