Bows on Boys' Collars: Colors and Patterns


Figure 1.--This boy in the 1880s or early 1890s wears a plaid bow with, a kneepants sailorsuit--an unusual combination.

A great variety of colors and patterns were used for boys' collar bows. Unfortunately the black and white photography of the day makes it difficult to fully assess the bows. Thus information on bow colors will have to come primarily from research on period fashion periodicals. The patterns, however, are relatively easy to assess even with black and white research. The colors and patterbs selected in most cases reflect the mother's preferences. One aspect I am not sure of is what the boys thought of the different options, whether they had preferences as to colors and patterns. Cerainly these bows must have been impossible for the younger boy to tie and thus somewhat of a bother, but I am not sure if they had or expressed preferences as to colors and patterns.

Conventions

Boys wore bows with a wide variety of suits and collars. Unfortunately the black-and-white photography of the day provides us few clues as to the actual colors. We believe that the suits and collars, had some impact on the color or pattern of the bow selected. We believe that mothers made some effort to make pleasing color combinations. This was true of the colors of solid colored bows as well as the colors in multi-colored patterns. Red seems to have been popular with black Fauntleroy suits. There may have been many other popular combinations, but we have very little actual information.


Figure 2.--Simple bows were normally worn with sailor suits. They were usuall black or dark blue, but a few were white.

Outfit

The color and pattern of bow selected was somewhat dependent on the outfit. Fauntleroy suits were the most common outfit worn with bows. A wide variety of colors and patterns were worn with Fauntleroy suit. American boys wearing a kilt suit would most offten have a paterned bow. Boys wearing a blouse and kneepants also usually wore paterend rather than solid color bows. Boys wearing sailor suits almost always wore solid black or dark blue bows. However, many boys wore suits with some sailor styling, such as a back flap, but were not true sailor suits. Paterned bows were often worn with these suits rather than the normal black sailor bow. Younger boys who had graduate to more mature-styled suits sometimes continued wearing their lace or ruffled collars and bows for a year or two. These were usually the paterened bows.

Collar

The suit to some extent determined the collar. Fauntleroy suits were, for example, generally worn with lace or ruffled collars. Other collars such as wide-white collars with ronded collars or Eton collars with sharp points were worn with a much wider diversity of suits from kilts or even dresses to mature-looking suits for older boys. Bows were common with wide collars with Peter-Pan style rounded edges, they were less common, though not unknown, with the more severe looking Eton collars. HBC has not yet discerned noticeable conventions for the color and patterns of bows worn with these various collar types.


Figure 5.--This boy photographed about 1920 wears a solid colored bow, although I'm not sure about the color.

Colors

Some bows were solid colors. It is clear that both black and white material was used for the bows. Less clear is what colors were used. Unfortunately the black and white photography of the day makes it difficult to fully assess the bows. Very few paintings from the era provide useful information.Thus information on bow colors will have to come primarily from research on period fashion periodicals. This research is just beginning and results of the findings will not be available for some time. Some mothers presumably chose colors coordinated with the color of the boys's suit. Fauntleroy suits, besides black, came in blue, brown, green, burgandy, and grey. The bows might have been in lighter, matching, or darker shades. Assessing the photography, lighter shades does not appear to have been a common alternative. Less clear is whether some mothers choose bright colors like a red to add a little color to a black or dark colored suit. I know that the waist sash was used this way, but I'm not sure the bow was. As far as I can tell, some colors were not commonly worn, especially yellow and oranges.

Patterns

A variety of other patters were used for boys' collar bows. Virtually every major type of pattern was used on boys' collar bows. One reflection of the popularity, at least with the mothers, is how commonly the different patterns appear in the photographic record of the day. Plaids were particularly popular and appear to occur most commonly in the photographic record. Also used were polka dots, checks, and stripes.

Edgeing

A few of the patterened bows appear to have a little white edging--apparently a lace affect. This does not seem to have been the case of the solid color bows, but some of the pattern bows do appear to have this edging.

Boys' Opinions

One aspect I am not sure of is what the boys thought of the different options, whether they had preferences as to colors and patterns. Cerainly these bows must have been impossible for the younger boy to tie and thus somewhat of a bother, but I am not sure if they had or expressed preferences as to colors and patterns. At this time HBC has been able to find no information addressing this topic. Children are known, howver, to react strongly to color and to prefer bright colors. Thus it is likely that the boys involved did have color preferences. Whether they expressed those prferences to their mothers or whether their mothers paid any attention to the boys' comments is an open question.






HBC





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Created: March 17, 1999
Last updated: 7:32 PM 7/4/2007