Sailor Suits: National Styles


Figure 1.--I believe this is an American boy around the turn of the century, but can't confirm it.

The styles and materials for the middy blouse varied greatly. Authentic ones included three white stripes, reportedly for Nelson's three great victories--but many authors dispute this. Traditionally styled suits were worn theoughout Europe and america. There were some differences, however, between countries. We note many different styles being worn in Germany. This was also true in America where were some especially destinctive styles. Sailor suits were generally blue or white, worn with maching stckings. The white suits were generally worn during the summer. Many of the sailor suits worn by European and American boys were in fact quite similar, but there were some major differences. The French in particular had some destinctive styles. Some of the differences between styles in different countries and trends overtime in different countries are due to the various uniforms worn by sailors in national navies. Some of the countries in which the sailor suit was most commonly worn by boys included: England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, and the United States.

Background

It was in England in the first quarter of the 19th century when someone had the inspiration that boys should wear sailors trousers. English seamen had been dressing in pantaloons since the 17th Century. The style receive enormous popularity after Queen Victoria during the 1840s, after breeching, began dressing the young princes in sailor suits children in sailor suits. This fashion was triggered by Winterhalter's portrait of Prince Edward (later Edward VII) in a white sailor suit and straw hat at the age of 5. The sailor suit achieved immense popularity quickly, especially in England and Germany, both countries with powerful navies, and both with royal families that had strong naval links. Both the British and German royal families dressed their children in the new fashion. The sailor suit also became enormously popular in republican America and after 1848 France--without the prestige of a royal family. By the 1870s the sailor suit was probably the single most important boys' fashion throughout Europe and America. Even girls began wearing them--decades before the idea of women sailors could even be conceived. The styles and materials for the middy blouse varied greatly. Authentic ones included three white stripes, reportedly for Nelson's three great victories--but many authors dispute this. Traditionally styled suits were worn theoughout Europe and america. There were some differences, however, between countries. We note many different styles being worn in Germany. This was also true in America where were some especially destinctive styles. Sailor suits were generally blue or white, worn with maching stckings. The white suits were generally worn during the summer. Many of the sailor suits worn by European and American boys were in fact quite similar, but there were some major differences. The French in particular had some destinctive styles. Some of the differences between styles in different countries and trends overtime in different countries are due to the various uniforms worn by sailors in national navies. Some of the countries in which the sailor suit was most commonly worn by boys included: England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, and the United States.

Individual National Styles

Sailor suit fashions and conventions for wearing them varied greatly from year to year. Many of the differences are based on the uniform differeces of the various national navies. Even so there are a great many similarities with the sailor suits worn by boys in dufferent countries. The reason for this of course is that both boys' sailor suits and sailor uniforms were often based on Royal Navy uniforms. The Royal Navy was a dominaznt force in the 18th century, bit after Trafalgur (1805), the Royal Navy was not even challenged by another navy for over 100 years. Thus it was the Royal Navy uniforms that became such an influential standard.

Additional Information

Fashion article: 1920s






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Created: January 15, 1999
Last updated: 8:28 PM 2/5/2007