** blouses: country styles -- United States








Blouses: Country Styles--America


Figure 1.--This Am,erican photo postcard is undated, but HBC would estimate it at about 1910. By that date these large collar blouses were going out of style for boys. Notice that there are no matching wrist ruffles. Click on the image for a more detailed assessment of this image.

Perhaps the most famous blouses worn by American boys were the Fauntleroy blouses with lace or ruffled collars during the 1880s and 90s. Most of the these were blouses with attached collars and cuffs. All were long sleeves. Some of the lace collars pinned on, but many of the large collars seen in the old photgraphs are blouses with attached collars. These blouses came in a wide variety of styles. They were most notable for the sometimes huge size of the collar and matching cuffs. This contrasts with the Eton collars which almost always were detachable collars. Yonger boys increasing in the 1930s began wearing the American version of an Eton suit. The first ones appear to have been worn with detachable Eton collars, but soon blouses with small Eton-style collars appeared. Gradually the Peter Pan collar began to replace the Eton collar wore with these suits. Some American boys wore blouses until about the 1980s when they became less common. Blouses were mostly worn by boys from affluent families, primarily by boys not yet of school age. A few school age boys to about 6 or 7 might wear blouses. Most of the older boys wearing blouses wore ones with Peter Pan collars often with Eton suits. By the 1980s, blouses were only worn by very young children or for formal occasions like weddings. radually the Peter Pan collar began to replace the Eton collar wore with these suits.

Style

Blouses were done in many different styles. The major style elements were the collar, front, sleeves and cuffs. Color ws also used as a style element. We note blouses with small collars and ballon sleeves. An good example is an unidentified American boy. This style was popular in the mid-19th century. Perhaps the most famous, some would say notorious, blouses worn by American boys were the Fauntleroy blouses with lace or ruffled collars during the 1880s and 90s. These Fauntleroy blouses came in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They were worn both with Fautleroy suits and without a jacket during the summer. A good example exhere is an unidentified American boy. American boys of course have worn many other types of blouses. The middy blouse was perhaps worn by more American boys than any other style--at least in proportional terms. They were most notable for the sometimes huge size of the collar and matching cuffs. This contrasts with the Eton collars which almost alwats were detachable collars. Yonger boys increasing in the 1930s began wearing the American version of an Eton suit. The first ones appear to have been worn with detachable Eton collars, but soon blouses with small Eton-style collars appeared.

Blouse Suits

The blouse was primarily a shirt-type garment, ususlly worn with trousers of some kind in a heavier materil. They were worn by both chidren and women. A shirt-type blouse was usually a dressy garment hile a shirt could be either dressy or casual. It often differed from a shirt because it did not have tails. We note seversl different styles. This was the most common type of blouse and what is commonly meant by the term blouse. The other type of blouse was a blouse suit. this was a blouse with pants mde in he same material. They were often similar to tunic suits. The blouse was shorter than the tunic, but otherwise the garments looked very similar. They were often worn with detachable collars. They were less common thasn the standard blouse, but we note them in the lste-19th and early-20th century. There were several different types. We note Buster Brown and sailor styles. They were done for younger boys up to about 8 years, although that is only an initisl assessment.

Ages

Boys have commonly worn blouses, but the ages of the boys involved and the popularity of the blouse as a boys' garment have changed sunstantially over time. Blouses were widely worn by boys, especially in the 19th century. While we have only limited information on the early 19th century, we know quite a bit about the mid- and late-19th century, thanks to catalgs and photography. There were no image of the blouse as a girl's or woman's garment. We note boys commonly wearing from the time they were breeched to about 12-13 years of age. This continured into the early 20th century. After World War I boys begn to mostly wear shirts. Younger boys might wear blouses, especially when dressing up, but the blouse primarily becme seen as a girl's or woman's garment.

Elements

The basic elements of a blouse are the collat, sleeves and cuffs, front, and bottom hem. There are many variations on these basic elements. The characteristics of these elements have changed very significantly over time. The collar is probably the most noticeable element of the blouse. Blouses had attached collars. The basic exception to this was pin-on lace collaes. Collars have varied very substantially in size. Very small collars were common in the mid-19th century and very large by the late-19th cetury. We also notice collars with back flaps in the late 19th and ealy 20th century. Fronts were generally plain, but we notice very fancy ones during the Fauntleroy craze of the late-19th century. Some of the lace collars pinned on, but many of the large collars seen in the old photgraphs are blouses with attached collars. A good example is the Kemp brothers in 1898. Blouses had long sleeves until after World war I. We note some boys with short sleeves at the turn-of -the 20th century, but I think that they have just rolled up their sleeves. Some blouse sleeves were done with fancy cuffs, especially during the Fauntleroy craze. The cuffs might be made to match the collar. Blouses in the late 19th centiry were dne wkth draw-string closures which created a bloucing effect. After World War I they were somply done without tails.

Chronology

The primary difference between a blouse and a shirt is that blouses do not have shirt tails. HBC is unsure about whay American boys wore in the early 19th century. The first blouses that we can be sure about are the middy blouse and the Fauntleroy blouse. We noted sailor styles appearing in America by the 1850s, but they do not become a major style until the 1880s. Likewise, boys wore fancy blouses in the 1870s well before Mrs. Burnett published Little Lord Fauntleroy, but it was in the 1880s and 90s that the Faintleroy-craze occurred and the collars of the blouses reached enormous sizes and level of frills anf other detailing. A good example is an unidentified American boy in the 1890s. Eton collars were not worn on blouses but rather as detachable collars for shirts or waists. Blouses with Peter Pan and other large collars appear at the turn-of-the 20th century. It is only after World War I (1914-18) that blouses with somewhat modified Eton collars begin to appear. Some American boys wore blouses until about the 1980s when they became less common. A few school age boys to about 6 or 7 might wear blouses. Most of the older boys wearing blouses wore ones with Peter Pan collars often with Eton suits. By the 1920s school-age boys began to object to the idea of wearing bloses. They wanted to wear shirts with more adult styling. A ood reflection of that trend was a Procter & Gamble ad in 1926.

Bows

The fancy blouses worn by American boys during the late 19th and early 20thcenturies were worn both woth and without dloppy bows. This appears to have been entirely at the disgression of the mother's fashion sence. Bows were also popular for girls, especially hair bows. It is likely that girls took an interst in selecting and wearing bows. In the case for boys, however, it is likely that it was almost entirely bows that mother selected, insisted they wear, and did the bow tieing. We do not think adding floppy bow made the outfit any more dressy or formal. It was simply a fashionable decorative embellishment. Bows were worn with a variety of collar, some of which in the late 19th century were enormous.

Color

White blouses seem to have been very popular. This seems especially true for the blouses worn with suits. We note, however, in the late 19th and early 20th century, boys wearing just blouses without jackets for summer wear. With these blouses we see more colored blouses. While most blouses were white, but there were colored blouses as well. This is very difficult to assess with the black and white images from the late-19th and early 20th century. The most obvious were the dark colored blazers. Some look almost balack, but I am not sure if boys actually wore black blouses. It may be just a dark color. Light-colored blouses are more difficult to destinguish from white, esecially pastel shades in period-black and white photography. Further dfficulties arose by the vrying sensitivity of film to color. The informatiom we are collecting in the catalog section of HBC is a useful tool to use necause color information was often contained in the ad copy.

Patterns

Patterns are obviously much easier to make out than colors in the phogographic record. Most blouses were solid colors. Even so we do notice a number of patterened blouses. We do noy yet know much about the patterns as our archive is still limited. The vast number of blouses we ave found were solid colored, usually white. As far as we now the pattene bl;ouss were patterns on a white-colored blouse, We are not yet sure about the types of patterns. We notice polka-dots, but there were other patterns.

Conventions

We had thought that the fancy blouses worn in the late-19th and early-20th century were mostly worn for formal dress and to a lesser extent school. We see them being worn for formal occassions as well as studio portraits with every one wearing their best clothes. The full range of conventiond is difficult to assess in the 19th century because photography was mostly formal studio portraits where mother dressed up the children in their best outfits. The Kodal Brownie followed by other cameras changed this in 1900. All of sudden we have all kinds of family snapshots depicting everyday like. We note one photograph of two Michigan boys returning hime from a fishing expedition dressed in fancy blouses. And we note two New York city boys playing in the street. So we think that they may have been worn for casual wear as well as formal occassions.

Social Connotations

Blouses were widely worn in the 19th century by boys of all social classes. We see boys at the turn-of-the 20th century still wearing blouses. Blouses with draw-string waists were very common. Catalog sizing and the photographic record suggests that boys up to age 12 commonly wore them. Social class was probably a factor here. We note boys at a rural school in Tennesse wearing fancy blouses, but only the younger boys. These fancy blouses become much less common in the 1910s. Blouses began to decline sharply after World War I, esopecially for school-age boys. Boys began wearing shirts rather than blouses in the 1920s. After World War II blouses were mostly worn by boys from affluent families, primarily by boys not yet of school age.

Special Occassions

American boys by the 1950s were only wearing blouses for formal occasions like weddings. And they were being worn by increasingly younger boys.







HBC





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Created: April 16, 2002
Last updated: 5:17 AM 1/3/2010