Vintage Clothing: Sailor Suits and Middy Blouses


Figure 1.--This emacualte sailor tunic suit was worn by an American boy about the turn of the 20th century. It was made in white linnen. The tunic had basic sailor styling with a "V" front collar and back flap.

The sailor suit was among the most popular outfits for boys. We have acquired images of several vintage sailor suts to HBC, but we are not precisely sure where all of them are archived at this time. We have noted a linnen sailor tunic worn at the turn of the 20th century by an American boy. We have found one middy blouse. We also have information on German sailor suits. We have very little chronological information on these suits, but have had tgo estimate how old they are. Many sailor suits were play or casual garments. They were, however, flexible styles in that they were also acceptable for dressier occassions. Other sailot suits were made expressedly for more formal occassions. We note, for example, velvet sailor suits. These pages on vintage sailor suits are especially helpul to show the colors that these suits were made in. This is very useful in helping to assess th color of the many black and white images archived on HBC.

American Velvet Sailor Suit (1890s)

The sailor suit was a very flexible styles in that they were also acceptable for dressier occassions. Other sailot suits were made expressedly for more formal occassions. We note, for example, this velvet sailor suit which would have been a dress up garment. We are not entirely sure how to date it. We think it might be from the 1890s, but the 100s is also possible. The suit was made in thick rich burgundy velvet. This suit consists of the sailor top, the dickey, and the matching kneepants. The dickey had embroidered detailing and was doine in the same burfandy velvet fabric. Often the dicvkey was done in a contrasting mazterial. All pieces are from the same matching outfit. The boy who war this suit apparently came from Maine. This was a quality piece in its day. It has a Marshall Field & Co. Label. The top measures 12" from shoulder to shoulder and chest is 30". Length is 23". Knee length pants have a 26" waist and 28" hip. Length is 18".

American Linnen Sailor Tunic (1900s)

We have noted a linnen sailor tunic worn at the turn of the 20th century by an American boy. This emacualte sailor suit was worn by an American boy about the turn of the 20th century. It was made in white linnen. The tunic as with all such tunics had long sleeves. It had basic sailor styling with a "V" front collar and back flap. The "V" front is cut much deeper than on a normal middly blouse. The tunic is all white without any colored detailing as well. It was probably worn with a matching white linnen belt, although it is not shown here. The matching white linnen bloomer knickers have elasticized legs. They seem to have been made to wear above the knees. They opened at the side with two buttons to put on or take off. There are no pockets on the tunic, nor do they appear to be any on the bloomer knickers. Note that there is no label in the tunic or bloomer knickers. Labels were at the turn of the 20th century still not common in clothing.

American Sailor Pants (1900s?)

here we have a pair of navy blue sailor pants, part of a saoilor suit. They were sold in an estate sale, but we have no idea about the date. We dealer suggested that they were Edwardian, meaning that they dated from the 1900s. They were drop-front (sometimes called a "fall front") pants with six buttons. The buttons were also done in navy blue with anchors. They had a 21” waist and were 21” long from waist to the bottom hem. The pants had an 11 ½” inside leg pants length. Around the waist there are 4 buttonholes for suspenders or more likely garter waists. The dealer wasn't sure about the material, but thought they feet like lightweight wool. The drop front styling is notable because before the turn of the century many trousers, especuially boys' trousers had this construction. After the tutn of the 20th centiry it began to become less common. The exception was for sailor pants where it was often retained, primarily for stylistic reasons.

American Pink Sailor Suit (1908)

This sailor suit unlike many has some background associated with it. It dates to 1908. It came from an estate sale from a 250 years old home. The suit looks pink to us, but it may have been a faded red. The seller drescribes a little fading. This is a little hard to tell. There is a sailors anchor on the shirt and coat. They belonged to a gentleman who has passed away. This was hs suit as a little boy. We note a middy plouse and kneepants, but are not entitely sure what the third garment is.

French Pink Sailor Suit (about 1910)

Color is a difficult topic to assess in the photographic record until the development of color photography which did not replace black-and-white photography until about 1970. Vintage clothing is one way color can be assessed in the 19th and early-20th century. We note a pink sailor suit which was worn by a French boy about 1910. The collar is a little different than the traditional straigh "V"-neck collar. We are mot sure how popular pink was. A French source reports that some black-and-white portraits were pink suits. We are not entirely sure how he knew this. Of course blue and white were the standard coloes, but sailor suits were done in other colors and this is an example of one of these colored suits. We are mot sure in what sizes this pink suit was made.

American Middy Blouse (1910s)

We have found one vintage middy blouse. Details on garment construction are sometimes difficult to assess from period photography and drawinmgs. Details from old patterns or modern photographs of actual historical clothing often provide much more detailed images. The color is one important piece of information lacking in contemporary photography. Close up on the sewing and enbroidery are also often lacking in period photograpy. While they are not perhaps as interesting as actual period photography, such information is important in assessing historical clothing. The suit is undated, but we would guess the 1910s.

American Sailor Suit (1910s)

We usually think of sailor suits as white or blue. These were certainly the most common. We note, however, many other colors. In particular during the early 20th century there were suits made in various drab colors like grey and brown. These were play suits and the colors did not show dirt like a white suit did. This looks to be a World War I vintage child's wool sailor shirt. We date it gto the World War I era both because of the style of the rank emlem and the use of the brownish color. (This was an army color and as far as I know not actually used by the Navy. It is a brown tweedy light wool shirt with black braid trim around the sailor collar and front piece. The size is 13" long, 10" long underarm seam length and 29" at the waist, buttons front and back to attach to pants. There almost certainly were matching pants to button on to the shirt. I'm not sure about a cap.

German Sailor Suit (1910s)

We also have information on one vintage German sailor suits. This suit was worn about 1910. It is a giid example of a sailor suit wotn by German boys from about 1900-15. There are several interesting features of this suit. It is a blue stripe suit on a white background. The color can be seen on the right side of the image (left sleve). The photographer fired his flash at an image and thus the left side of the image is not properly lit. The black silk scarfe is rather short and tied with a destinctive white cord or cloth strip, This appears to be an inexpensive suit for summer wear. It is made of cotton. Note that it is not lined. The styling has two white stripes at the collar and cuffs rather than the more common three stripes. The collar trim is angled. Also note the waist trim and buttons. The kneepants have two white buttons at the hem rather than the more common three buttons. I'm not sure what age boy this was made for, but the middly blouse is 44 cm and the pants are 44 cm, I think his means the length.

American Play Sailor Suit (1915)

This sailor suit looks to be a lay suit, often described at the time as wash suit. The source estimates it as faring about 1915. It was a cotton chambray suit with mother of pearl buttons. It was medium blue suit. Blue was of course the nost common color for sailor suits. There were three pieces (top, dickey (vest), nd knicker pants. This would have been aummer play suit. The top or shirt had short sleeves and was flared, looking somewhat like a unic top. There was a "U" shaped neckline with sailor collar trimmed with the traditional rows of parallel white dtripes done with bias tape. The shirt buttoned down front and closed with six mother of pearl buttons. The dickey or vest was essentially a square cut bib. It was decorated with three matching horizontal bars of white bias tape directly under neck. There was also white cotton binding around the neckline. The dickey buttoned around the neck with two mother of pearl buttons. The pants were below-the-knee lknickers which had elastic closures. The source reports that there are belt loop on each side of the knickers waist, although we do not see them. The white waistband had button holes. These were made for the garter waists boys wore wore at the time to old up pants and longstickings. A side seams was left open down to hips, with no closures.

American Sailor Suit (1920s)

This a vintage boy's one-piece short pants sailor suit. It is a cotton, white suit with light-blue trim on collar, sleeves, pocket and belt. There are pearl buttons down front and also has drop down pants at back. Neck to end of pants 22.5", shoulder to shoulder 11". Chest is 30", waist is 28". I'm not sure about the age. The seller dated it to the 1910s, but HBC believes that the 1920s is morke likely. The outfit could have been worn as a play suit, but the white color suggests it was worn for more dressy occassions.

American Sailor Suit (1920s)

Here we have another white American middy blouse. This one is intersing because you can see how a draw string cretate the blousing effect seen in manu period portraits. The blouse is undated, but probably dated to the 1920s.

American Sailor Suit (1930s)

Here we have boy’s vintage sailor suit from the 1930s. It’s a light weight, summer blue cotton sailor suit for a little boy. The suit has short sleeves ith end with cuff that has been setailed. The two piece set was a short pants suit and made in the button-on style. Even though it is a button-on suit, there ar also belt loops to accomodate a belt also. It was light blue with dark blue detailing and white buttons. The dark blue dickey was sewn in with white stripes. The collar and dickey detailing has six rather than the traditional three stripes. There was a rank insignia emrodiered on the sleeve. in with The button-on style was very common for boys up to age 10 in America after World War I (1914-18). The suit had a pocket on the left chest. It measures 19 inches in length and 10 inches across the shoulders. The waist is 23 inches around. I'm not sure what age boy woulkd have worn a 23 inch waist, but we think that it would be school age boy, probably about 9 years old. I think that in the 1930s that it became increasingly uncommon for all but the youngest boys to wear sailor suits to school. That does not mean that a boy up to about age 8-10 might not have a sailor suit to wear for other occassions.

American Middy Blouse (1940s)

We note a 1940s middy blouse found at the estate sale for Camp Kehonka which was a popular girl's camp in New Hampshire. The middy blouse is blue with white detailing. I am not sure what kind of bottoms he girls wore, By the 1940s it might have been shorts, earlier it may have been rimoers. The label reads "Best & Co. Fifith Ave, N.Y." Private summer camps commonly had uniforms. Campers would ge their uniforms from department stores, just like buting school uniforms, The name of the owner is also sewn in but is easily removeable. Measures 20 1/2" shoulder to hem and 18" across the bust. I would estimate this to be approximately a child's size 7.

American Middy Blouse (1940s?)

This middy blouse came from a New England estate sale. It is a vintage white middy blouse with traditional styling . We are unsure about the date this garment was made, but would guess the 1940s. It could have been worn by a boy or girl, but it seems to me a yoinger boy would have been more likely to wear a middy blouse in the 1940s. The fabric feels like a nice quality linen or cotton twill, the dealer was unsure. It is an off-white in color with washed navy blue at the collar and sleeves, with a triple stripe detail. There is an embroidered patch on one arm with a ship’s wheel, three downward stripes, and an eagle. One small coin pocket. The triangular piece at the neck is removable, and attached by two buttons. This garment looks to be homemade. We believe that the size was an age 6. It measures: 15” across the chest. 12 ½ “ sleeve. 17” long.

American Sailor Suit (1940s)

This is a vintage 1940s childs sailor suit that is about 27 1/2" long from shoulder to bottom of pants (size 2, 3 or 4?-unsure of size). We assume that it was a World War II era suit. Sailor suits were stillworn at the time, but normally by younger children. You might see a few of the younger boys in primary school wearing them. This suit is for a pre-scghool boy. It's made of a heavy canvas-like fabric that I think the actual uniforms were made of. The pants themselves are about 20" long with 10 navy blue anchor buttons holding the pants onto the shirt (6 in the front, 2 at the sides and 2 at the back). The shirt is about 8 1/2" long, with 10" sleeves (and sewn on patch) front pocket and it's about 10 1/4" from shoulder to shoulder. There are no labels, but it looks to be professionally done and finished off.

American Denim Sailor Suit (early-1940s)

This ittle boy's sailor suit dated back to World War II era of the 1940's. The suit is made of dark blue denim fabric trimmed in white braid. Trousers button to the waist of shirt both at the front and back of the waist. Three buttons on either side of the front open and close the trousers. Buttons are of dark blue plastic with anchor. Patch pocket on the left side front of shirt. Condition is very nice. Clean and free of soiling and stains. Size would fit about a 4 year old boy. Measurements: Length from the neckline of the shirt to the hem of the pants is 31-1/2" long. Width across the shoulders from one side to the other is 10".; Chest is 26" around. Waist is 22" around. Length of the trousers from the waist to hem is 20-1/2" long. Measurement from the waist to the middle of the crotch is 9".

English Sailor Suit (19?0s)

This English boys' sailor suit is reportedly old, but we have no idea as to when it was made. It was sold in Selfridges, a major London department store. The label probably can be used to identify the age. It is a whiite with bblue trim long pants sailor suit. The size is 28" on the trousers. The middy blouse is 17.5" in length, arms are 15".







HBC





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Created: 8:58 PM 2/6/2005
Last updated: 10:27 PM 5/9/2010