French Sailor Suit Chronology: Late Victorian Era (1870-1900)


Figure 1.--This French boy had his portrait taken in Lyon. It is undated, but we think it was taken in the late-1870s or the early 80s. In part because the photographer won awards in 1874 and 78. Note the pattern in the middy blouse and the stripped stockings.

The sailor suit as a boy's fashion seem to have caught on in France by the 1860s and had became a popular boys' fashions by the 1870s. It was widely worn by the 1890s. We currently have, however, only limited information on French sailor suit fashions during the late-19th century. Older boys wore sailor blouses with knee pants, bloomer knickers, and long pants. Most sailor suits feature stripe decorations. We even notice a stripe on the pants. Dickies commonly had horizontal stripes, a style used in actual naval uniforms. French syles do not seem to have followed British Roiyal Navy uniform styles as closely as in some other countries such as Germany and the United States. Thus we see realatively few French sailor suits with traditional styling during this period. This may be in part because French naval uniforms varied more from English styles than is the case in many countries. Also clothing designers appeared to have experimented more with styling. This seems to have been the case with other garments as well. French boys'sailor suits diverted more from the traditional copy of the actual uniforms. At first boys wore sailor suits with long bellbottom trousers like the ones worn by sailors. As the 1870s progressed a variety of different styles emerged. Boys dresses appeared in sailor styles. Younger boys wore sailor suits with skirts, a kind of kilt suit style. Especially elaborate outfits were decorated with lace and ruffles and had a decidely un sailor look. Knee pants and knickers became ncreasingly common, but did not replace long pants entirely. By the 1870s sailor suits were one of the most popular styles for boys up to 12 or 13 and even older ages on the Continent. Boys, especially younger boys, increasingly woeew their sailor suits with knee pants. We also notice girls wearing sailor styles as well, primarily sailor-styled dresses.

Decade Trends (1870-1900)

The sailor suit as a boy's fashion seem to have caught on in France by the 1860s and had became a popular boys' fashions by the 1870s. It was widely worn by the 1890s. We currently have, however, only limited information on French sailor suit fashions during the late-19th century. So it is difficult to follow fashion shifts during this period.

Elements

The two basic elements of any sailor suit is the blouse or top and the trousers. The standard top was a middy blouse. Boys wore sailor blouses with knee pants, bloomer knickers, and long pants. At first boys wore sailor suits with long bellbottom trousers like the ones worn by sailors. As the 1870s progressed a variety of different styles emerged. Knee pants and knickers became increasingly common, but did not replace long pants entirely. By the 1870s sailor suits were one of the most popular styles for boys up to 12 or 13 and even older ages on the Continent. Boys, especially younger boys, increasingly woeew their sailor suits with knee pants. There were also sailor headwear, but the headwear was commonly purchased separately.

Styling

French sailor suit syles do not seem to have followed British Roiyal Navy uniform styles as closely as in some other countries such as Germany and the United States. Thus we see realatively few French sailor suits with traditional styling during this period. A factor here is that when sailor suits first appeared, clothes were still not mass produced. They were made by individual seamstresses. This made for many one-off outfits. Or outfits made in small numbers, this made for substantial differences in these earlyb suits, both in the design of the garmenrs and the decorations. We see suit both with and without the classic V-front bloue collar. Thevback flap was another popular feature. Most sailor suits feature stripe decorations. While most of the detailing wa on gthe blouse or top. Some outfits had decorted pants as well. We notice a stripe on the pants in the 1860s-70s and even the early-70s. Dickies commonly had horizontal stripes, a style used in actual naval uniforms. This began to change in the 1860s as mass production of clothing, including children's clphing expanded. Another factor may also be in part because French naval uniforms varied more from English styles than is the case in many countries. Also clothing designers appeared to have experimented more with styling. This seems to have been the case with other garments as well. French boys'sailor suits diverted more from the traditional copy of the actual uniforms.

Sailor Dresses

Boys dresses appeared in sailor styles. Younger boys wore sailor suits with skirts, a kind of kilt suit style. Especially elaborate outfits were decorated with lace and ruffles and had a decidely un-sailor look. We also notice girls wearing sailor styles as well, primarily sailor-styled dresses.







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Created: 1:56 AM 1/2/2005
Last updated: 8:00 PM 12/6/2013