*** vintage boys' tunic suits

Vintage Clothing: Tunic Suits

fancy vintage tunic suit
Figure 1.--This was a fancy tunic suit which a boy would wear for sunday school or a party. It was a two piece Summer suit of a snow white corded twill cotton. White was a particularly popular color for summer dress outfits.

There are important museum collections of vintage clothing as well as private collections. Some information is also available from internet and other auctions. These collections are of special interest to HBC because they allow a much more careful inspection of garments than is possible in a photographic image. We are collecting information on different kinds of tunics and tunic suits. These actual garments provide information on other details. Some readers have kindly provided us information about the garments in their collections. Tunic outfits were commonly worn by American and European boys during the 19th and early 20th century. We refer to them as tunic suits, but in America they wee also called bloomer suits. Most surviving tunics suits are from the late 19th and early 20th centuries when tunic suits were common, especially for pre-school boys and boys just beginning school. There were many different styles. The most popular were sailor, Buster Brown, and Russian blouse. Many of the tunic suits were rather plain, play garments, but there were also dress suits, often with fancy trim.

Early Brown Tunic Suit

HBC relies very heavily on photography and as a result we have only limited information in the early-19th century before the invention of photography (1839). Thus vintage clothing is an important source of information. Here we have a dark brown tunic suit. Brown appears to have neen a popular color for boys and wealso see girls wearing brown dresses. The tunic suit was done in heavy wool. The garment was hand-sewn, there was not yet ready-made clotyhes available. The tunic top was long, extending to knee length. It has an empire (narrow) waist with a flared skirt. There are dropped shoulders with full leg-o-mutton baloon caps with crescent shaped sleeves. The jewel neckline is emphasized with black silk. Two capelet-like pieces of material extend from the front waist to back waist at an angle beyond the shoulders. It widens into long split points at the top of each shoulder. It almost look like a "V" sailor front, but this was before sailor styling was popular. There is also a 3" wide fabric belt, a self-belt done in the same fabric as the tunic and extends all the way around. There are shiny brass buttons along the front edge of capelet pieces. This provides the suit with a military appearance, a popular look for boys. There are 24 brass buttons with 3 extra on each sleeve and two on the front of the self-belt. The tunic is lined in light brown cotton. The center front of the tunic and the belt use hooks and eyes as closing devices. The tunic comes with matching long pants and are also lined in brown cotton and batting. The long pnts were done to ankle length. Tunics in the early 19th century were popular before shortened-length pants for boys appeared.

Linnen Sailor Tunic

We have noted a linnen sailor tunic worn at the turn of the 20th century by an American boy. This emacualte sailor suit was worn by an American boy about the turn of the 20th century. It was made in white linnen. The tunic as with all such tunics had long sleeves. It had basic sailor styling with a "V" front collar and back flap. The "V" front is cut much deeper than on a normal middly blouse. The tunic is all white without any colored detailing as well. It was probably worn with a matching white linnen belt, although it is not shown here. The matching white linnen bloomer knickers have elasticized legs. They seem to have been made to wear above the knees. They opened at the side with two buttons to put on or take off. There are no pockets on the tunic, nor do they appear to be any on the bloomer knickers. Note that there is no label in the tunic.

Fancy Sailor Cotton Tunic

This was a fancy tunic suit worn by an American boy. A boy might wear it for tunic suit which a boy would wear for sunday school or a party and it might be his best outfit. It was a two piece Summer suit of a snow white corded twill cotton. White was a particularly popular color for summer dress outfits. It was a white suit and probably dates to about 1905. It was done in a basic sailor styyle with a deep front "V" and back slap. Accented with a frilly eyelet lace sailor style collar and complimenting lace and attached lace belt, a hidden side of front button closure to the blousy box pleated drop waist skirted tunic, and matching short pants having drawstrings at the waistband and legs. A 30" loose fitting chest and waist, 10" from shoulder to shoulder, 19" from shoulder to hem, and an 8" inseam. A superb original boy's Summer suit that exemplifies the Edwardian era.

Fancy Cotton Sailor Tunic

This vintage boy's sailor tunic dates from the turn of the 20th century, probably the 1900s. It is a white cotton three piece suit, tunic, dickey and knickers. It has white lace trim on the sailor collar, meaning that it was a dress suit worn for special occassions. It may have been the boy's best summer outfit. It is double breasted with pearl buttons. Coat is 22" long - shoulder to shoulder 14". Length of sleeves 12.5", chest is 32". Knickers are 17" long, hips 28", waist is 24". I an not sure about the age of the boy. I would have guesed a boy 5-6 years old. The size, however, suggests a somewhat older boy, perhaps about 10 years old.

Bluebird Tunic

This is a light blue boy's tunic with a lace collar made for an American boy. An auction seller describes this boy's tunic as, "A simply heavenly circa 1900 hand made boy's powder blue linen tunic that was lovingly hand embroidered with four bluebirds. A contrasting white cotton embroidered collar with a matching buttonhole embroidered side of front 7 shell button closure. Turned white cotton cuffs, an attached belt, and an inverted back pleat accent. 11" from shoulder to shoulder and 24" from shoulder to hem. In excellent clean sound condition, with only a few pin dot age flaws if you look real hard for them. A darling Edwardian boy's embroidered tunic." We have no information as to when this tunic was made, but would guess that about 1905-10 would be a reasonable estimate. These tunics were very popular for boys in the 1900s and 1910s, but declined in popularity after World War I.

White Embroidered Tunic

Here we have a white sailor tunic. These white tunics seem to have been very popular for summer wear. We believe it is the tunic part of a tunic suit, but the pants are lost. The pants were probably white bloomer knickers, but knee pants were also worn. There is some embroidered white detailing on the back flap and sleeve, but this is difficult to see on the white suit. The tunic has a back sailir flap, black scarfe, detachable dicky, and wide white belt. The brand name of the suit was Tom Sawyer, a popular brand at the time. We have noted brands for Tom Sawyer clothing in magazines at the time. The tunic is not dated, but we would guess it was made about 1920.

Bright Blue Sailor Tunic

Here we have a sailot tunic which looks to have been worn by a boy about 5 years old. It was a Sears outfit--the Ucanttear brand. A dealer suggests it was dated from 1909 to 1919. I wouldn't be that specific, but is a reaonable estimate. These sailor tunics were akso popular in the 1900s, but I'm less certain about the chronology of the Ucanttear brand. The blue sailors jacket is just a little smaller than an overcoat that was worn with it. The bloomer knickers match the tunic. They are 17 inches long. The dickey that goes around the neck has button holes that match up to the jacket. The matching sailors tam is 12 inches across the top, 7 inches across the part that goes on the head. There is also a black sailor scarfe. The lined overcoat is 11 inches between the arm seams on the back, it is about 26 inches long. There is a red arm insignia. The collar is velvet.


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Created: May 23, 2003
Last updated: 8:36 PM 6/21/2011