** American mail order catalogs with boys clothes -- the 1890s

American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: The 1890s

Figure 1.--Stern Brothers offered a wide range of boys clothing in its 1890 catalog. Stein's was an important men and boys outfitter in New York City. Here we see kilt suits for younger boys and knee pants for older boys. Notice the large floppy bows so commonly shown in the photographic record are not depicted here, but all the boys are wearing long stockings.

Mail order catalogs in the 1890s provide a valuable record of the fshions worn as the age of the boys wearing them as well as other details such as finishing and materials. Mail order catalogs offered a variety of clothes for boys in the 1890s, including dresses, kilt suits, Fauntleroy suits and blouses, sailor suits, and knee pants and long pants suits as well as a wide range of accessories. Fan\cy Fauntleroy blouses and suits were very popular. We see boys with huge floppy bows. Most children wore long stockings and thus stocking supporters were needed. During the decaded, dresses began to decline in popularity for younger boys. Knee pants became standard for boys zand were almost always worn with long stockings. And we see a wide range of support garments like under waists appearing. At the end of the decade, tunic suits necame very popular. Advanced in lithography meant that hih-quality illustrations could be placed with the ad copy in catalogs, newspapers, and magazines. Lithograpgy was not yet p[erfected, but it was mich improved over rhe rest of the century.


HBC has acquired some catalog pages that are undated. We have archived the pages that we believe to fate to the 1890s here, as we can not identify the specific year. Hopefully we may be eventually able to date these pages.


We begin to see more ads in addition ti mail order catalogs in the 1890s. The number is, howevr, still limited compated to the 20th century. Stern Brothers offered a wide range of boys clothing in its 1890 catalog. Stein's was an important men and boys outfitter in New York City. Here we see kilt suits for younger boys and kneepants for older boys (figure 1). There are a variety of suits iffered for boys, showing how common suits were. Younger boys still wore dresses in the 1890s, but Stern's did not offer any--only kilt suits. Perhaps boy drresses were purchased in mother's milliary shops. HBC is not sure about this. Appropriate headwear is picture with many of the outfits. We also see a variety of winter coats.


We have not yet found many 1891 clothing advertisements. For some reason we have found some stocking supporter items. This reflects the growing importance of knee pants which were commonly worn with long stockings. Notice how all the boys in tghe illustration here are wearing long stockings (figure 1). Thus there was a need for support garments. The primary purpose was to support long stockings, but they were also used to hold up pants. We note the Sigbee underwaist made up to size 30 inches, children 12 years of age. We also have another patent for what was referred to as a 'garment supporter'. It was a suspender waist that combines features that laterappeared separately in two different products, the Kazoo SuspenderWaist and the Wilson Garter. Notice that in this design, we have features from both.


Boys commonly wore blouses as well as short waists. Er notice many different styles of shirt waists and blouses offered in the Best Department Store Fall and Winter catalog. Sailor suits were a popular outfit for boys and we see many different styles. Nany mothers sewed the clothes for their children at home. We note a sewing pattern for a kneepants sailor suit. We notice the Double Ve Waist being offered for infants, boys and girls, young ladies, and women.


We have found 1993 catalog pages with a great deal of some useful boys clothing information. We have found material from the Best & Co, an important New York City Department Store. They call their children's section, Liliputian Bazaar. We see blouses and shirts as well as shirt waists. Blouses at the time were not just for girls, but widely worn by boys. And was common in the late-19th century there ere many different offerings, most not illustrated. And shirt waists were worn by boys and girls. Actually it was young working women that were commonly weraing shirt waists. Boys also commonly wore suits. The Work Brothers in 1893 like Best and other retailers offered a wide selection of boys suits in sizes 11 to 18 years. The company also offered knee pants which had become standard for boys at the time.


We continue to see boys wearing a variety of suits. We note a page from the Chas. Casper & Co, catalog showing many popular styles for boys winter suits and coats. It is useful because of the range of style shown. The bowler hat seems popular. We note styles from Fauntleroyand sailor suits as well as suit jackets including single- and doublr-breasted styles. We also notice nlouse tops. Knee pants and dark long stockings were almost universal. We only notice long pants for the sailor suit. We note rubbers and overshoes offered by Montgomery Ward in their 1894-95 catalog. One is rather curiously called a "safety strap sandals". Along with these shoes are what Wards calls "Alaskas" and "Arctics". We note an ad for Bee Waists designed for boys, published in the Elyria, Ohio, Republican (Movember 8, 1894).


American boys primarily wore kneepants in the 1890s. Most suits came with kneepants. Sailor suits were also very popular. A Montgomery Ward's catalog provides a great deal of useful information on popular clothing styles in 1895. Two of the pages have boys' clothes--the first with a variety of knee pants suits as well as blouses for other boys and other fashions. Illustrations were still relatively limited and largely buried in pages primarily full of ad copy. Another page offers children's garter waists and shoulder hose supporters.


We do not yet have much information on 1896. We know that knee pants had become almost universal for boys, except in rural areas. Almost all American children wore long stockings with knee pants as did girls with dresses. And thus stocking supporters were needed. We note new brands with innovative construction We note an ad for H & W Underwaists in a local newspaper. We also notice a specialy underwaist for biking. The Yankee Waist illustrates another aspect of athleticism in boys' underwear--an ad the emphasizes the appropriateness of this particular underwaist for boys who cycle. This not only illustrates fashion trends, but in increasingly affluent America, many children were receiving bicycles. This was much less common in Europe.


Catalogs in 1897 offered kilt suits for younger boys. After breeching boys might wear Fautleroy suits or sailor suits. Older boys wore knee pants and long pants suits.



Younger boys wore dresses through most of the 19th century, but theis concention was decling by the end of the 1890s. Even kilt suits were becoming less common. We do see tunics becoming a popular garment. Suits were very common in the 1890s. Boys normlly wore them except duting the summer whent they might rar blouses wuthput jackets. Younger boys wore Fauntlroy suits, but the fashion was decliming. Sailor suits werte very popular. We note an ad from Rennacker showing a boy in a smart white summer sailor suit. We also see a range of standard (sack) suits, both single- and double-breasted jackets. Most American boys wore knee pants in 1899. They had become standard by the end if the decade, even in rural areas. One exception was the sailor suit. They could be worn with either long opants or knee pants. And knee pants were generally worn with long stockings, unless the boy was going barefoot during the summer. Both boys and girls commonly wore long stockings. American children at the turn of the 20th century, both boys and girls, almost universally wore underwaists to hold up outer clothing and long stockings. We notice an ad for the EZ Easy Waist for boys and girls. Another early advertisement for boys' and girls' skeleton waists appeared in the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) on April 22, 1899. These waists were on sale at Miller and Paine's department store in Lincoln (the Notions department). We notice an ad for Warner's Perfection Waists in 1899.


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Created: March 28, 2001
Last updated: 4:43 PM 3/21/2013