Store Catalogs and Fashion Magazines for Boys' Clothing


Figure 1.--Store catalogs can be very helful in dating old photographs. All we know for sure about this photograoph is that it was taken in Reading, Pennsylvania. The lace collar suggests the late 1880s as it is much smaller than the collars commonly worn in the 1890s.

There are many different sources of information on historical boys' fashions. Some of the major sources of information in the 19th Century are store catalogs, fashiin magaazines, and photographs. Each have advantages and drawbacks, but used together along with other available sources, such as paintings and other artwork, published and unpublished articles and letters, and intact old garments allow one to create a reasonably good assessment of 19th Century fashions, especially in the second half of the Century. Earlier periods are more complicated because of the more limited store catalogs and fashion publications and the absence of photography. The store catalogs give an excellent idea of what boys were wearing at different ages as they had to appeal to popular tastes. They also provide details on materials used. The photographs are useful to confirm that these fashions were actually worn as well as to indicate what hair styles and accessories such as hats, bows, collars, sashes, stocking and shoes were worn with the suits and other garments advertised.

Store Catalogs

Store catalogs have to be carefully evaluated as they were aimed at specific sectors of the population, often affluent families. Also chain stores were not common yet, so the fashions could be regional. Even so an assessment of individual catalogs provides fascinating insights into boys fashions and trends. This page separates out the store catalogs. There are many different sources of information on historical boys' fashions. Two of the major sources of information in the 19th Century are store catalogs and photographs. Each have advantages and drawbacks, but used together along withother available sources, such as paintings and other artwork, published and unpublished articles and letters, and intact old garments allow one to create a reasonably good assessment of 19th Century fashions, especially in the second half of the Century. Earlier periods are more complicated because of the more limited store catalogs and fashion publications and the absence of photography.

Fashion Magazines

Fashion magazines are an important source on fashion trends. They are less reliable than store catalogs as they sometimes are taken to fanciful styles which may not have been widely worn. This is especially true in the years before photography which can be a confirmation that such styles were actually worn. They are, however, normally dated and thus thus very useful in estanlishing trends. In the years before photography, these magazines and paintings are the major source of fashion illustrations. Also important are women's magazines which provide household guidance on a wide variery of issues touching upn fashion, such as hair styles and breeching.

Photography

Photographs provide basically irefutable ecidence that a style was actually worn by real people. Unfortunately the date and details on where the photograph was taken are often lost. And in the 19th century we mostly have studio photography. Some basic understanding of the history of photography and printing and publishing is essential for anyone researching fashion, whether child are adult fashion. A knowledge of photography is helpful to date early drawings and photographic images as many images come with no background information as to the date or who the children are. Even the gender is hard to determine as both little boys and girls commonly wore dresses until well into the 20th century. Likewise information on printing and publishing is helpful to understand the impact on fashion through the developing mass media of the 19th century and to follow the changing trends. In addition, a knowledge of periodical publications provides valuable information as well as drawings illustrating fashion trends.











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Created: March 23, 1999
Last updated: 7:04 PM 1/16/2012