American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1941

Figure 1.--This advertisement for children'd full-length stockings appeared in the Spring 1941 Sears catalog. This style was marketed for both boys and girls in sizes up to 10. The actual age in years is a bit more complicated. The children here look to be about 11-12 years old. Older children, mostly girls, wore long stockings. Also notice the boys short pants suit and peaked cap.

American mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. Fashion was out of style in Europe, but not in America. In fact war order meant that the economy was expanding. People had jobs and were buying clothes. Styles common in the 1930s were still widely worn in 1941.American mail order catalogs in 1941 still featured many of the styles of the 1930s. Knickers were still worn, but declining in popularity. Long pants were becoming increasingly common. Younger boys still wore short pants, especially in the summer.


We note McCall pattern #4341 from 1941 for peaked cap and coat. The one we found is for a child's size 2. I'm not sure to what size this pattern was made. Note the boy wearing a peaked cap in the Sears catalog illustration here (figure 1). We believe this style was particularly popular with affluent families. We note Brooks Brothers offering back-to-school headwear. This included fedora hats as well as Eton and Oxford caps. The Eton cap was a British-style peaked cap. We are not sure what an Oxford cap was. We notice fancy knitted stocking caps in a Chadwick knitting booklet.

Toddler Clothes


We note McCall pattern #4341 from 1941 for a peaked cap and coat. The one we found is for a child's size 2. I'm not sure to what size this pattern was made. There were a number of stylistic options for the coat.



A popular style for boys throughout the 1940s was sets. This was a shirt of varying style that was coordinated are matched with the pants. This was most commonly done with shorts pants, but there were also sets done with long pants as well. These were often play outfits, byt there were dressy ones. Yonger boys often did not wear suits as they once did, but instead wore a shorts set. The age range for these shorts sets varied, but usually were done in sizes for pre-school and early primary school boys.

Sailor Suits

Sailor suits were still made for younger boys. There were both dressy suits and play suits. We notice Sears offered a dressy short pants sailor suits for boys age 3-8 years old. Another sailor outfit was a Sears shorts set for boys 2-6 years old.


There were some important changes in boy's suits in 1941. The basic styles were unchanged. Cuts did vary somewhat. We see both single and double breasted suits and Eton jackets for younger boys. The jackets have cinched waists. Most American boys were wearing long pants suits. Short pants suits were available, but even younger boys wore mosly long pants suits. The long pants are a full, raher baggy cut. We are not sure uif knicker suits were available, but if they were they were not very common. In addition to standard suits we also notice sports jackets and even leisure suits. At this time we have one catalog ad for suits from the Boston edition of the Sears catalog. Seas and the other major mail order companies commonly picked up very quickly on fashion trends. One of the most obvious changes was how quickly knickers were disappearing ffom American fashions. We also have a Brooks Brothers ad, a high end clothier that often emphasuzed traditional styling.



American boys wore a variety of hosiery in 1941. Ankle socks had become the primary hosiery worn by boys, in part because long pants were becoming increasingly common. We commonly see socks with color stripes or to a lesser extent argyles. Knee socks were declining in popularity, primarily because knickers were rapidly going out of style. Boys increasingly wore ankle socks, both with short and long pants. Some boys wote knee socks with short pants, but not very many and this was often when dressing up. Some younger boys still wore long stockings, sometimes referred to as full-length stockings, during the winter, but this was also becoming increasingly less common because fewer boys were wearing short pants during the winter. Girls continued to wear them a little longer. The catalogs show what hosiery was available. And we note long stockings were still featured prominently in major catalogs. The photographic record is, however, a better indicator of what was being worn. This is especially important at times like the early-1940s when fashions were changing. We notice Sears reusing images in their long stocking offerings. And Wards had some new offerings that did not prove very popular. Eventually catalog companies reflect popular demand and items that do not sell rapidly disappear in the catalogs.

Stocking Supporters

Children's waists were initially underwear served several functions. Throughout the 1920s and 30s the function of holding up long stockings gradually became the main purpose, although there are references to a beneficial impact on posture. One factor to consider is that 1941 catalogs were the last ones before World War II reached America with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 1941). And this had an impact on stocking supporters because the Japanese seized Malaya and Borneo, the major source of natural rubber. And rubber was used to roduce ltex which was used in the construction of stockig supporters.

Sears waists

The last time stocking supporters were worn to any extent was the 1940s, although they did not disappear until the early 1950s. They were still prominently advertised in the 1940s. They were available in quite a wide range of different types. Sears referred to them as "garter waists". Many were clearly targeted for younger children. The ad shows the proud children, beaming "See mommie, now we can put on our own garter waists. Several different styles were available from Sears.

Wards support garments

Here we have a page from Wards Fall and Winter catalog (1941-42), p. 329, which includes a range of support items. The items are all to hold up either pants or long stockings are both and included elasticized components. The only exception is a shoulder posture garment. This is, however, somewhat related in that the support garments were often seen as beneficial for posture. Wards offers pin-on hose supporters, suspenders for "shorts, slacks, skirts, and leggings" (one kind made by Hickory), a posture brace for preventing round shoulders, and two different styles of underwaists. Note that Ward's describes the underwaists as garter waists.


Sears and Wards catalogs offered detailed information on on popular underwear styles. This is very helpful in understanding period dress and an impotant compliment to available portraits and snapshots showung outer clothes. Both Sears and Wards underwear included several different styles of short- and long-leg waist suits. We see both older and more modern looking styles. Waists suits were still coomly worn by American children.


Boys mostly wore Oxford low cut shoes in 1941. High-top shoes were still available, but were not very common--except white ones for infants. Styles are not disimilar to modern styles, except boys common wore wing tips. We notice two-tone shoes and saddle shoes, although solid color black and brown shoes were more common. We also notice deck shoes which were called Indian mocs with soles. After school or during the Summer, many boys wore sneakers, but they were not as common as they became after the War. We notice a variety of styles offered by Brooks Brothers for bsck-to-school outfits.

World War II

World War II began when the NAZIs invaded Poland (September 1939). While Europe was plunged into war, America was not. The years 1939-41, as a result of war orders from Europe, were years of great economic prosperity in America. Americans for the forst time since the Depression which began with Stock Market Crash (1929) were enjoying the benefits of an expanding economy. There was not yet any raioning and Amerivans were buying clothes, appliances, and cars. All this did not change until the Japanese attack on Pear Harbor (December 1941).


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing catalog/magazine pages:
[Return to the Main American mail order 1940s page]
[Main photo/publishing page] [Store catalogs] [Fashion magazines]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossary] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Sailor suits] [Sailor hats] [Buster Brown suits]
[Eton suits] [Rompers] [Tunics] [Smocks] [Pinafores] [Long stockings] [Underwear]

Created: April 29, 2000
Last updated: 7:58 PM 3/21/2014