Figure 1.--This boy in an Edwardian Fauntleroy suit looks to be about 10 or 11 years old. Note that he does not wear a small jacket like worn with the classic Fauntleroy suit, although the huge lace and ruggled collar and front frills make the jacket look small. He wears the suit with knicker pants and bows on his patent leather shoes. Click on this image for a possible portrait of this boy at a younger age.
The age of boys wearing Fauntleroy suits varied with the style of suit and chronolgical period. The youggest boys of course wore the Fauntleroy dresses and kilts while somewhat older boys the Fauntleroy suits. Fauntleroy suits would normally been worn by boys about 3 to 8 uears of age, but some boys as old as 13 years are known to have worn them. After the 1900s and especially after World War I (1914-18) much younger boys wore the as the classic Fauntleroy suit passed into fashion history.
The age of the boys wearing Fauntleroy suits varied with the chronolgical era.
Velvet has been used used for fancy boys clothing since specilized boys clothing appeared after the mid-18th Century. Many better skeleton suits were made from velvet and worn with ruffled collars. This was especially true for boys from aristocratic or wealthy families, as velvet is an expensive fabric. Boys were dressed in velvet suits and lace collars well before the style was popularized by Mrs. Frances Hogdson Burnett in the 1880s. I am not yet sure, however, just what age boy wore these suits in the 1870s and early 80s.
Fancy velvet suits for little boys became increasingly common in the early 1880s. The classic period, however, began with the publication of Mrs. Burnett's book in 1885-86. Her book popularized the style with romantically inclined mothers during the late Victorian period. The velvet suits and accompanying elaborate lace collars were soon bought not only for little boys, but older boys as well. The lace blouses dominated many of the origninal suits and the jackets were made small and worn open to show the blouses for maximum effect. Many mothers added large collar bows and long sausage curls to complete the effect.
Mothers in the 19th centuryt normally outfitted infants and todlers in dresses.
Beginning at about 2 1/2 years, a few mothers, however, reluctantly, began to consider breeching their boys and buy them their first boyish suit. Many boys continued wearing dresses much longer to 5 or 6 years of age or even older. Some began to be breeched at about 2 1/2 years. Many of these boys were outfitted in Fauntleroy suits which in many cases were their first boyish outfits. This was a generally young age to breech a boy. It may well have been that some mothers were so enamored with the Fauntleroy style that they decided to breech their son earlier than they normally would have done. Thus it may have been that the Fauntleroy craze helped accelerate the late 19th Century trend to breech boys at younger ages.
Overall Fauntleroy suits were usually described as being suitable for boys from 3 to 8 years of age. One purchased when the boy was 8, however might be worn for
another year or two. We know from personal accounts and the photographic record that some older boys did wear them. While some mothers purchased Fauntleroy suits at this age, others delayed the purchase or
purchased Fauntleroy suits with kilt skirts rather than knee pants. Many boys in the 1880s did not get their Fauntleroy or other more boyish suit until much later. Most stores offered
Fauntleroy suits in sizes from 2 1/2 to 6-8 years of age. This meant a boy receiving a new suit at 8, could still be wearing it at 9 or even 10, if he had a particularly proud or doting mother. A small boy might be kept in his suit longer than his larger friends. We know that even some younger teenagers wore them--although we do not believe that this was common. We have actual accounts for boys as old as 13 in rich or aristocratic families are known to have worn them. Photographs from the era clearly show boys of 10-11 years outfitted in Fauntleroy suits. The heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, for example, was still wearing velvet suits at 13 years of age.
The stylistic changes of the Edwardian period began in the mid-1890s, well before the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Fauntleroy suits remained popular among mothers throughout the Edwardian era. Several stlistic changes were notable. The velvet jackets became larger, in many cases covering the lace trimmed blouses which once dominated the suits. Bows remained popular, but in the 1900s the sausage-length curls popular in America and some other countries became increasingly less common. White socks and long stockings appeared. The age of boys wearing Fauntleroy suits as did the popularity of the style declined significantly in the 1910s, especially during and after World Wat I (1914-18).
The classic Fauntleroy suit, like many other 19th Century styles disappeared in the aftermath of World War I. Some mothers continued dressing boys in Velvet suits.
Perhaps a casualty of the Great War which destroyed the romantic inclination of the Edwardians. The elaborate lace collars disappeared, replaced by more modest,
but still sometimes quite large, ruffled collars. Short pants replaced knee pants. White knee socks or long white stockings were standard. Although not so common,
younger boys as late as the 1930s might be dressed in velvet suits and blouses with some Fauntleroy features. They were generally short pants suits and the fancy lace and velvet collars were replaced with simplier Peter Pan collars. These suits were worn by boys from about 3 to 6 years old. Occasionally an older boy might wear one for a formal event like a wedding, but this became increasingly less common in the 1930s.
While not precisely Fautleroy suits, younger boys in recent years have worn velvet suits, but without the lace and ruffles. They were often worn with short pants and
knee socks. These seems particularly popular for festive holiday wear at Christmas, but declined in popularity after the 1970s as families increasingly took a casual
approach to the holidays. Such velvet suits might be worn by younger boys to 5 or 6 years of age, or even older boys to about 10 years for formal events.
The age of boys wearing Fauntleroy suits varied with the style of suit and chronolgical period. The youggest boys of course wore the Fauntleroy dresses and kilts while somewhat older boys the Fauntleroy suits. Fauntleroy suits would normally been worn by boys about 3 to 8 uears of age, but some boys as old as 13 years are known to have worn them.
Infants and toddlers in comfortable middle class or affluent familes were generally outfitted in dresses.
HBC does not yet have adequate information to assess age trends in different contries.
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