Outfits Worn with Floppy Bows

Figure 1.--This Wisconson bow wears a medium-sized floppy bow. I'm not sure about the color. The portraot is undated, but looks to be taken in the 1900s.

Boys might wear bows with a wide range of outfits. Floppy bows are probably most associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits. They were, however, worn with many other outfits. This included a variety of suits as well as just a fancy blouse without a suit jacket. Often boys wore bows with a new suit, but after a few years stopped wearing the bows. We see families with the same are similar suits, but the younger voys wearung floppy bows. Floppy bows were often added to plain sack suits. Tunic suits were commonly worn with bows when dressing up. Sailor suits were normally worn with knotted scarves, but some mothers added bows to them as well.

Little Lord Fauntleroy Suits

Boys might wear bows with a wide range of outfits. Floppy bows are probably most associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits. Some may consider them a Little Lord Fauntleroy garment. Large bows of varying patterns and colors were commonly worn with the large lace colalrs common with classic suits. The lace collars were always buttoned, never with open collar arrangements. After the turn of the century, bows were less common with the increasingly popular ruffled collars. Some ruffled collars were worn open. The bow was, however, an optional item. Fauntleroy suits were worn with elaborate lace or ruffled collars. This was a necessary element. Some were worn with large floppy bows, but others weee not. This was the mother's option.

Russian Blouses

Russian blouses and blouse tunics were worn in two basic styles. One was a close fitting, often buttoned collar. The other was a collarless square neckline. Both rhese Russian blouse styles were worn without bows. These outfits appeared in the early Victorian period and were one of the few American boys' suits worn without bows or other neckwear. American boys in the late 19th century wore a varierty of outfits which oftnn included large, neatly tied floppy bows. Bows were also worn by European boys, but they were not as large or usually as neatly tied.

Scottish Kilt

Highland kilts have normally not been worn with bows. Formal Scottish kilt outfits were worn with a lacey jabot instead of a bow. The jabots for formal outfit can be quite an elaborate lace garment. Less formal kilts were worn with a variety of shirts. Currently kilts, except for formal occasions, are worn with tweed jackets and ties.

Kilt Suits

Kilt suits, unlike true Scottish kilts, were commonly worn with bows. The bows, however, were often not nearly as large as those worn with Fauntleroy suits. This is especially true of the kiltsuits worn in the 1870s before the Fauntleroy craze of the 1880s. Larger bows were worn with the kilt suits worn in the 18890s and 1890s.


Bows were not just worn with suits. Boys in the late 19th and early 20th century were often dressed up in just a blouse without any suit jackets. This was especially common during the summer in the days before air conditing. Boys dressed in suits and long stockings could be very uncomfortable in the warm weather, especially in southern United States. The blouses involved varied widely from lacey Fauntleroy blouses with elaborate lace collars or ruffled collars to much plainer shirt waists not much different than dads. The blouses also varied greatly in the size of the collar. The great variety of course had a substantial impact on how the bow looked. Like the bows worn with Fautleroy suits, there was a great variety of sizes, materials, and colors for the bows worn with blouses. In fact the variety was much greater, especially the colors and patterns. Bows were not always dark colors or white. There were also many other acceptable patterns than just plaid.

Sailor Suits

Floppy bows are not normally associated with sailor suits. Some mothers, however, when bows were particularly popular did add them. An example is Maurice Carmichael Tweedie, an English boy in 1878.


Modern-looking suits for boys began appearingbin the 1870s, about the same time large bows began to be worn by boys. Boys during the late 19th Century generally received adult-styled suits at any where from 8 to 14 years of age. The suits were in a variety of styles, both single and double breasted. The younger boys wearing these suits might wear them with bows rather than the more aduly styled neckwear. Almost all of the boys wearing collar bows with suits wore kneepants suits. Once boys graduated to long pants suits, they generally no longer wore collar bows.


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Created: 10:06 PM 12/28/2006
Last updated: 10:06 PM 12/28/2006