We do not know a great deal about Oliver Twist suits. They were outfits for younger boys that appeard at about the time that the Fauntleroy suit went out of style. There is not a lot written about them, but the term was commonly used in period catlogs. They a type of button-on suits whuch were primarily worn by pre-school age boys during the 1910s and 20s. The term Oliver Twist probably derives from the fact that these were button-on outfits, a style popular during the 19th century era in which the Dickens novel is set. At least that is the only common feature we note in the Oliver Twist outfts offered in catalogs. Other features such as sleeves, collars, and detailing varied widely. Very large collars were popular with many of these suits. String ties with tassels wee another popular feature. These suits were generally offered in sizes up to 4 or 5 years old, occassionally a bit older, but this was not very common. They were done in a wide variety of colors. This was a style for boys only.
We do not know a great deal about Oliver Twist suits. They were outfits for younger boys that appeard at about the time that the Fauntleroy suit went out of style. There is not a lot written about them, but the term was commonly used in period ctalogs. The term Oliver Twist probably derives from the fact that these were button-on outfits, a style popular during the 19th century era in which the famed Dickens' Oliver Twist novel is set. At least that is the only common feature we note in the Oliver Twist outfts offered in catalogs.
The Oliver Twist suit was a major depature for boys. We see this age group of boys in the late-19th and early-20th century ften wearing very fancy outfits like Fauntleroy suits and fancy blouses. The Oliver Twist suit was a relatively simple outfit wgich became very popular as both a play and dress up outfit. It is a good example of how attitudes toward dressing choldren was changing in the early 20th century. Oliver Twist suits were a popular style for younger boys. They were widely worn by pre-school boys and boys just beginning school. The style was most popular during the 1910s and 20s. They can be found in both the photographic record as well as mail order catalogs and advertising during both the 1910s and the 1920s. They were still available in the 1930s, especially the early 30s.
Buttons, often large white buttons, were the dominant stylistic feature of Oliver Twist suits. The size of the buttons was both stylistic and practical. Large buttons were also easier for small hands to manipulate as younger children began learning to dress themselves. Not all Oliver Twist suits had large buttons, but virtually all did have buttons as an important stylistic element. Large collars were popular and included with many of the suits, but not all. Other common features were collar string ties and tassles. They were often used because large floppy bows were not commonly used.
There were two basic elements of Oliver Twist suit, the blouse top and pants bottoms which buttoned together. The blouse was by far the nost important and much of the styling involved with the outfits occurre on the top. Features if the blouse such as sleeves, collars, and detailing varied widely. There were many different styles of Oliver Twist suits. The diversity is such that there is really no standard style. It is the buttons tht seem to be the defining element. Very large collars were popular with many of these suits. String ties with tassels were another popular feature. The pants were mostly knee pants, although some begin to look more like short pants. We see knee pants in the 190s, but short pants become more common in the 1920s. We do not commonly notice long pants or knickers with Oliver Twist suits.
These Oliver Twist suits were generally offered in sizes for pre-school boys. Sizing varied somewhat, but we generally see the age range in catalog offerings at about 2-5 years. A good example is the Oliver Twist suits offerdd by Stuarts in 1915. The sizes were mostly 2-4 years, but the middy (sailor) sizes went up to 5 years of age. We note some of thw wash suits offered by Best were done with Oliver Twist styling with the same basic age range. The middy versions were dione up to age 6 years. Occassionally we see them worn by younger school age boys, but the Oliver Twist style was primarily a pre-school style. This age range in the catalogs roughly corresponds to portraits we have archived in the photographic record.
Color was an important stylistic device used in Oliver Twist suits. Oliver Twist were done in a wide variety of color combinations. Less commonly do we see single colar suits. And when they do, they is usually contrasting color detailing. While we often can not differentiate the colors used in available photographs, it is quite obvious that colors were employed. Commonly there were different colors for the blouse and pants. A common approach was to do the blouse top in a kight color or white. Often the pants were a darker color. Colored tops are nostly see in single-color suits. The darker color of the pants was often picked up for color detailing on the blouse. Collars and cuffs were commonly done in the darker contrasting color. Colors was also used in the neckwar employed. The darker color pants convention was not always used, but it was very common. Almost always there were two colors and not threee. A range of colors were used. We think blue in various shades was very common, but many other colors were used. Here the black and white photography of the day complicates our assessment, but period catalogs often provide basic color information, but do not specify shades.
The Oliver Twist suit was a style for boys only. We do not see girls wearing these suits, not do we see girls with coordinated dress outfits. This still needs to be confirmed, but we can say that coordinated girls' outfits were certainly not very common.
boys could wear Oliver Twist suits both for play as well as look smart when dressing up for a range of occassions. We note boys wearing these suits to birthday parties.
Oliver Twist suiys were done as both play suits and dressy suits.
A good example of a anOliver Twist boy's play suit is a Tom Sawyer button-on play suit which probably dates to the 1920s. This is a two piece blue and white boy's play suit. Cloth label reads Tom Sawyer Age 4 "Washwear" Elder Manufacturing Company. This was a popular brand of stylish boys' clothing at the time. It has a sewn on cloth label on both the top and bottom half that gives Lot no. of 0333 -1/2 and Age 4 again. There is a round carboard string tag with metal rim attached to one button that was made by the Dennison Co.
An example of a dessy Oliver Twist suit was a Kiddy Togs double-breasted short pants suit. A dealer describes it as "This has to be the most elegant boy's suit that I have ever had. It is a two piece set of shirt/jacket and shorts. The fabric is a woven cotton sateen in white. (I researched both polished cotton and sateen and the former would be an odd choice for an all white suit as the process which provides the sheen can disappear with washing!) The sateen is incredibly soft and is a substantial weight. The jacket is double-breasted and has wonderful vintage buttons - a large size for the waist and smaller matching ones as decoration on the leg. There is a functional breast pocket on left chest which is self piped. Sleeves are straight and somewhere between a short and 3/4 sleeve. The cuff is topped by a short self frill, which is also used on the wide shawl collar."
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