Peter Pan Collars on Boys' Clothes


Figure 1.--Peter Pan collars, although not referred to by their 20th Century name can be seen in 19th Cebtury children's clothes, like the double-breasted dress worn by this American boy. Note the double-breasted style.

Peter Pan collars are one of the most popular collar styles for younger children. The rounded Peter Pan collars generally, but not always worn without ties or bows. They are of varying sizes, but can be quite large. Peter Pan collars are most commonly worn with white blouses, but are also utilized with other garments, sometimes in bright colors in clothing for girls and younger boys. They were commonly utilized in brother-sister outfits. HBC has not yet been avle to work out the chronology of Peter Pan collars. We are not sure just when they began to be called Peter Pan collars in Britain and America. The name is different in many other countries.

Chronology

HBC has not yet been avle to work out the chronology of Peter Pan collars. We are not sure when the rounded collars were first deployed on children's clothes. I have noted some children's outfits by the middle of the 19th century. For a mid-19th century example, click here. We also note some late 19th century images, but often they are obscured by the large bows that became popular in the 1880s. In general large white rounded collars seem less popular than lace and ruggled colars and ponited stiff Erons. Peter Pan collars became more popular after the turn of the 20th century. The collar was employed on both blouses and dresses. The style does not appear to have been extensively used and of course were not called Peter Pan collars until the turn of the century. We are not sure, however, when the term was first used. The collars appear to have been used in both Europe and America.

Name

The name Peter Pan collar of course derives from the classic book written by James B. Barie. It was widely performed as a stage play and later a very popular Peter Pan and Wendy, often just referred to as Peter Pan. The book was translated and popular in countries thoughout Europe and America. What we do not know for sure is the precise connection with the play and book. Presumably the costume for Peter either in book illustrations or stage pays employed the large rounded collar and the name for an alreasy existing style stuck. This we can not yet, however, confirm. The Peter Pan collar style clearly pre-dated the name. Illustrtors may have picked up on developing style trends. After the turn of the century, the large fussy lace collars associated with many boy dresses and Fauntleroy suits began to shrink in size and become more simple. The end result appears to have led to the Peter Pan collar.


Figure 2.--Note the Peter Pan collar on the smock worn by one of the Llewellyn Davies boys that so enchanted J.M. Barrie and may have influence the costuming of Peter Pan.

Peter Pan

Sir James M. Barrie, the famed Scottish dramatist and novelist, first described Peter Pan in a 1902 novel The Little White Bird. The book contained six chapters about Peter. I'm not sure how it was illustrated. The chapters about Peter proved very popular and were later extracted and published as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens." It was the theatrical productions of Peter Pan or, The Boy Who Would not Grow Up, which appeared in 1904, that captured the public's imagination and earned Peter a permanent place in the pantheon of children's literature. Peter Pan's name sake was almost certainly Peter Llewellyn Davies (1897-1960), one of the several Davies brothers, that Barrie knew.

Barrie's novel Peter Pan was written several years after the premiere of the play and was originally titled Peter and Wendy. The book follows the plot line of the play very closely, capturing its wild adventures and seductive spirit. The first production of Peter Pan opened in London during 1904. That same year, the play opened in the United States with Maude Adams. (Peter is usually played by an actress--a problem avoided in the animated productiions.) Adams reprised the role in 1912 and again in 1915. Other productions followed. A Disney film helped to bring this enchating story to another generation of children. Notably the Disney production did not have Peter wearing a Peter Pan collar. American theater goers are probably most familar with Mary Martin's production in the 1950s.

The story emerged in Barrie's mind as he told it and many others to the Llewellyn-Davies boys. Barrie met the boys in Kensington Gardens and became enchanted with them. One of the boys, Peter, was Peter Pan's name sake. Therir mother liked to dress them in smocks and berets. I'm not sure how Barrie was dressed as a boy, but he may have gotten some of his costuming ideas from the way the boys were dresses. Some of their smocks had Peter Pan collars.

For those who have not read Barrie's book, Peter Pan appeals to both adults and children because Peter is the epitome of youthful innocence. Like Peter, children can seemingy can get away with the most amazing adventures because they don't understand. The world is at a child's fingertips; anything is possible. There are no worries in a carefree life. Everything is beautiful, more fun. Peter Pan is all of these things. As long as Peter Pan is around, children will be happy and innocent. Barie's story is a good book with a good message about being young. It speaks about typical childhood things, pointing out that adults forget these pleasures when they grow up. It displays charm and imagination and is truly a masterpiece. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet read it.


Figure 3.--Peter Pan collars were often utilized in dressy outfits for boys young boys and girls. Post cards of the era often pictured children in idealized outfits. This postcard shows French boys in the 1920s.

Terminology

The terms used for Peter Pan collars varies from country to country. The connection with this collar and Peter Pan does not appear to be strong in non-English speaking countries, although the growing importance of the English language may be changing this in recent years. We do not know yet know the term used in most countries. The term used in France "col Claudine" or "col rond"--obviously no connection with Peter Pan. We are not sure about the terms in other countries.

Color

Peter Pan collars almost always are white. The Peter Pan collar is almost allways used on blouses to be worn weith classic or traditional styles. As a result, there is less of a tendency for fashion designers to experiment less with the Peter Pan collar than many other clothing styles. Even so, one occasionally sees a colored Peter Pan collar.

Patterns

Almost always Peter Pan collars were solid colors. As explained above the color was usually, but not always white. While solid colors were by far the prevalent convention for Peter Pan collrs, we have seen some done in patterns, including stripes nd polkadots. Such patterns , however, were not very common and we have very few photographs showing boys wearing Peter Pan collars with these patterns. Nor do we have any information over chronology and convention.

Country Conventions

We see Peter Pan collars used for children's clothong in many different countries. Tghey seem particularly popular in England, France, and Italy and to a lesser extent the United States. But we see them being worn in many other countries as well. Peter Pan collars became widely used beginning we think in the 1910s, although this varied from country to country. The term also varied from country to country. It was primarily in Englnd and America that the term Peter Pan collar was used. The Italians commonly used wide Peter Pan collars on the smocks worn by school children. Beginning in the 1940s, younger American boys began wearing Peter Pan collars with Eton suits and other garments such as shortalls. I do not yet, however, have details on the relative usage in different countries. The one coomon thread is that it was generally conceived to be a style for a younger boy and eventually primarily a girls' style. Age and gender conventions, however, varied somewhat from country to country over time.

Clothing Styles

Peter Pan collars are now most commonly associated with girls' clothing. I do not think they were common in the 1920s when sailor, ruffled, and Eton collars were still common. I do not recall seeing large numbers of photographs of boys in Peter Pan collars before the World War I era--although I'd be interested in the observations of visitors to this page. Some of the earlier appearances of Peter Pan collars that I have observed include:
School smocks: The earlier school smocks were often collarless garments or had plain collars. I believe around the World War I era that some boys in Italy, France, and perhaps other countries, began to wear white collars--including Peter Pan collars, with their school smocks. Some boys wearing white collars also wore bows.
Eton suits: Younger American boys dressed in Eton suits for formal occasions wore Peter Pan collars beginning I think in the late 1920s. The first Peter Pan collar I have noticed is a 1929 article for fashionable clothes worn by boys from wealthy families. A I don't think this became common until the 1940s.


Figure 5.--Peter Pan collars are utilized in a variety of children's outfits. For boys they are generally used in relatively dressy attire.
Rompers: I have the impression that romper suits for younger children, perhaps of nursery age, around and after the World War I era may have had Peter Pan collars, but I have few images at this time.


Figure 5.--For a dressy touch, shortalls were often worn with Peter Pan collars during the 1960s and 70s. They were also useful devices for brother sister outfits.

Modern Usage

Peter Pan collars in more recent years have been commmonly used on several styles for younger boys:
Blouses: for younger boys often had Peter Pan collars during the 1960s. They were a very utilitarian garmet. They could be worn for play as well as for a variety of informal and formalm occassions. They were usually worn with short pants. Just a Peter Pan collar and shorts gave a quite dressy look. Blouses with Peter Pan collars were also commonly worn with shortalls, especially during the 1960s-70s. For a more dressy look, a Peter Pan collar blouse could be worn with an Eton suit.
Eton suits: American boys were especially likely to wear velvet Eton suits with white blouses. Many of these blouses had Peter Pan collars. Eton suits in America were worn with various collars. Apparently American mothers generally thought the formal Eton collar to severe for small boys. One common style with Eton suits was soft collars and bow ties. For formal occasions, however, it was the Peter Pan collar with no tie. This style was generally for younger boys. Eton suits and jackets might be worn up to about 7 or 8 years, but the Peter Pan collars with Eton suits was not generally worn by boys after 5 or 6 years.
Shortalls: This utiliarian garment made dressing a small child simple. The shortall could be worn for play, but adding a blouse with a Peter Pan collar gave it a quite dressy look.
Other: Peter Pan collars have been used on other garmets besides blouses. Various garments including one-piece suits for small boys, for example, were often made with Peter Pan collars. Various color schemes were used. White of course was the most common. Sometimes white collars were edged with colors or patterns matching the suit. In other cases colored collars wrere used.

Peter Pan collars passed out of style for all but the youngest boys after the 1970s. I'm not sure as to how this style developed or who designed it, but would be interested in any insights visitors to this web site might have.

Personal Experiences


The 1890s-1900s: The Llewellyn-Davies family







HBC





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Created: March 18, 1998
Last updated: 4:52 AM 3/18/2009