Sailor Suits: Chronology--The 1870s


Figure 1.--The salor style in the 1870s was being used for boys even before breaching. This is H.Douglas Burn photographed at Sandown on the Isle of Wight on July 13, 1872. He is 2 years and 7 months old. Note the hat, suit styling, and stipped socks.

While Quen Victoria and Prince Albert set the precedent for dressing English princes in sailor suits, the style did not begin to catch on with the general public. By the 1870s, however, the sailor suit had become a major style for boys. A good example is Maurice Carmichael Tweedie, an English boy in 1878. The sailor suit achieved immense popularity, in both Continental countries (especially Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherland) as well as countries outside of Western Europe like Greece. The style was also widely popular in the United States. Interestingly, the sailor suit was more popular in many of these countries than England itself. Sailor suits were especially popular for the royal princes in virtually every European country--most with powerful navies. Many royal families had strong naval links. Both the British and German royal families dressed their children in the new fashion. This reached a peak with the children of George V who wore virtually nothing but sailor suits, except for kilts on visits to Scotland. The sailor suit by the 1870s had begun to spread to other countries in Europe. The fact that royalty wore sailor suits helped to make them increasingly popular with the general public making it a major boys' style. By the 1870s sailor suits were one of the most popular styles for boys. Younger boys might wear dresses with sailor styling even before breaching. We are unsure as to what age boys would wear sailor suits in the 1870s. We believe that older boys wore sailor suits on the Continent than England, but this needs confirmation. We stillhave only limited information as to the popularity of the sailor suit in individual countries or the ages of the boys weaing them in specific countris. We note that sailor suits were being worn even in countries outside the Western mainstream like Greece.







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Created: July 17, 1998
Last updated: 5:53 AM 11/14/2010