** retail stores handling boys' clothes

Retailing of Boys' Clothing

Figure 1.--The large French Department Au bon March´┐Ż offered these garments for boys during the winter of 1911.

Individual stores have had tremendous influence on clothing and fashion trends. HBC has begun to collect information on some of the most important individual stores. HBC is nmost familiar with American and British stores, but we have begun to collect information on other countries as well. Readers are incouraged to submit information on stores in their country to help expand this section of our website. Often such information is only available from nationals of the country involved, unless like Harrods are Au Louvre, the store has developed an international reputation.

The Department Store

Department stores are one of the many phenomenons that developed in the 19th century Victorian era and is in large measure a result of the rise of the middle class. The rise of large department stores represented a entirely new era in commercial retailing. But much more was involved. Department stores accompanied the developent of industrial mass production techniques for consumer goods. The stores also had a major imapct on the way in which men and women spent leisure time. They made shoping much more convenient. But department stores were than a huge emporium for purchasing a wide variety of goods. The stores strove to create an attractive if not glamorous environment in luxurious spaces that fundamentally changed the shopping experience making it much more enjoyable. Department stores came to epitomized the rise of the middle class and the consumerism of modern life.

Types of Retail Stores

We have given considrable attention to the big department stores and chain stores in HBC because they hasve become so important in modern merchandizing, especially of clothes. Here the rise of ready made clothes and the development of mail order caused major shidts in retailing. Today the internet is another major shift, but its full impact is yet to be seen. There are many other types of stores besides department and chain stores where clothes were sold. Some still esist and others have largely disappeared. This is a complicated topic because there have been substntial variations over time and among countries. The importance of these stores These stores were much more important in the 19th and early 20th century than they are today. This is a topic that is difficult to research. The big department and mail order stores are fairly easy to reserarch because they advertized and had catalogs. The many small shops and stores which sold clothes did not leave a historical paper trail that can as easily easily be followed. There is information available on these stores, but it is much less detailed and difficult to obtain.

Individual Stores

HBC has developed information on the following department stores, clothing retailers, and mail order companies. We are just beginning to gather information on the individual stores. HBC would be interested in reader comments about the stores in their countries. We are interested in childhood memories as well as the current status of the stores.

A-L Stores

M-Q Stores

R-Z Stores

National Stores

HBC is developing information on the stores in specific countries as well as retailing trends in. Some of these stores are not large enough to be included in our list of major stores, but none the less the information about them includes valuable details about clothing and fashion trends in those countries. We have a good bit of information about American stores, but only limited information about stores and retail trends in other countries. Hope our international readers will provide us information on the stores that they remember as children.

Social Class


Social class had a major impact on clothing purchases. Clothing was much more expensive in real terms, as a percentage of ones income, than is the case today. Clothing for the average person involved a major expenditure and had to be carefully considered. The reason that clothing was so expensive was that until well into the second half of the 19th century there were fe readtmade garments. People with sufficent money purchased fabric and the trimmings as well as linings (much more common in the 19th century than today) and then had a tailor or dressmaker actually make the garments. The amount of handwork involved made this an expensive proposition. Many made garments at home, sometimes with homespun cloth. But this required considerable effort and without sewing machines and graded patterns, the results were often not very appealing.


Primarily affluent and middle class children in the early 19th century wore clothes specically styled for children. Given the cost of clothes, working class people bought practical garments made out of hard-wearing material. Often parents would cut down old clothes for their children. Thus they in fact wore adult-styled clothes.

Traveling Salesmen

Long before the Montgomery Ward mailorder catalogs that revolutionized retailing in rural areas and small towns, fashion and clothing was distributed by travelling salesmen called pedlars or drummers. There were names common in specific countrirs. In Britain they were called Manchester men, Scotchmen, Talleymen or packmen. Often there were specific days selected for markets and these pedlers would set up a display of their goods.

Used Clothing

Used clothing was an important commodity in the 19th century. Many working class people could simply not afford to buy their clothing new. Major cities often had established used clothing markets. London had such markets in Petticoat Lane and Rosemary Lane. Another was Camp Field in Manchester. Rag and bone men were common in cities all over Europe in the 19th and ecen early 20th century.


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Created: November 7, 2001
Last updated: 7:47 AM 12/20/2008