* American mail order catalogs with boys clothes -- 1921

American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1921

Figure 1.-This is an advertisement for Slipova children's clothing which appeared in a 1921 issue of "Ladies Home Journal". We notice several Sliopva ads in the early 1920s.

American mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. Rompers were especially available for pre-school boys and girls. Younger boys still commonly wore sailor suits and there were many different styles. Most boys wore flat caps. Norfolk-styled suits were still very popular. Younger boys might wear various knee pants outfits. School-age boys mostly wore knikers. suits were still commonly worn. There was also a wide variety of hosiery, but long stockings were still very common.


Most illustrations in clothing catalogs and magazines show American boys wearing flat caps and to a lesser extent beanies.

Altmans Younger Boys Headwear, Spring Summer

Sailor caps and hats still dominated boys headwear in 1921. Many styles ecisted. There were still some brimmed hats, often with the brimed turned down. There were also brimless soft caps. Flat caps were worn by oler boys.

Little Boy Clothes

A variety of styles were made in sizes from 1 to 5 years for a child beyond the infant months. This included the todler years (about 1-3 year of age). The term toddler was not yet in use. And we see the pre-school sizes (4-5 years of age). These included styles from smocks to sailor suits. The catalogs at the time often referred to this as little boys clothes. This was essetially pre-school clothes. This included what are now called toddler sies. We note several companies offering these outfits and many different styles. Some of these outfits were destinctive for the toddler years. Other outfits spanned the toddler and pre-school years. The range of styles was extensive. Younger boys might wear rompers. Styles for slightly older boys included Oliver Twist, sailor, and other styles. The Altman catalog provides a good idea of the range of different styles which includedsome skirted outfits. .

Sailor Suits

Sailor suits were still worn by American boys. They spanned the little-boy and the early primary years. We do not, however, see older boys wearing sailor suits as was still common in Europe. Often they were available in sizes from about 3 to 8 years of age. Sailor suits were made in many different styles. Kneepants suits were the most common.

Altmans, Spring Summer sailor suits

Altmans offered an entire page of variously styles kneepants and long short pants sailor suits. Most were for boys from about 3 to 8 years old.

Altmans, sailor suits

These are more sailor suits offered for younger boys in 1921. We believe that the suits were also from the Altmans catalog, but we have lost the reference and can't be sure. The catalog was notable for the many different styles of salor suits. Most were kneepants suits. Most of the suits were for boys 3 to 8 years old.

Knit Suit

I don't think HBC has any ads for boys' knitted suits, although we have referred to the style in various contexts. Knitted suits were popular in France and Germany for smaller boys during the 1920s and 1930s, but I'm not sure how widely they were worn in the United States. They are pretty obviously a winter or autumn item, less formal than sailor suits but more formal perhaps than separate knee pants and sweaters. Here is a Sears knitted suit for boys from 2 to 6 years (Fall and Winter, 1921, page 181). The suit consists of a striped sweater top which fastens at the shoulder with snap fasteners (easier than buttons for small fingers to manipulate) and knitted "bloomers", close fitting the leg, with elastic waist and elastic closure above the knees. Elastic around the knees make these bloomer pants somewhat like above-the-knee knickers but much more form-fitting and without blousing. The bloomers are like knee trousers or rather trimly cut short trousers that end three or four inches above the knee but hug the thigh because there is elastic in the bottom seam.




Boys very commonly still wore suits in the 1920s, especially the early 20s. It was still quite common to go to school in suits, at least in the cities. We note both single and double-breasted suits. Knickers suits were the modt common. Not many boys wore short psnts suits. Older boys would have long pants suits. Norfolk knickers suits were still very populsr. Older boys in highschool would have long pants suits. A boys best suit would often be a daek blue serge suit. We note a oof example of a blue serge suit with other common boys' items offered by a clothing store, Stafford & Trainor in a newspaoper advertisement.



Long stockings were still quite common although three-quater socks and knee socks are now being worn, especially in the summer. The styles of socks were especially common for younger children, especially the three-quarters ocks. White was very common, but often with colored bands. More common for children, especually school-age children was long stockings. Almost all children still wore long stocking during the cold winter months. Black was still very common, although girls and sometimes younger boys might wear white stockings. A good example is Holeproof Hosiery which was advertized in the St. Nicholas Magazine.

Support Garments

Quite a number of garments existed to help children hold up their pants/skirts and long stockings. The variety and prominance of tghese garments in period catalogs is a good indicator as to just how important they were in 921. We note this to be the case throughout the 1920s. Many were mixed support garments and underwear. Waists suits were the standard underwear for children in 1921 as long stockings were still common. Styles varies somewhat. Sleeves and leg length varied seasonally. Most boys wore short pants, kneepants, and knickers so except for boys living in the most northern states with severe winters, long leg waists suits were not common.


We note a wide range of underwear offered for children throughout the 1920s. There were destinctive styles and weights for seasonalwear. We still see a range of old fashioned styles. Boys and girls, especialy younger children, still tended to wear similar underwear, but there were special styles such as bloomers for older girls. Union suits were still very common. We do not yet see modern underwear styles. Underwear was widely advertized in mailorder catalogs, national periodicals, and local newspapers which provide a great deal of information about period underwear styles. This is important because underwear does not show up much in the photographic rercord.


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Created: January 6, 2001
Last updated: 7:01 AM 4/18/2020