American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1929

Figure 1.--This Best & Co advertisement appaeared in 'The Boys' Buyer', a trade publication in April 1929. It displayed a range of garments offered for boys and teenagers durin the Easter buying seaon. Along with illustrations, the ad offered insights on convention, new style, and prferences. Best was an upmarket store so the fasgions reflected the tasts of the affluenr middle class. Note the British influence.

American mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. Quite a range of styles were worn in 1929. Quite juvenile styles were made in sizes for younger school-age boys. Little boy suits were popular, including silk suits, sailor suits, peggy cloth suits for boys 3 to 8 years. Sailor suits might have long or short pants, although most other fancy suits had short pants. We note a McCalls pattern for a younger boys suit with a Bolero jacket, looking rather like a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. Play suits were made with long pants, including coveralls. Cowboy and Indian play suits were also popular. At the same time quite young boys might wear long pants. Knickers were, however, the predominate style for American boys. At the beginnin of the 1920s, long stockings were very common for children, by 1929 abkle socks and kneesocks had become much more common, but long stockings were still widely worn, especially in the winter. As long stockings were still worn by children in 1929, there were many devices available to hold up or support the long stockings.

Younger Boy Outfits

Fauntleroy outfits

Little Lord Fauntleroy suits had not entirely disappeared by 1929, although they were not very common. We see them both in the photgraphic record and catalogs. We note what might be called a Bolero jacket. Bolero meant the short cut-away jacket worn open, the very same jacket worn with the classic Little Lord fauntleroy suits. The blouses are not nearly as fancy, but still had large collars, often trimed with ruffles. The pants were also different. Instad of knee pant, these suits were normally done with short pants. Younger boys might still wear these Fautleroy-styled outfits for formal occassions. We notice both bolero jackets and collar-buttoning jackets in catalogs and the photographic record. We also notice the outfits being offered in up-scale shops. We note several examples of these suits. The Fauntleroy suit here was a pattern published by The McCall Pattern Company (figure 1). It was described as a 'Boy's Bolero Suit'. Although some mothers still liked the style, the term 'Little Lord Fauntleroy' was no often used. I had become a term of derision. Simple bolero [meaning cut-away] jacket; blouse with round collar and cuffed sleeves; short trousers." Illustrated directions. Pattern dates circa 1929. Suggested fabrics: Flannel, cotton, twill, corduroy, denim, cassimere, and khaki drill. The colors were indigo blue, brown, blue, green, plaids, khaki, and black. Materials required: Blouse: 1-1/8 Yds. 36" fabric. Bolero & trousers: 1-1/4 Yds. 36" fabric. We see photographs of boys wearing these outfits for formal events. One example is a Russian Orthodox church in New Jersey about 1930. Here the boy wears long pants with his Fauntleroy suit. We notice other Fauntleroy suits with collar-buttoning jackets rather than cut-away jackets. One was advertized in the Boy Buyer, a trade magazine for shops that sold boy's clothing. The suit was a satin and silk party suit. These suits were mostly worn by pre-school boys. A slightly older boy mighr wear them for a formal event like a wedding.


We do not have a great deal of information on shirts in 1929 yet. We see fewer references to blouses and shirt waists greater use of just shirts for boys. We note a Best's ad which includes striped long sleeve dress shirts. Striped shirts were not new, this was more pronting a fashionable style. And Best's made the point that they should be worn with solid-colored ties and not striped ties.


We notice American boys wearing a wide range of coats in 1929. Double breasted styling was quite common for overcoats. Sailor reefer coats were still worn, but not as commonly as in recent years. we note some boys wearing novelty aviator jackets. There were many other types of coats in more traditional styles.

Sears winter overcoats

All of the coats displayed in the Sears 1929-30 page were double breasted. Some were belted. One had a fur collar. There ws a sailor reefer jacket as well as an aviator coat. The variety of boys' overcoats displayed all seemed to assume that boys wear short pants or knickers with long stockings underneath. See for instance the Aviator Style overcoat in the upper lefthand corner (letter A) where the boy's over-the-knee stockings can be clearly seen. Most of the other overcoats come a little lower on the body than this example, but they seem to be too short to cover knickers which almost always extended an inch or two below the knees. Notice also that the stockings worn underneath these overcoats are (with perhaps a single exception) stockings of plain color, and not the patterned knee socks that were beginning to be worn with knickers.

McCalls overcoats

The Parents Magazine in February showed a McCalls pattern for a boy's overcoat in sizes 4-12 years. The overcoat featured patch pockets. It was a formal style, the boy wears it with a short pants suit.


McCalls Spring Eton suit

McCalls has a pattern for an Spring Eton suit. The pattern wss available in sizes 4-8 years. Notably the suit does not have lapels, but buttons at the collar. The younger boy is shown with a jacket lacking lapels and a shirt collar that folds over his jacket. He is wearing a natty handkerchief in his breast pocket. Such formality was obviously considered appropriate and fashionable for boys--perhaps even for school wear in some cases.


American boys still commonly wore knivckers in 1929. The age of the boys wearing them, however, had declined significantly from the 1910s and early 20s. Older high school boys by 1929 no longer commonly wore them. Most grade school boys and rvren younger teenagers did still wear them.

Play Suits


We see a substantial diversity of hosiery during the 1920s,but by the end of the decade, modern trends were beginning to take shape. Long stockings were still worn, but declining in popularity. Socks were becomong nore popular. At the beginning of the 1920s, long stockings were the dominant hosiery for children. They were even worn during the summer, although that was declining. We see all the major type of socks, ankle socks, three-quarter socks, and knee socks. Yonger children might wear three-quater socks, commonly white. By 1929 kneesocks were becoming more common, but long stockings were still widely worn, especially in the winter and by younger children. We note a Good Housekeeping add showing a variety of brand name garments. It shows all the different kinds of hosiery. The loud pattened knee socks that were popular in the 1930s are seen in 1929. The 1929-30 Fall catalog from Sears devoted three entire pages to long stockings for boys and girls. This is a good indication that long stockings were still commonly worn by children.

Stocking Supporters and Suspenders

As long stockings were still worn by children in 1929, there were many devices available to hold up or support the long stockings.

Butler Brother stocking supporters

Butler Brothers ran a wholesale company for clothing stores around the country. Their catalog was much like a Sears or Wards catalog, onlu aimed at merchants and the idets were sold whole sale in bulk. A page from their 1929 catalog offers details on garters for adults, stocking supporters for childrem and even children's suspenders. Esprecially interesting is that merchants were offered a stand with which to display their inventory of children's stocking supporters.

Sears children's waists

Sears in its Spring and Summer Catalog, 1929, p. 103 offered children's underwear and waists. There were several types of waists. The waists were made in sizes up to size 12, but most were for younger children. Most of these waists were worn by both boys and girls. They served the purpose of holding up outer clothing such as short pants, skirts, and underpants and provided the means of attaching hose supporters to hold up long stockings.


There were important changes in underwear styles during the 1920s, especially by the end of the decade. This was in part due to the changes in children clothing, especially the more casual styles and shorter cut clothing like short pants. We notice ads showcasing complete lines of children's and family underear styles. We see some well-established items. We also notice waist union suits, combining support garmnts anf the union suit, a major underwear garment fot dcades. We also notice more modern-looking garments like vests (singlets) and colorful boxer shorts.


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Created: October 20, 2002
Last updated: 12:06 AM 1/8/2014