American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1905

Figure 1.--Here we see what looks like a catalog cover. We are unsure, but it may be a Sear's cover. We do know that it was dated 1905. The boy wears a flat cap and knickers which were beghinning to be seen as more stylish thn knee pants. The color image is interesting. Notice how the long stockings match the suit.

We see younger boys weearing sailor headwear and tams. Older boys might wear flat caps. Dresses were becoming less common for little boys and we no longer see kilt suits. We see manu younger boys wearing different styles of tunic suits, commonly called Buster Brown suits or Russian blouse syits. Many boys wore blouses. Younger boys and girls wore similarly styled coats which were often labeled as children's coats. American boys commonly wore kneepants, although we begin to see some boys wearing knickers. Boys commonly wore long black stockings in 1905. Younger boys might wear white long stockings when dressing up, but black way by far the dominant color. We also see some colored stockings matching suits. We see support garments to keep up long stockings and pants.


Younger boys wore dresses throughout the 19th century. We still see some dresses advertized for boys in 1900s, but this was much less common than in the 1890s. By 1905 boy dresses were becomin relatively rare. In the 19th century advertisesments for children's dresses often meant for boys and girls. By 1905 it was increasingly meant to indicate younger girls. We still do see a few offerings for boys and boys and girls. We note Ladies Home Journal offering dress patterns. Most were for girls, but there was a plaited dress for a liitle boy which the Journal explains could be worn by a girl as well. It was a waistless dress looking rather like a smock. An unidentified catalog cover shows fancy dresses for girls of different ages (figure 1). McCalls Magazine offered quite a range of mostly fancy dress styles. Includes in the McCalls patterns were a few boy or boy/girl dresses.

Kilt Suits

Kilt suits had been a major style for boys in the late-19th century. We still see them in the very early 1900s, but by 1905 we no longer see them offered in the major clothing catalogs.

Tunic Suits

The tunic suit became a major style for boys at the the turn-of-the 20th century. By 1905 we see boys commonly wearing them. There are many examples in both the photographic record and popular magazine illustrations. They were also used to outfit the iconic Buster Browb. We also see etensive offerings in the major clothing catalogs and pattern publications. The tunic suits were offered in several different styles and described by a variety of terms, includung Buster Brown suits and Russian military blouse suits. We note tunic suits made for boys up to age 8 years. They were only for boys, although eventually dresses appeared for girls that look rather like boys' tunics.

Blouses and Shirts

American boys in 1905 wore both blouses and shirts. Blouses were worn by younger boys and girls. Shirts were worn by older boys. The principal difference was that many shirts had tails. Blouses were often fancier than shirts. Blouses were so named becaise they bloused out at the waist and were done up with a dreawstring. Not all blouses actually bloused. Some were instead of blousing done as button-on garments to suport pants. We note a Home Pattern (made for the Ladies Home Journal) to make a boy's fancy button-on blouse outfit available in sizes 2-6 years.

Reefer Suits


Obe of the most popular suit styles in 1905 was the Norfolk suit which was mostly worn with kneepants or knickers.


Coats in 1905 were often labeled as children's garments and could be worn by both boys and girls. Here we see children's coats offered by Singer & Co. (figure 1). Materials included beaver, velvet, and checiot. Lots of braided trim. Colors were brown, bkuem and green. The same styles were made in sizes 4 through 14 years.


American boys commonly wore knee pants in 1905 as well as the 1900s generally. After 1905 we gradually begin to see some boys wearing knicker rather than knee pants suits. we begin to see more boys wearing knickers by the end of the decade. Most boys wore either knee pants or knickers. For the most part only older teenagers wore long pants, although there were some differences from family to family. Virtually all younger bpys wore knee pants. We note a Home Pattern to make a boy's button-on blouse outfit with knee pants.


We note a range of one- and two-piece bathing suits for both boys and girls in 1905. A. Starr Best offered a range of swimsuits. The Best swimsuits were for boys and girls. The Best one-piece outfits were styles both boys and girls could wear. The Best two-piece suits were done in diffeentiated styles for boys and girls. Girls and boys wore swisuits sut to about the same length, but girls swim suit pants had gathered legs and ruffles. Boys wore suits with straight legs. One curious aspecy of 19th and early 20th century swimsuits is that for some reason, people believed that wool was the appropriate fabric. For the life of me I can not understand why. This was a strange comvention that did not entirely disappear until the 1940s.


Boys commonly wore long black stockings in 1905. Yonger boys might wear white long stockings when dressing up, but black way by far the dominant color. Note that in the illustration here the boy's long stockings match the brown suit (figure 1). The little girl wears white socks.


Support Gaments

Children both boys and girls very commonly wore long stockings in 1905. We see support garments to keep up long stockings and pants.

Wolverine Suspender Waist

An advertisement for the Wolverine suspender waist appeared in The Youth's Companion June 8, 1905, p. 28. This suspender waist is very similar in construction and design to the Kazoo suspender waist (see the HBC Kazoo page), and indeed I suspect that what is here referred to as the "Wolverine" waist is just an earlier designation of the Kazoo. Notice that it is manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, from which the brand name, Kazoo, could possibly derive. This is just a guess, but the closeness of "Kazoo" and "Kalamazoo" seems to me like more than a coincidence.

Warner's Perfection Waists

We note "Warner's Perfection Waists" in a 1905 catalg. There are three different models shown for children and labeled as Style 2, Style 5, and Style 42. The images appear on different pages from the text. This appers to be a wholesale catalog for operators of retail shops because the items are sold by the dozen.


Sleepwear was still varied in the United States during 1905. We note advertisements for both pajamas and nightshirts. We are not sure if pajamas were more common for boys thn for men. We note A Star Best in Chicago offering a ramge of sleep wear. The Best sleepwear was primarily for boys. They offered both nightshirts and pajamas. There were slightly more offerings for pajamas. We believe that it was during the 1900s that boys sleepwear shifted from nightshirts in the 19th century to pajamas in the 20th century.


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Created: April 24, 2001
Last updated: 2:56 PM 6/8/2009