American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1935

Figure 1.--This is a page from the 1935 Sears Spring-Summer catalog offering a range of wht Sears called suits. Note the suits are both formal sack suits with jackets as well as play suits with matching or coordinated shirts and pants. From looking at the catalog, strap shoes were still popular for boys in the United States during the mid 1930s. Click on the image for a discussion of the footwear illustrated here.

American mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. There were no major new fashions introduced in the 1930s, but several long-running trends were observeable. They were well documented in the catalogs. Knickers were still worn, but by younger boys and were declining in popularity. Long pants were becoming increasingly common. Younger boys still wore short pants, especially in the summer. Kneesocks were commonly worn, usually with Argyle or other patterns. Ankle socks were less common, but increasing in popularity. We note a range of short pants suits for younger boys, but long pants were made in sizes for even the youngest boys. Some boys wore long stockings, but increasingly younger boys. The light colored tan and brown colors for long stockings were readily apparent in 1935 catalogs. We have an ad from a Ward's catalog for waist suits.

Toddler Clothes


Shirts with wide ubuttoned collars were popular in 1935. They could be worn cassually or with a suit.



The term suit was used somewhat differently in the 1930s than is now the case. A suit at the time meant any outfit in which the top (shirt, jacket, or sweater) was coordinated with the pants. Thus we have both informal play suits as well as more formal sack suits. Play suits might be just an informal shirt even a "T"-shirt and shorts. Normally they did not match, but were coordinated. In many cases they were button-on outfuts. Formal suits included different styles of both two-piece suits with matching jacket and pants as well as three-piece suits with vests. There were also school outfits which were more formal than play suits, but often were not actual sack suits. Some outfits referred to as suits for school might have a coordinated sweater rather than a suit jacket. It is a little difficult to separate these different types of suits because catalogs often mixed them up, grouping varous styles on pages devoted to specific age groups. This was a common practice for many of the big catalog companies.


Knickers were still ommonly worn by American boys in 1935. They were now worn by younger boys and declining in popularity. Long pants were becoming increasingly common. Several catalogs prominently feature long pants, something not seen in thearly 30s. Younger boys still wore short pants, especially in the summer, but even many younger boys wore long pants.


Boys wore quite a variety of hosiery in 1935. A range of factors such as seasonality, social class, regional trends, and family preferences were involved. Kneesocks had begun to replace long stockings for knickers by 1935, but long stockings were still worn. Wards offers eight kinds of long stockings, some of winter weight, some of all-year-round weight. Aimed mainly at mothers buying stockings for their boys and girls of primary school age. They seem most popular for younger boys. Kneesocks were particularly popular with older boys wearing knickers. The kneesocks were usually done in Argyle and other patterns. An increasing number of boys were wearing ankle socks with long pants Many of the increasingly younger boys wearing knickers were wearing them with kneesocks. Some boys wearing short pants might still wear long stockings during the cooler month. We note a kind of combination knicker socks offered by Sears. They apparently did not prove very popular. We also note ankle socks, but they do not yet seem very popular, although we are not sure what boys wearing long pants commonly wore.


We do not have much information on underwear in 1935 yet. We have collected a few items. The VestPants combinations I do not think were very common. Garter waists had been commonly worn by American children for several decades. . As long stockings had begun to declined in popularity, we begin to see garter waists becoming less common. Here both the increasing popularity od sicks and long pants were factors. We see children's underwear that include some more modern-looking styles. Biut we still see youngers children's underwear done in styles both boys and girls wore. We also still see union suits.

Wards' waist suits

This advertisement for boys' waist suits came from Ward's Fall and Winter catalog for 1935-36 (p. 155). In many of the mail order catalogs waist suits are shown as being equally appropriate for boys and girls from about age 2 to age 12 or 13. Here, interestingly, the waist suits for boys are separated from those for girls although the design of the two is not strikingly different. These waist suits are heavy weight union suits for winter wear, but they have reinforced shoulder straps to support button-on short pants or knickers and metal pinning tubes so that supporters for long stockings can be fastened on. They are available in both short and long sleeve models for boys between the ages of 2 and 12. All the models shown here have ankle-length legs.

Lane Bryant children's underwear

We are not familiar with Lane Bryant. We have new other entries from this mail-order company. Here we see the transition from pre elastic stitching to elastic knit stretch materials we probably take for granted. The shirts did not have enough stretch to have band necks to go over one's head so buttons were necessary to accommodate the head. These buttons then had to be rebuttoned once worn which was more work. Even more was the fact that drawers or pants, bloomers or panties all had to be buttoned to something to stay up. This presented several inconveniences. First, a garment was needed to hold up one's under pants. That may explain why very young children only had shirts. Infants in the US and children up to 8 in France and maybe some other countries. Second, for young children this meant that someone older had to help with buttons for getting dressed and using the bathroom. It must have been much more common for older children maybe five, six or even an eight year old to require help to use the bathroom.


Boys and girls in the 1930s still commonly wore leather shoes to go to school in and even for play. Sneakers were available but were mostly worn for play during the summer. Leather shoes were much more common. The Sears ad here is a page from their 1935 Spring-Summer catalog. From looking at the catalog, strap shoes were still popular for boys in the United States during the mid 1930s. We believe, however, that they are misleading depictions. I don't think that strap shoes were commonly worn by school age boys and with many of the garments illustrated here. Its a little confusing as many of these garments were made for quite a wide range of ages. Strap shoes for school age boys certainly are not shown in the photographic record as shown here. The reader who provided the calalog page writes, "I completely agree that strap shoes on boys are not common in the photographic record in the US (except for very formal occasions, i.e. weddings), and then probably in the very early 30s. It may just be that the illustrators for the catalog were used to drawing them from the 1920s. Or, possibly they were trying to revive the style, because there were many strap shoes for sale in the shoe section of the catalog as well as four double t-strap shoes. I was surprised that there was not a single example of saddle shoes for sale, either for children or women, in the catalog in 1935. Possibly they were in the Winter catalog, but I don't have this one."


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Created: 11:49 PM 11/10/2005
Last updated: 1:39 AM 1/24/2011