Garments Worn with Lace Collars and Trim

Figure 1.--This New York boys wears an elegant lace collar with his kiltsuit, probably in the 1880s. There is no matching wrist trim. I'm not sure what color the outfit was, perhaps a light blue.

While Fauntleroy suits and blouses were the most common boys' outfit with which lace collar were worn. They were not the only outfit. Lace collars for boys appeared way before the Fauntleroy craze, but rather ended when fauntleroy suits went out of style. Lace collars were also commnly worn with dresses and tunic suits as well as less commonly with other outfits such as kilt suits and even sailor suits. Basically, some mothers simply pinned a lace collar onto whatever garment a younger boy might be wearing. As true lace was expensive, this generally more formal wear fopr special occasssions. Other outfits were made to be worn with lace collars or with lace worked into garments. The conventions concerning the outfits with which lace collars were worn varied from country to country. Lace appears to have been particularly popular in France.


Lace was a common trim for children'd and adult dresses in the later part of the 19th Century. Both boys' and girls' dresses used lace trim.Some boys wore dresses with lace collars. Boys and girls wore virtually identical dresses until the late 19th century. This began to change in the 1880s and specifically labeled boys dresses became increasingly common. Most dresses, however, were identified as suitable for children, meaning that either boys or girls could wear them. Fancy lace and ruffle trim was less common on ther boy dresses than the girl dresses. However some mothers particularly anxious to adopt the Fauntleroy look even before breeching the boy caused some mothers to select Fauntleroy dresses, velvet with lace collars. Lace was especially common for Fauntleroy dresses or jackets and blouses worn with a kilt skirt. These kilt suit could be converted into proper Fauntleroy suits by simly switching the kilt skirt for kneepants. As specialized dresses for boys developed in the late 19th Century, lace came to be used less commonly as a trim. We note that some of the dresses worn by boys with lace collars were very plain. Sometimes the lace collar and matching wrist trim is the only detailing on the dress. An example here is the American Gullick brothers, probably in the 1880s.


Some pinafores were made with lace trim. The fancier pinafores were for girls, but some boys with particularly fastidious mothers also wore them.


Smocks did not normally have lace collars. They were usually more practical garments. Some smocks, however, were made with lace collars.

Fauntleroy Suits

Fauntleroy suits and blouses were the most common boys' outfit with which lace collar were worn. Lace collars for boys were primary trim worn with Fauntleroy suits from their appearance in the 1880s throgh the first decade of the 20th century. The lace collar was a critical part of the Fauntleroy suit. In fact, some suits were worn with such a large collar and matching wrist trim that it was hard to see the suit itself. Fauntleroy suits were worn with lace collared blouses or had lace collars pinned on the jacket. Usually there was also matching wrist trim. Lace collars with Fauntleroy suits were particularly popular in the 1880s and 90s, but gradualely have way to ruffle collars. Afterwards the turn of the century, especially by the 1910s, lace was less commonly worn and ruffled collars became more common. HBC is unsure as to the reason for this shift. One fashion scholar opines that it was just a change in fashion--a variation to keep the trend fresh. What lace is used also seems to get a bit skimpier. [Jo Paoletti, personal communications, November 18, 1999] One factor may have been the cost of lace. Most of the original lace collars appear to have been on fancy blouses worn with small jackets. Subsequenly separate lace collars and cuffs appear to have been attached to the jacket, but were not part of the blouse.

Kilt Suits

Lace collars were not as commonly worn with the kilt suits, except for the ones made in the Fauntleroy style. Boys usually wore American-styled kiltsuits with wide white collars, but some mothers did decide on lace collars with kilt suits as well. Lace collars with kilt suits were relatively rare until the Fauntleroy craze burst upon the fashion scene (1885). We note a younger Wisconsin boy with a very large lace coolar. And an unidentified New York boy, we think in the early-1880s wearing a velvet kilt suit with a Fauntleroy lace collar. He wears his kilt suit with a velvet tam. Some of the klace collars were elaborate. A good example here is Arthur, a Minnesota boy, wearing a kilt suit in 1885. He has a velvet collar buttoning jacket, pin-on lace collar, and plaid. pleated kilt. He seems to have ringlet curls at his back. And the lace collars might be paired with lace trim and the wrist cuffs. An American boy, probably in the 1890s, wears a black Fauntleroy-styled kilt suit. Rather than a heavily trimmed blouse, this boy wears a pinned on lace collar. Notice the matching wrist cuff trim that has also been pinned on. He wears his collar without a bow, presumably because his mother wanted to show off the lace to best effect. Boys fashions were far more fluid in the late-19th century than is the case today. Those mothers were much more free to choose fashions for their sons, especially their younger sons, often with a more artistic flair than is the case for the modern boy.

Tunic Suits

Tunic suits did not have lace collars as such. Many tunic suits, however, were worn with lace trim and some had lace collars pinned on them. This may have been the case in the early-19th century, but we only have actuyalm images confirming this from mid-century. A good example is the boy in Rebecca Solomopn's 'The Governess', painted in the early 1850s. Her painting depicted an idealized Victorian family. We see more lace trim being used when tunics reappeared as a popular style at the turn-of-the 20th century. This was curiously mostly the sailor styled tunic suits. Mosr of these garments were more sensible utulitarian suits, but some boys had lace trimmed tunics for their besrt party suits. This was a particularly popular style in France, but we note quite a few American boys with fancy lace-trimed tunic suits.

Figure 2.--This 1906 French image shows a girl and a boy in a fancy sailor suit with lace trim. Notice the lace trim around the sailor "V" and at the wrist cuffs.

Sailor Suits

Sailor suits for the most part were relatively plain outfits for boys. For that rason they tended to be much more popular with boys than fancy sailor suits. While they were popular with mothers, some just did not think that a standard sailor suit was suitable without some additional trim. Other mothers believe that a great deal of additional trim was needed. Some mothers simply pinned a lace collar onto whatvever suit a boy wore. A boy might find that an adoring mother might add a lace collar to his sensible sailor suit when he needed an outfit for a special occasion. Some sailor suits were actually made with lace trim. This style was worn to some extent by younger boys in America, but itvwas particularly popular in France. Most boys wore plain sailor suits. The great popularity of the sailor suit, however, mean that very large numbers of boys wore them. Gew boys from the 1880s to the 1920s grew up without wearing a sailor suit. As a result, there are quite a number of images showing boys wearing saolor suits with lace trim.

Other Suits

Many other types of suits were worn with lace trim added. Often lace night be added to a boys first adult looking suit and he night wear it with a floppy bow for a year or two. Other boys might wear a Russian blouse type suit with lace trim. Many other suit types were worn with lace collars. Often these were collars that were just pinned on to the suit.


Headwear was much more common in the period in which lace collars were commonly worn. Boys and men almost always wre caps anf hats. The most common hat style worn with Little Lord Fauntleroy suits and lace collars was the wide-brimmed sailor hat. This was not, however, the only headwear. Just as lace collars were worn with many different garments, there was quite a range of headwear that boys wore with lace collars. Headwear inckluded tams, flat caps, and many other styles. Some of these styles seem, to our modern eyes, rather incongrous to a lace collar.


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Created: April 17, 1998
Last updated: 3:47 PM 9/15/2013