*** vintage Amertican boys' black velvet kilt suit

Vintage Clothing: American Boys' Black Velvet Kilt Suit (1898)

Figure 1.--Here e have a three piece black velveteen kilt suit. It includes the kilt jacket, kilt skirt, and vest. The three pieces all has=ave same dark grey decorarive piping, a little difficult to see because it is so dark. It was worn with a large plaid floppy bow and lace collar. The lace collar pictured here is not oruginal. The size is repordekly 4-6 years, although a picture of Harris Witmore Jr. who wore it shows a slightly younger boy. Harris was the model for Marie Cassat's 'Boy with the golden curls' (1898), although for the painting, Harris is depicted in a blue sailor outfit.

Here we see a black velvet kilt suit worn by Harris Whittemore Jr. in 1898. e see him pictured with Marie Cassat wearing the suit. Kilt suits were a popular outfit worn by younger American boys for half a century (1850-1900). It was a style that originated in Britain, reflecting Queen Victiria's love of Scotland. We see some after the turn of the 20th century, but not very many. Black was not very common for kilt suits. This one was done with grey piping and decoration. Harris would be the model for Marie Cassett's painting 'Boy wuth golden curls'. She would, howevr, paint him in a blue sailor outfit. Here we see the full suit showing the jacket with the floppy bow and lace collar along wih the vesr and kilt skirt (figure 1), but we also have images of the various other garments which help us understand the outfit in greater dertail. Looking at these garments, it us amazing the effort and exoense tghat went into formally dressing young boys.

Floppy Bows

Large floppy bows were an importasnt part of Little Lord Fauntleroy styling. We see Faunteroy suits were worn both with and without these bows. They were optional, but very popular and could be huge. We have noted much larger bows than the one seen here. They were much less common on kilt suits, but the choice of bkack makes this outdit looks rather like a Fauntleroy outfit. These bows helped add a little flash of color to these somber black outfits. In this case he choice of a basiclly dark blue bow (figure 1) does not do this as effectively as many io the bows boys wore with more bright collars. The bow we actually see Harris wearingb looks likea coloful plaid. Dressing the boy took some effort. Just think how much effort went into the bow along.

Lace Collar

Lace collars for boys are strongly associated with this period. Actually they were relatively rare. This was true for both Fauntleroy suits and kilt suits. What was common was large ruffled collars. Some had lace trim, but most did not. This is not the lace collar that Harris actually wore, but it is similar (figure 1). It has been added to show what his outfit actually looked like. Lace is expensive and thus could not be done in the size that most mothers wanted for these collars. You can not see it poperly because of the floppy bow, but a back view gives an excellent view of the collar.


The jacket which we see here is a heavily decorated black velvet jacket (figure 1). The black velvet is suggestive of a Fauntleroy suit. Blck was not the onlyb volor, but it was by far the most importasntv color. Most of the decoration is on the front, but there is some decoration on the back as well. It is a cut-away jacket. Fauntleroy jackets were done in the cut-away style to show off the fancy blouse. In this case, it is to show off the fancy vest. There is both piping and embroidery. The style of decoration on the jacket is repeated on the vest and kilt skirt. Some kilt suit jackets were basically the same as a standard suit jacket, but there were jackets specifically made for kilt suits. Harris' jackets was one of the jackets that were specifically one as a kilt suit jacket. The decoration is much more elaborate than you see on Fauntleroy jackets. What we see on Fauntleroy jackets is often embroidery done in black thread and often virtually invisible in photogrphic portraits.


Vests were much more common in the 19th than the 20th century. We are not sure why, just the greater formality of 19th centyry dress. Perhaops the lack of central heating was a factor. This is a very highly decorated vests, one of the most highly decorated vests we have found, either for kilt suits or regular suits. Notice the decorated areas are the areas that would show. The upper areas were covered up by the jacket. There is an amazing amount of decorative emnbrodiery. While the black velvet is suggestive of Fauntleroy suits, the vest is the exact opposite of the Fauntleroy suit. The vest covered uop what ever blouse or shirt was being worn. The Fauntleroy cut-away jacket was designed to show off the fancy Fauntleroy blouses to best effect. Vests were very commonly worn wih kilt suits. Not all were done with vest, but our initial assessment is that most were. Vests were very common with standard suits as well in the 19th century.

Kilt Skirt

Like the vest, the jacket decoration was also continued on the kilt skirt. Unfortumately, the waistline is covered up by the vest. Thus we do not get to see the waustine and to see hw it was fastened. So we do not know just how these garments differed from a standard skirt. he front was decorated, but plain, the rest is pleated all the way around. All the decoration is at the front. From the front, they seem to be very sharp pleats. From the bck they look like box pleats. Unlike Highland kilts, we do not normally see bright plaid kiklts with these suits, although many of the suits were done in very muted plaids. This was, hiwever, not just for the kilt suit, but for all the suit garments


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Created: 7:45 PM 7/23/2023
Last updated: 8:00 AM 7/24/2023