* American mail order catalogs with boys clothes -- 1940

American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1940

Figure 1.--This advertisement for children'd full-length stockings appeared in the Fall and Winter 1940-41 Sears catalog. This style was marketed for both boys and girls in sizes from 6-10 years.

American mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. American mail order catalogs in 1940 still featured many of the styles of the 1930s. We notice a range of headwear. Flat caps were going out of style and being replaced with caps that had more rounded crowns. We note what were called 'helmets' during the witer. Knickers were still worn, but rapidly declining in popularity. Long pants were becoming increasingly common. Younger boys still wore short pants, especially in the summer. Knickers were also still sold. Sears was still offering knicker suits in 1940. Most boys were wearing ankle socks, but knee socks and even long stockings were still sold.


We notice a range of headwear in 1940 catalogs. And we gave caralog pages foir both summee and winter headwear. Flat caps were going out of style and being replaced with caps that had more rounded crowns. We note what were called 'helmets' during the witer. A Wards Fall-Winter 1940-41 catalog headwear page provided details. We also notice a 1940 Macy's spring and summer catalog page with headwear and rain coats. Macy's at the time was a large New Yprk department store rather than the huge national chain it is today. The items are mostly for girls, but there are a few items for boys as well. We note rain helmets, Eton (peaked) caps, and roller hats. The Macy's headwear seems more stylish and up-to-date than the Wards' offerings. We note Best picturing headwear with summer suits, incldiung peaked caps and soft turned down hats.

Toddler Clothes


We note boys wearing both shirts and blouses in 1940, although blouses had become much less common for school age boys. Our moder shirt styles were clearly emerging in 1940. The soft pointed collar was the standard for schoo-age boys. We also see striped "T"-shirts. We stillsee Eton collars, but they were rapidly going out of style. Younger boys might wear Peter Pan collrs. We continue to see boys still wearing button-on shirts in 1940, but this style was becoming less common as more and more boys wore belts rather than the various other alternatives to trouser suspension. A good example is a size 10 du Barry pattern that could be used to make either a standard collared shirt or a button-on blouse.


We notice a 1940 Macy's spring and summer catalog page with headwear and rain coats. The items are mostly for girls, but there are a few items for boys as well. The only rain coat is called a storm coat. This was the standard rain coat for children during the 1930s-50s. It was a rubberized coat. Mine were always done in black, These were offered by Macy's in navy and yellow. Production of these coats may have been affected by World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941), America faced a serious rubber shortage.


Junior Suits

We note a variety of junior suits offered in 1940. These were generally msade for boys up to about 6 years of age. They included both blouses and coordinated pants and jacketed suits. Eton jackets were especially popular for younger boys. Shorts were popular for summer wear, but long pants were increasingly popular for winter wear. A good example is the Macy's summer junior suits offered in it's summer catalog. Macy's offered a variety of small boys suits. Today they would be closer to children's clothes up to about 3-4 years. Notice one has a ruffle collar and button on pants which is designed to make the boy look young, but as Macy's explain "not sissy".


Suits declined in popularity during the 1930s. While they were still widely worn, fewer boys were wearing them than in the 1920s. Single-breasted suits had become increasingly popular in the 1930s. Three-piece suits with vests were much less common. We see short pants, knickers, and long pants suits offered in catalogs and avrtising by 1940. The nix of these different types of suits had changed quite a bit in the 1930s. Most suits for school-age boys were long pants suits by 1940. Sears was still offering knicker suits in 1940. And there were some short pants suits for younger boys. Here there were social class differences. We still see some boys wearing Eton collars. We notice a Brooks Brother's magazine adverisement for primary (elementary school) school suits and shirts. We still see some boys wearing Eton collars. We notice a Brooks Brother's magazine adverisement for primary (elementary school) school suits and shirts. Brook's Brothers was a high end retailer of men and boys' clothing. The main store was in New York, but they by 1940 had stores in Boston, Los angeles, and San Francisco. We see quite a few Brooks Brothers magazine ads. These would presumably be be mostly for boys attending private school. By the 1940s, boys were no longer wearing suits at public elementary schools with a few exception. Parents had several options. We notice both Eton suis for younger boys in elementary school. Lapel jackets were vailble for older boys in elementary school and knickers as well as shorts. A Best Department Store summer catalog offered a range of outfits, mostly suits and blazer outfits for primary school boys.



Knickers were still worn, but rapidly declining in popularity, even for younger boys. Long pants were becoming increasingly common. Younger boys still wore short pants, especially in the summer. But long pants were becoming standard wear for boys, both when dressing up and for play. Knickers were also still sold, but were becoming a minor offering in catalogs. .


Hosiery trends was still in a state of flux during 1940. Knee socks were declining in popularity. Boys increasingly wore ankle socks, both with short and long pants. We even see boys wearing knickers with ankle socks. Some boys still wore long stockings, but this was becoming increasingly less common. Long stockings were mostly were by 1940 mostly worn by girls and a few younger boys. As more boys were wearing long pants, long stockings were no longer kneed when short pnts ad knickers were worn durung the cold winter weather. Long stockings were even made that did not look like long stockngs. These were for mothers that wanted to dress children warmly and children who did not ike the look of long stockings.

Sears long stockings

The Sears Fall and Winter catalog for 1940-41 offered long stockings for "children" without specifying boys or girls. The illustration with the ad clearly indicated that they were for both boys and girls. The illustration showed a boy riding a wagon. It was an display for long stockings. The boy wears short pants with his long stockings. The stockings had to be quite long, way above the knee as the shorts are quite short. This was a fairly large display, suggesting that there were still good sales for children's long stockings in 1940. There were three different types of long stockings offered.

Sears mid-length sock/stocking combination

These were full-length long stockings, but made to look like knee socks. the lower part looks like darl kneeocks with plaid looking turn over to. The upper part is a neutrl color, presumbly beige, beige colored so that the overll look is knee socks. Tus moms could dress te kids warmly and the kids could have the knee socks look thy prefer. We believe that these stockings were mostly worn by girls who wore skirts ad dresses during the winter. Boys mostly wore long pants during the winter, so the look of theior hosiery was inmaterial. The ad copy read, "The originator of these mercerized cotton stockings really had something. They're really full lengths, but the top partis neutral color so they look like mid-length socks. That satisfied the childrenand the mothers at the sae time! The colors to the knee are deep and rich."

Stocking Supporters

Waists had once been worn to support clothing, but by the 1930s and 40s had become mostly garter waists or stocking supporters to hold up long stockings. We have some information on garter waists in 1940. HBC has used the genenric term "stocking supporters" for these garments. The garter waist is a type of stocking supporter.

Sears garter waists

Sears garter waist is a device to support long stockings. Sears in its 1940-41 Catalog, Fall and Winter catalog (p. 695) offered garter waists. Sears offered three different styles of garter waist. Interestingly, the models are all for boys (about 8 to 10 years of age, apparently) although these waists are designed for girls as well as boys. Actually both long stockings and these garter waists in 1940 were more commonly worn by girls, so the illustration is a bit misleading. These styles were on offer at the beginning of World War II in the U.S.

Wards support garments

This Wards page offered four different support items: (1) two kinds of suspenders; (2) three kinds of pin-on hose supporters; (3) two kinds of underwaists; (4) four kinds of garter waists. It is notable that all the children's elastic products are advertised together on the same page. Note that in the garter waist ads, the children (3 girls and a boy) are all wearing the brief style union suits with short legs and short sleeves. Many of the earlier ads showed these garments being worn with long underwear. This seems to be an indication that long stockings in 1940 were being worn more for looks and formality than for warmth. It was becoming unpopular to have a lumpy look on the children's legs, which was almost unavoidable if long stockings were worn on top of long johns.


The trend toward short underwear is particularly apparent by 1940. The short underwear insured a neater, more form-fitting and classier look. Also heating arrangements by 1940 were more modern so that children in homes and classrooms didn't need to dress as warmly even in the severe winter month. Notice also that the stockings worn are all in tan or beige shades, not black, although black stockings could still be purchased. Beige or tan stockings for both boys and girls had become the norm by the 1940s. The different grades of hose supporters, underwaists, and garter waists (several choices in all the categories) would seem to confirm that long stockings were still fairly widely worn. The children in the photographs seem to be about 8 or 9 years old. The pin-on supporters come in sizes up to ten years of age. The garter waists and one of the underwaists come in sizes up to 12 years of age. The suspenders (for holding up leggings, skirts, shorts, and slacks) seem to be a one-size-fits-all item because the elastic straps can be adjusted for length. We note companies beginning to market new styles of underwear in 1940. One example is Mussingwear. We also notice the use of grip snap fastners on underwear. This is the ealiest use we have noticed, although the snap fastners may have actually appeared earlier. The A. Stein Company whixh produced support garments like waists and stocking supporters also offered a shoulder brace. Macey's offered various underwear, including boys' union suits and mesh underwear for children. Filenes, a Boston area department store, offered a range of underwear for younger children.


Buster Brown shoes

Here we see an advertisement for children's shoes. Buster Brown Shoes were one of the best known brand names. One that is still important in the United States. This appeared in Parents Magazine (October, 1940, p. 86). Notice the schoolboy's clothes--peaked cap, striped polo shirt, belted dark shorts, and striped knee socks, plus, of course, the Buster Brown leather shoes.


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Created: April 24, 2003
Last updated: 7:12 AM 7/2/2020