Russian Tunics

Figure 1.--This little American boy in the 1900s wears a white Russian blouse tunics, with matching knickers, and black stockings. Note the colored vertical stripe on his white tunic.

Russian blouse tunics were a popular style for boys around the turn of the 20th Century. Tunics had been worn by boys since early in the 19th Century. The Russian style seems to have been particularly popular in America at the turn of the century.


The 18th Century

The Russian blouse style of course originated in Russia. Its origins must have been in the 18th Century or earlier. As I have seen mid-19th Century images of European boys wearing Russian tunics. I do not know, however, just when this style originated in Russia.

Early 19th Century

European boys wore Russian tunics in the mid-19th Century, possibly before. Victoria dressed the young Prince of Whales, the future Edward VII, in a Russian tunic, with an open square collar. A famous painting shows the young family with the Prince in his red tunic with gold trim. I do not know how common this style was, but think it was primarily worn by aristocratic or wealthy children.

Turn of the 20th Century

The Russian tunic reappeared at the turn of the Century, especially in America. The tunics were different than those worn earlier in the century. The turn-of-the-century tunics did not have comfortable open square collars. Rather they were tightly buttoned at the collar like other boys' suits in the late 19th Century. I am also not sure why this style appeared around the turn of the century. I know it was popular in America. I'm not sure, however, if it also appeared in Britain and the Continent. I believe it was primarily an American fashion--at least outside of Russia. Why it was primarily restricted to America I can not yet explain.


The Russian blouse style tunic was a loose roomy blouse or jacket based on the style worn by Russian peasants. The jacket would often come below the waist giving the impression of a smock-like garment. There were two styles of Russian blouses, an open collared style and a closed collar style

The open collar was generally a comfortable looking open arrangement in square pattern. Some slipped over the head and others had a few buttons starting near a shoulder. I have called this outfit a Russian blouse suit, although I'm not sure what it was called at the time. It is discussed on a separate page.

Closed collar

Turn of the century tunics were worn with a collar that buttoned tightly around the neck. Unlike many styles for boys at the time, there were no stiff large collars and no floppy bows to be worn with it. I'm not precisely sure how they buttoned. I think they were true to the Russian style and they did not button at the back or down the front center. Instead the buttons were offset to the right. Often contrasting trim was added around the buttons.


Early 19th Century open-necked tunics came in a wide variety of colors, often with contrasting trim around the square collar. Some of the colors could be quite bright. The turn-of-the-century tunics were generally light colors, often with contrasting trim. Often an offset vertical strip was used as trim as well as a strip of color at the neck.


I am not sure what kind of stockings were worn with early 19th Century tunics. Boys in the 1890s wore their Russian tunics with long stockings, usually black or other dark colors. Some boys wore white tunics with white stockings. After the turn of the century some boys during the summer would go barefoot when wearing tunics, but this seemed to be more common with sailor tunics than Russian tunics.


I am not sure what type of pants were worn with early 19th Century open necked tunics. I believe they were worn with a variety of pants or pant-like garments, including pantalettes, bloomer-style knickers, and long pants. There was much less variety with turn-of-the century closed necked Russian tunics. They were almost always worn with bloomer-style knickers, often above the knee knickers and long stockings.

Figure 2.--The doll suggests that this child is a girl, but that is not always a sure indicator. Another indicator that his child is a girl is the lack of belt and typical Russian tunic styling.


I believe that Russian tunics were worn only by boys. Girls did, however, wear similar looking smock-like garments. They did not have the vertical trim or the belts worn by boys with tunic outfits. The girls outfits had knicker like pants underneath--not unlike the pants worn by boys. They were worn with both stockings and short socks and often strap shoes.


I know this was a popular style at the turn of the century, but have not yet acquired much information on it. It was a style for younger boys, probably up to about 8 years old. A small boy, however, might wear a Russian blouse outfit for another year or two.


I have little information about what countries Russian blouses were worn. The open collared style appears to have been primarily a European style. I have seen images of English, French, and German boys wearing it and it was almost certainly worn in other countries. It does not, however appear to have been a popular style in America. This does not seemed to have been the case for closed neck Russian tunics which were commonly worn in America.

Similar Garment

Not all Russian-styled garments were tunic suits. Other garments were also made with Russian style collars. The most common were simple blouses, usually with some colored are embroidered work around the neck. There were also short pants suits.

Russian blouses

Boys in the 1910s and early 20s wore simple blouses, usually with some colored are embroidered work around the neck. These were worn much like modern "T" shirts.

Russian short pants suits

The Russian-style was also worn with short pants suits, similar in part to modern jump suits. These suits were popular in Europe during the 1900s and 10s.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: April 10, 1999
Spell checked: July 22, 1999
Last updated: July 30, 1999