Double Breasted Suits


Figure 1.--This American boy pictures with his sister wears a boyish-looking double breasted knee pants suit. His mother has lovingly embellished it with a huge ruffled collar and large bow. The photograph was taken in Michigan during the 1890s. 

We are not sure when double breasted style first appeared or who designed them. They almost certainly were inspired by the military uniforms of the early 19th Century. Flashy turn of the 19th century military uniforms for officers often had row after row of buttons amd elaborate trin. Double breasted styles were used in military uniforms well into the 20th Century. We do not yet have any historical information. I am collecting available images which hopefully will provide some insights on the developmentof this important style. It is one of the most common boys' styles. It is today a minor suit style, with most boys preferring the single-breasted style.

Double-breasted Styling

The first usage I have seen of double breasted styling was in skeletonsuits. One of the classic characteristics of a skeleton suit was parallel rows of buttons stretching from above the waist all the way to the shoulders.The inspiration is clearly the double breasted style of early 19th Century military uniforms. However, I do not yet have any contemporary fashion articles discussing this style. The double-breasted style was not limited to boys' jackets. Parallel rowsof buttons appeared on many other types of clothing. Even dresses for littleboys and girls appeared in the double breasted style. In comparison tothe skeleton suits and mid-19th Century suits with large numbers of buttons,some of the double breasted dresses had only four buttons. One of the most enduring double breasted garment was the reeferjacket. It was widely used in boys sailor suits and jackets in the late-19th Century.

Chronology

Double-breasted sack suits were widely worn in the 19th century. The double-breasted style was adopted from earlier fashions when the sack suit appeared. We are just beginning to develop information on the mid-19th century, but we note double-breasted suits in the 1860s. And they continued to be poular throughout the rest of the century. Double-breasted suits were popular in the ealy 20th century. Souble-breasted suits at the turn-of-the 20th century were very common, perhaos more common than single-breasted jackets. We see quite a number of boys wearing double-breasted suits in the early-20th century. The phoyographic record shows that the style was very widespread. We see many American boys wearing them. Many boys had double-breasted suits for formal occassions. After World War I, in the 1920s, the popularity of the double-brwasted suit varoes, but generally declined with single-breasted jackets gradually becoming the most important style for boys' suit jackets. The soubkle-breasted style, however, has not disappeared.

Non-Military Styled Suits

I have seen double breasted suits without military-style buttons in 1870s or 80s clothing catalogs. I haven't had a chance to persue this yet, but will when we have a chance. At this time, the earliest image I have of a double breasted boys' suitdates to the 1890s. It is an Americium image is a boys' knee pants suit. I believe the double breasted style was used primarily for older boys'styles. I do not recall any double breasted Fauntleroy suits. The suits were worn by a fairly large age range, including some younger boys. Mothers being mothers, many tried tomadd little touches to these suits for the younger and sometimes so so young boys. Some double breasted jackets were embellished with ruffled collars, bows, and wrist ruffles. Some mother with several bows would use stylistic elements such as lace or ruffled collars or large bows to stress the differet ages of the boys, even though the suits they were wearing were quite similar.


Figure 2.--Parents magazine pictured this smart double breasted suit in 1964. The caption read: "It's the season of the young, young Britishlook when classic plaids and checks abound. To update the classics story, color becomes the key factor. Plaids play up to the young individualists.Checking in with the Continental look...a suit by Ultra. Double breasted,lined jacket has high collarless neckline, welt pockets. shorts have buttonon suspenders. All wool hounds tooth suit is very sporting in burgundy,white and blue combination. Sizes 3 to 7, about $26. Rob Roy turtle neck." 

Jacket Types

There are two jacket types associated with double-breasted suits. One is a collar buttoning jacket. This was a jacket of military origins worn by boys in the 19th and very early-20th century. It was mostly worn by pre-teen boys. It appeared bedote lapel suits negan to be worn. The other jacket is the lapel jacket. This was a style worn by both boys and adult men in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Blazers

Since blazers were introduced in the late 1880s at British schools, boys have generally wore single breasted jackets. I do not know of any British schools that adopted double breated blazers. As a result, thevdouble breasted style for Brirish boys is relativey rare. When modern suit styles developed after the First World war, single breasted suits were generally chosen for boys. American boys generally wore their suits with knickers while British boys wore shorts. Double breasted blazers, however, were relatively rare, even in America during the 1930s and 40s when double breasted suits were popular for adults.


Figure 3.--French boys in the 1930s might have suits with both shortpants and knickers. This 1936 ad offered short pants suits in sizes up to 16 years. Note the double breasted style and the solid color kneesocks.

Pants

We note a variety of pants or trousers worn with double-breasted suits. This has included short pants, knee pants, knickers, and long pants. The popularity of each type of pants has varied over time and among countruies. There care also associated age conventions. We notice rather elegantkly dressed Dutch boy, Fans Leferink wearing a short pants double-breasted suit in 1927.

Accompanying Clothes


Country Trends

Double-breasted suits were wudely worn in Europe and America both during the 19th and 20th century. We think they were most popular in Western Europe. The double preasted suit seems to have social-class connotations and in the 20th century gradually became to be seen as a more formal style and more suited for adults. These developments and time-line varried from country to country. We see them being worn throughout Europe, especially Western Europe. They were also very popular in Europe. We do not yet have much country-specific information on double-breasted suits. We do not know aboutvany destinctive country styling. Nor do we know much about the time line of the popularity of double breasted suits or styling changes in different countries. Souble breasted suits seem particularly popular in America and we do have an American page. We are still developing information on double breasted suits in Europe.









HBC








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Created: January 1, 1998
Last edited: 3:07 AM 10/17/2010