Costumes Described in Little Lord Fauntleroy


Figure 1.--The Earl's social set as well as the poor tenants were charmed by yje little boy in the velvet suit and lace collar. The outfit, however, was never dscribed in detail by Mrs. Burnett. This is one of the original Reginald Birch illustrations.

The classic Little Lord Fauntleroy was a knee pants suit, at least in America. It was made of a black or dark-colored (burgundy, deep blue, forest green, etc.) velvet. The jacket was small and worn open to show a heavily ruffled blouse with a huge lace collar and matching wrist trim. (Notably this varied from the original Birch drawings, which showed a velvet jacket completely covering the blouse with only a lace collar and lace cuffs showing.) It was worn with long (usually dark) stockings and knee pants. Mrs. Burnett did make some references to costuming, but not very many considering the future impact of the Little Lord Fauntleroy style. The original drawings pictured him with long flowing hair to which many American mothers soon added the ringlet curls so associated with the Fauntleroy style. Actually the references to costuming are fairly limited. Not only are there few references, but there is not detailed description of the suit and only two references to the lace collar. There are, however, quite a number of references to Cedric's long blond curly hair. The original illustrator was Reginald Birch. His illustrations may have been just as important as the book, if not more important, in setting the Fauntleroy craze. Some of the fashion/clothing references in the book are as follows:

Hair Styling: Curls

One of the fashions most associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy is long ringlet curls. American boys in part because of the Fauntleroy craze might wear ringlet curls. This was always a minority of boys, but the photographic record very clearly shows that large numbers of boys did indeed had their hair done in ringlets. Ironically Ringlets curls were never mentioned by Mrs. Burnett, nor were they pictured in the original Birch illustrations. Mrs Burnett did constantly refer to Cedric's curls. She never mentions, however, his hair actually being curled. We are left to assume that his hair was naturally curly. She also does not detail just how long his hair was. Birch in the original illustrations shows long, flowing hair. He shows shoulder length hair, but unlike the references in the book, not particularly curly hair. e never pictured Cedric with ringlets.

Kilts

One of the most popular styles for younger boys in the 1880s were kilts. This was especially true in America. The style that was popular was not the elaborate High Kilt outfit, but rather a style of kilt suit. Many boys wore these kilt suits rather than dresses. We have a general idea that very young boys wore dresses, but then graduated to kilt suits. We are unsure if boys who wore kilt suits also had dresses, but we think that this was probably not very common. At any rate, Mrs. Burnett picks up on the fashion for kilt suits, but uses the term kilt skirt and not kilt suit. Most illustrators have, however, not picked up on these passages when illustrating the book. The references are brief and refer to a period when Cedric was younger, before we actually meet him at the beginning of the book.

When he was old enough to walk out with his nurse, dragging a small wagon and wearing a short white kilt skirt, and a big white hat set back on his curly yellow hair, he was so handsome and strong and rosy that he attracted everyone's attention, and the nurse would come home and tell his mamma stories of the laddies who had stopped their carriages to look and speak to him .... [Chapter 1]

[Cedric describing his friend Dick] "... I was carrying it [a ball] and it bounced into the middle of the street where the carriages and horses were, as I was so disappointed I began to cry--I was very little little. I had kilts on, and Dick was blackening a man's shoes, and he said 'Hallo!" and he ran in between the horses and caught the ball for me ..." [Chapter 2]

Dresses

"Ristycratic, is it," she [Mary] would say. "Faith and I'd like to see the child on Fifth Avey-noo as looks loile him an' shteps out as handsome as himself. An 'ivvery man, woman, and choild lookin' after him in his bit of black velvet skirt made out of the mistress's old gowns; an' his little head up an' curly hair flyin' and shinin'. It's like a young lord he looks." [Chapter 1]

"He was the nicest little feller I ever see," said Dick. "An' as to sand--I never seen so much sand to a little feller. I thought a heap o' him, I did,--an' we was friends, too--we was sort o' chums from the fust, that little young un an' me. I grabbed his ball from under a stage fur him, an' he never forgot it; an' he'd come down here, he would, with his mother or his nuss and he'd holler: `Hello, Dick!' at me, as friendly as if he was six feet high, when he warn't knee high to a grasshopper, and was dressed in gal's clo'es. He was a gay little chap, and when you was down on your luck, it did you good to talk to him." [Chapter 11]

Knickerbockers

[Mr. Havinsham the lawyer watched Cedric run a race] He really never remembered seeing having seen anything quite like the way in which his lordship's lordly little red legs [referring to Cedric's red stockings] flew up behind his knickerbockers and tore over the ground as he shot out in the race at the signal word. He shut his small hands and st his face against the wind; his bright hair streamed out behind. .... His elated little face was very red, his curls clung to his hot, moist forehead, his hands were in his pockets. [Chapter 2]

He [Mr. Haversham] could not make up his mind as to what an elderly gentleman should say to a little boy who won races, and wore short knickerbockers and red stockings on legs which were not long enough to hang over a big chair when he sat well back in it. [Chapter 2]


Figure 3.--Cedric lets a poor crippled boy ride while he rides. This of course seems a sugary-sweet scene to our modern eyes, it was not to the Victorians. This is one of the original Reginald Birch illustrations.

Caps and Hats

[Cedric surprised at the people bowing to him] "Dies she know me?" asked Lord Fauntleroy. "I think she must think she knows me." And he took off his black velvet cap to her and smiled. [Chapter 4]

"Here they come!" went from one looker-on to another.

And then the carriage drew up, and Thomas stepped down and opened the door, and a little boy, dressed in black velvet, and with a splendid mop of bright waving hair, jumped out.

Every man, woman, and child looked curiously upon him.

"He's the Captain over again!" said those of the on-lookers who remembered his father. "He's the Captain's self, to the life!"

He stood there in the sunlight looking up at the Earl, as Thomas helped that nobleman out, with the most affectionate interest that could be imagined. The instant he could help, he put out his hand and offered his shoulder as if he had been seven feet high. It was plain enough to every one that however it might be with other people, the Earl of Dorincourt struck no terror into the breast of his grandson.

"Just lean on me," they heard him say. "How glad the people are to see you, and how well they all seem to know you!"

"Take off your cap, Fauntleroy," said the Earl. "They are bowing to you."

"To me!" cried Fauntleroy, whipping off his cap in a moment, baring his bright head to the crowd and turning shining, puzzled eyes on them as he tried to bow to every one at once. [Chapter 7]

When he left them, the workmen used to talk him over among themselves, and laugh at his odd, innocent speeches; but they liked him, and liked to see him stand among them, talking away, with his hands in his pockets, his hat pushed back on his curls, and his small face full of eagerness. "He's a rare un," they used to say. "An' a nice little outspoken chap, too. Not much o' th' bad stock in him." And they would go home and tell their wives about him, and the women would tell each other, and so it came about that almost every one talked of, or knew some story of, little Lord Fauntleroy .... [Chapter 10]

Velvet Suit

[The classic reference is] And then the Earl looked up. What Cedric saw was a large old man with shaggy white hair and eyebrows, and a nose like an eagle's beak between his deep fierce eyes. What the Earl saw was a graceful childish figure in a black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with lovelocks waving around the handsome manly little face, wise eyes met his with a look of innocent good-fellowship. If the Castle was like the palace in a fairy story, it must be owned that Lord Fauntleroy was himself rather like a small copy of the fairy prince, though he was not all aware of the fact, and perhaps was rather a sturdy young model of a fairy. [Chapter 4]

Dougal [the huge Irish wolf hound] was not a dog whose habit it was to make acquaintances rashly, and the Earl wondered somewhat to see how quietly the brute sat under the touch of the childish hand. And, just that moment, the big dog gave Lord Fauntleroy one more look of dignified scrutiny, and deliberately laid its huge, lion-like head on the boy's black-velvet knee. [Chapter 4]

[The Earl thought] ... it was not disagreeable to met someone who did not distrust or shrink from him, or seemed to detect the ugly part of his nature; someone who looked at him with clear, unsuspecting eyes--if it was only a little boy in a black velvet suit. [Chapter 4]

Lace Collar

When she reached Dorincourt Castle with Sir Harry, it was late in the afternoon, and she went to her room at once before seeing her brother. Having dressed for dinner, she entered the drawing-room. The Earl was there standing near the fire and looking very tall and imposing; and at his side stood a little boy in black velvet, and a large Vandyke collar of rich lace--a little fellow whose round bright face was so handsome, and who turned upon her such beautiful, candid brown eyes, that she almost uttered an exclamation of pleasure and surprise at the sight. [Chapter 10]

Dressing

[Dressing up in a Fauntleroy velvet suit could be quite complicated. For details see: Dressing. Two maids were assigned to help Cedric dress when he was moved Darincourt Castle.]

Cedric moved on his pillow, and turned over, opening his eyes.

There were two women in the room. Everything was bright and cheerful with gay-flowered chintz. There was a fire on the hearth, and the sunshine was streaming in through the ivy-entwined windows. Both women came toward him, and he saw that one of them was Mrs. Mellon, the housekeeper, and the other a comfortable, middle-aged woman, with a face as kind and good-humored as a face could be.

"Good-morning, my lord," said Mrs. Mellon. "Did you sleep well?"

His lordship rubbed his eyes and smiled.

"Good-morning," he said. "I didn't know I was here."

"You were carried upstairs when you were asleep," said the housekeeper. "This is your bedroom, and this is Dawson, who is to take care of you."

Fauntleroy sat up in bed and held out his hand to Dawson, as he had held it out to the Earl.

"How do you do, ma'am?" he said. "I'm much obliged to you for coming to take care of me."

"You can call her Dawson, my lord," said the housekeeper with a smile. "She is used to being called Dawson."

"MISS Dawson, or MRS. Dawson?" inquired his lordship.

"Just Dawson, my lord," said Dawson herself, beaming all over. "Neither Miss nor Missis, bless your little heart ! Will you get up now, and let Dawson dress you, and then have your breakfast in the nursery?"

"I learned to dress myself many years ago, thank you," answered Fauntleroy. "Dearest taught me. `Dearest' is my mamma. We had only Mary to do all the work,--washing and all,--and so of course it wouldn't do to give her so much trouble. I can take my bath, too, pretty well if you'll just be kind enough to 'zamine the corners after I'm done."

Dawson and the housekeeper exchanged glances.

"Dawson will do anything you ask her to," said Mrs. Mellon.

"That I will, bless him," said Dawson, in her comforting, good-humored voice. "He shall dress himself if he likes, and I'll stand by, ready to help him if he wants me."

"Thank you," responded Lord Fauntleroy; "it's a little hard sometimes about the buttons, you know, and then I have to ask somebody."

He thought Dawson a very kind woman, and before the bath and the dressing were finished they were excellent friends, and he had found out a great deal about her. He had discovered that her husband had been a soldier and had been killed in a real battle, and that her son was a sailor, and was away on a long cruise, and that he had seen pirates and cannibals and Chinese people and Turks, and that he brought home strange shells and pieces of coral which Dawson was ready to show at any moment, some of them being in her trunk. All this was very interesting. He also found out that she had taken care of little children all her life, and that she had just come from a great house in another part of England, where she had been taking care of a beautiful little girl whose name was Lady Gwyneth Vaughn. [Chapter 6]


Figure 4.--This is one of two Birch drawing which pictured Cedric in a sailor suit. This is one of the original Reginald Birch illustrations.

Sailor Suit

The sailor suit was becoming a major style for for boys in the 1880s and even influencing girls' fashions. Mrs. Burnett did not ignore the sailor suit, but she gave it very little attention. Clearly she was not particularly enamored with the style.

At first it seemed to Mr. Hobbs that Cedric was not really far away, and would come back again; that some day he would look up from his paper and see the little lad standing in the door-way, in his white suit and red stockings, and with his straw hat on the back of his head, and would hear him say in his cheerful little voice: "Hello, Mr. Hobbs! This is a hot day--isn't it?" [Chapter 11]

Book Text

Perhaps you would like to do your own search of the book to find references to costuming. Have a go at it. Let me know what you find.

Real Fauntleroy Suits

While Fauntleroy suits are not described in great detail by Mrs. Burnett, there is a substantial amount of information available on the velvet suits worn by a generation of American boys after the publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy.






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Created: March 17, 1999
Spell checked: 7:56 PM 3/2/2017
Last updated: 7:56 PM 3/2/2017