*** Peter Pan collars on boys clothes: the United States

Peter Pan Collars on Boys' Clothes: The United States

Peter Pan collars
Figure 1.--This American boy in a photograph taken about 1910 wears a kind of informal suit. Notice the blouse worn without being tucked in with a large Peter Pan collar and untied plaid bow. Click on the image for a close up of the collar and bow. It is unclear to HBC just what were the conventions for wearing this suit.

Collars that look much like Peter Pan collars can be found on boys clothing thoughtout the 19th century. It does not appear commonly, however, until after the turn of the 20th century, when elborate lace collars had declined in populrity. Boys wearing dressing outfits increasinly wore ruffled collars, but less formak clothes might be worn with Pete Pan collars. The Eton suit for younger American boys which became popular in the 1920s were at first worn with Eton collars, but gradually the Peter Pan collar replaced the Eton collar. Other styles such as shortalls and button-on suits were also worn with Peter Pan blouses giving them a dressy look.


It is difficult to develop a timeline for Peter Pan collars as the collars clearly existed before the name-sake play and they were called Peter Pan collar. Collars that look much like Peter Pan collars can be found on boys clothing thoughtout the 19th century--although the size varied widely as well as the precise styling. We even seen younger teenagers wearing them. A good example is an unidentified boy in the 1840s. It does not appear as a commonly worn style, however, until after the the late 19th century. They seem to have become populat in the 1890s as a kind of alternative to the elaborate lace abd ruffled collars. This is of course before they would have been called a Peter Pan collar. A good example is a Reading boy. Boys wearing dressing outfits increasinly wore ruffled collars, but less formal clothes might be worn with Peter Pan collars. A good example is the Whitney boys in 1895. We note boys with large Peter Pan collars in the early 0th century. A good example is Floyd Van Horne about 1915. The Eton suit for younger American boys which became popular in the 1920s were at first worn with Eton collars, but gradually the Peter Pan collar replaced the Eton collar. Other styles such as shortalls and button-on suits were also worn with Peter Pan blouses giving them a dressy look.


Early Peter Pan collars could be quite large. The term was first applied at the time when boys still wore large ruffled collar. These early collars were smaller than the ruffled collars or the large collars worn with Fauntleroy suits, but they were much smaller than the ones worn today. Relatively large Peter pan collars might be worn with dressy velvet and other outfits in the 1920s and 30s, but had declined significantly in size by the 1940s.

Blouse Collar

American boys almost always wore Peter pan collars with blouses. they were not commonly pinned on coats. Many of the blouses were buttoned on to the boys pants. Meaning buttons at the waist of the blouse matched button holes in the boy's pants. Of course such garments had to be sold as a seyt so the buttons matched the button holes.


The Peter Pan collar as worn by boys in the late-19th and early-20th century appears to have been considered a less formal alternative to the large ruffled Fauntleroy collars worn at the time. We see boys incvluding younger teen agers wearing detachable both Eton and Peter Pan collars. The rounded Peter Pan collar was an alternative to the pinted Eton collar. There does not seem to have been a juveile or girlish connotation. This began to change in the 1920s as ruffled collars had passed from style. As Eton collars also declined in popularity, the Peter Pan collar continued, but primarily as a style for younger boys and girls. We are not sure why this difference developed. We believe that the Eton collar was seen as a more severe cstyle and that the rounded Perter Pan collar had a softer look more suitable for girls and little boys. We have not seen this discussed in fashion magazines, but it is observaable in the photographic record. This process continued in the 1930s. For younger boys the detacable collar was replace with blouses thstvhad smaller attached collars. The Peter Pan collar by the 1940s was being widely worn by girls, but only worn by younger boys.

Bows and Ties

American boys generally have worn the the Peter Pan collar without bow or ties. This was not generally the case before the turn of the century when we see many examples of boys wearing Peter Pan collars both with and without bows. After the turn of the 20th century we increasingly see boys wearing the Peter Pan collasrs without bows. This was not always the case, but it is the most prevallent pattern. The early more informal outfits with Peter Pan collars were often mafe for play so they did not require bows which were going out of style. Some mothers could not help but add a bow, but usually did not tie it into a perky little bow, but might let it hang untied.

Clothing Styles

Peter Pan collars are now most commonly associated with girls' clothing. We see these collrs in the 19th century. As far as we can tell, they were not all that common and they do not seem to have had the gender connotation that developed in the 20th century. We do not think they were common in the 1920s when sailor, ruffled, and Eton collars were still common. We are still trying to assess just how prevalent they were. We have not noted large numbers of photographs of boys in Peter Pan collars before the World War I era--although we eould be interested in the observations of visitors to this page. We have noted some, but not all that many. Here there seems to have been a social class factor at play. The images we have found with Peter Pan collars are garments that were won mostly by boys from afflurnt families. They are less common with garmnts worn by working class boys. EWe have notice these collars being worn wih quite varietuy if outfits nd not jusdt juvednile garments, although in he 20th century this was the primary trend. Some of these juvenile suit sdtyls styles were especially associated with American boys such as Buster Brown, Oliver Twist, and junior Eton suits. We also note standard uits, juvenile Eton suits, standard suits, rompers, blouses, shortalls, and button-on suits.

Figure 2.--This American boy in the suit above wears knee pants, dark long stockings, and patent leather strap shoes. The stockings and strap shoes, along with the bow, suggest it was not being worn for play--despite the tricycleb which nis a studio prop. Thus HBC is not sure about the conventions for wearing a suit like this.

Juvelile suits

A variety of informal suits appeared for boys in the 1900s-20s. Many were utilitarian informal suits wehich could be worn for play or dressing up. They did not include jackets which were an important part of standasd suits. They could also be worn for a variety of informal occasions. We note American boy Tinsley Armstrong wearing some sort of play suit with a Peter Pan collar about 1910. They included both tunic suits, Buster Brown suits, and Oliver Twist suits. There styling was highly variable with different collars used, but among the many different collar styles were Peter Pan collars. Here Peter Pan collars were just one of the collar choices. Some had large collars. Conventions for dressing up boys were changing. These suits could be used for smart casual occassions that earlier would have required a more formal suit. By the 1910s, knickers were standard for American boys, but many of these suits involved knee pants which continud to be worn for younger boys a while longer. Tunic suits are somewhat of an exception. Here bloomer knickers were more common.

Standard suits

We see American boys wearing Peter Pan collrs with standard suits. These collars were done in various sizes. This included school age boys. This is a little difficult to assess. Larger collrs appeared (1880s). And while there is a huge photographic record by this time, there is a major complication. The tips of many of these large white collars were coverd by huge floppy bows. So we can not tell if we have a pointed Eton collar or a rounded Peter Pan collar.

Juvenile Eton suits

Younger American boys dressed in Eton suits for formal occasions wore Peter Pan collars beginning I think in the late-1920s. The first Peter Pan collar we have noticed is a 1929 article for fashionable clothes worn by boys from wealthy families. We don't think this became common until the 1940s. These suits are called junior Eton suits because Eton collrs were the primary blouse style used, but we do see quite a few boys wearing Peter Pan collars with them.


Peter Pan collars were also commonly worn with rompers. Younger American boys after the turn of the century wore rompers, but they appear t have been more popular in Europe than America.


Blouses for younger boys often had Peter Pan collars during the 1960s. They were a very utilitarian garmet. They could be worn for play as well as for a variety of informal and formalm occassions. They were usually worn with short pants. Just a Peter Pan collar and shorts gave a quite dressy look. Blouses with Peter Pan collars were also commonly worn with shortalls, especially during the 1960s-70s. For a more dressy look, a Peter Pan collar blouse could be worn with an Eton suit.

Figure 3.--For a dressy touch, shortalls were often worn with Peter Pan collars during the 1960s and 70s. They were also useful devices for brother sister outfits.


This utiliarian garment made dressing a small child simple. The shortall could be worn for play, but adding a blouse with a Peter Pan collar gave it a quite dressy look.

Button-on suits

Peter Pan collars have been used on other garmets besides blouses. Various garments including one-piece suits for small boys, for example, were often made with Peter Pan collars. Various color schemes were used. White of course was the most common. Sometimes white collars were edged with colors or patterns matching the suit. In other cases colored collars wrere used.

Hair Styles

We see boys wearing Peter Pan collsrs wsih vsrious hir stgyls. Boys wearing Peter Pan collars at the turn of the century and the 1910s might commonly wear Dutch boy bangs as in the photograph at the top of the page (figure 1). Boys were not commonly seen with ringlet curls as ringlets had begin to go out of style by the time the Peter Pan collar was popular. We see many boys wearin ths collars with bangs. Later boys wearing Peter pan collars in the 1960s might have John-John bangs a less form style of bangs.


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Created: March 18, 1998
Last updated: 6:35 PM 3/14/2022