American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: Suits (1935)

Figure 1.--Sailor suits were still worn to school by American boys in 1935. We tend to see them, however, more prominently in catalogs than in the photographic record. The Lane Bryant catalog here was probably slightly more stylish than the outfits worn by the average boy. Even in the Fall-Winter back to school catalog there areca lot of short pants outfits.

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.

Sears Sack Suits

We notice formal sack suits for dresswear offered with both short and long pants. There were also suits with knickers, but these were behinning to become less popular. They were somewhat more common for school-age boys and for winterwear. Two popular styles were Eton and Rugby styles. Note the use of English schools, and indicator as to how important Britain and Brotish schools were in boys' fashions. These are the only two suit styles mentioned on the Sears page here, except for double-breasted. The other descriptions involve some other aspect of the suit such as the material. Eton suits were a popular style beginning in the 1920s. Rugby suits also appeared in catalogs, but not as commonly.

Sears Play or Wash Suits

We see play suits commonly advertized. These were not dress-up suits, but were referred to as suits because the shirt and pants matched or were coordinated. These are also referred to as wash suits because they were made in easy to wash fabrics. In later catalogs "sets" began to bevused rather than suits. These play suits were done in many different styles and in both short and long pants. They were rarely done with knickers. While some of these suits could be worn for play, some or more formal than othedrs. One is even depicyed with a tie. As life styles became more relaxed, boys might wear one of these play suits rather than a proper suit for a range of occassions.

Lane Bryant School Suits

Lane Bryant offered a range of different suits in its Fall-Winter catalog. The outfits were for boys 3-8/10 years of age which means both todlers and primary-age boys. These would have been seen as suitable for back to school. The Lane Bryant catalog here was probably slightly more stylish than the outfits worn by the average boy. Both the sailor suits and the short pants would have been seen as stylish. Even in the Fall-Winter back to school catalog there are a lot of short pants outfits. Some boys did wear short pants to school, but long pants and knickers were probably more common in much of the country. Here there were regional differences. All of the outfits come with pants that button to blouses. Some of the shorts have self belts with buckles, but this is for style and hide the buttons underneath. Notice also that none of the clothes seem to have a fly. It is unclear from the illustration, but looks as if they do not. I think if they did the ad copy probably would have stated it. That means that even for outfits for children up to 10 years of age size mothers would be helping the children into and out of the clothes even when using the bathroom. Or at the least, there were more accidents than today. Also note that none of the outfits are pictured with long stockings. Even though the clothes are winter wear, most of the children are pictured wearing knee socks with fancy patterns and exposed knees.


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Created: 4:33 AM 4/27/2006
Last updated: 4:33 AM 4/27/2006