Fautleroy Suit and Curl Experiences

England, 1880s

One of the most delightful childhood memories of Victorian England is Ernest Shepard's lovely book, Drawn From Memory. Shepard is the artist who illustrated A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. Shepard grew up in London during the 1880s. He recalls remarkably detailed images of horse-drawn London where a penny was wealth for a child. A warm, delightful view of Victorian England emerges from the book, recollections of the Jubilee, seaside bathing at Eastbourne, hop-picking in Kent, the Drury Lane Pantomine, aunts and illnesses, hansom cabs, hobby horses, park outings, and pea-soup fogs. Shepard details the experiences of he and his brother and describes them through their childhood eyes. Ernest and his brother wore Fauntleroy suits and Ernest recalls an altercation at a party with a boy in kilt who didn't like his Fauntleroy suit.

America, circa 1890

One of the real agonies of my childhood concerned clothes. The boy of fashion was dressed in kilts of a plaid that had some real or imaginary relationship to one's family. Mine reflected the fact that my grandfather (first wife) and uncles had married girls of the Anglo-Celtic pioneer families of that area. At any rate, kilts it was for me, with long black stockings. In this outfit I circulated until I was about 6 years old. I recall, in my kilted period, making a stick-horse from a long broom handle topped by a horse's head. You put the stick-horse between your legs and galloped around the Square. A great friend of mine, Frank McQuown, and I did this at least once a day. After I graduated to short pants I was obliged to wear what was called the Little Lord Fauntleroy costume, the most hateful and poisonous habiliment ever forced on a child. My mother outfitted me like the rest of the boys my age, with Fauntleroy's tight velvet pants, his velvet coat with a huge lace Eton collar, strong, sturdy black shoes, and a frilled shirt. After emerging from the kilt era, I retained only the thick long black stockings. I hated this costume, and, hoping to win a concession, I insisted that my curls, which I still wore at the age of six (they were red-gold, mirabile dictu!), be sheared as the price for appearing in public as an ersatz Little Lord Fauntleroy. My mother refused the concession, but an uncle took pity on me. One day, without notifying my mother, he took me to the barbershop and ordered my curls cut off. But I was still obliged to wear the ghastly plumage for another couple of years.

America--Pennsylvania, 1923

A HBC contributor indicated that his uncle was dressed by his mother in a fancy Fauntleroyesque suit for school. The Irish kids at his Pennsylvania school did not seem to appreciate fine clothes as much as hus mother. They made fun of him wearing it and ended up dragging him in the mud along the Darnestown Lane! Interestingly, his uncle later in life became acquainted with Vivian Burnett and for a time there was some talk of marrying one of Burnetts' daughters.

Christopher Wagner

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[Ringlet curls] [Vivian Burnett] [Kilts] [Long stockings]
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Created: May 30, 1998
Last updated: September 24, 2000