Fancy blouses existed befor Mrs Burnett wrote her book, especially in France. They were, however, not very common, The classic Little Lord Fauntleroy suit was worn with a small velvet jacket to create the full Fauntleroy suit. The classic Fauntleroy jacket was worn open at the front to best display the elaborate ruffled and lace trimed placket of the blouse. There were different types of Faunteleroy blouses. It could be worn with other suits or even without a suit jacketduring the summer. The blouses were done in a miriad of materials and styles. Burnett's book created a fashion sensation (1885). The Fauntleroy blouse became a major boy's garment in America. It was also an imprtnt item in several European countries, but no where was it as widely woen as in America.
Francis Hogson was born in Manchester England (1849). After her father died, he mother took the family to America when she was 4 years old. She married Swan Burnett (1873). He became a doctor and the family spent 2 years in Paris. Upon returning to America, she began writing sentimental novels. It was there she saw boys wearing fancy suits, probably the origins of Cedric suits in Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. Burnett published Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885). We notice fancy blouses earlier, but the really fancy ones suddenly became enormously popular after the publication of her book. The suit itself tend to be a plain cut-away jacket and knee pants. The fancy part was the blouses worn with it. The Fauntleroy or fancy blouse is strongly associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. Actually Cedric's clothing is not described in great detail by Mrs. Burnett in her book. What became the Fauntleroy suit was more due to the illustrations in the book than her descriptions. The Fauntleroy style was distinctive in many ways, but one of the most interesting, is that the outfits that the boys actually wore can be more fancy than the descriptions are even the illustrations. Commonly the boys outfits in illustrations and magazines are more idealized than what boys wore in reality--nit the Fauntleroy suit and blouses. We see boys wearing fancy blouses both with and without Fauntleroy suits in the late-19th and early-20 century. A good example is the Harrison boys in America about 1890. They began to decline in popularity after the turn-of-the 20th century. And go out of style style in the 1910s, especially after Wold War I (1914-18). But we continue to see scaled-down outfits for younger boys echoing the Fauntleroy style into the 1930s.
There were different types of Fauntleroy blouses. The principal variations concerned the collar and the bottom hem. There were different kinds of collars. Some blouses had lace collars and others ruffled collars. The lace collars were more common in the classic Fauntleroy era, from about 1885-1895. Blouses with real lace could be quite expensive. This somewhast limited the size of the collar. As the turn of the century appraoched, the ruffled collars became increasingly common. Some had pleats rather than ruffles. There were also many Fauntleroy blouses with lace trim worked into ruffled collars. They were very common in the classic era. Most of these blouses were closed collar garments, buttoned at the collar. These were often, but not always worn with bows. We also notice open collar Fauntleroy blouses (figure 1 and 2). These were worn with dickies. We do not note them very commonly in the photographic record. The other major variation was the waist hem. Many bloses had draw strings and tus blouced out at the waist. Other blouses buttoned on to the pants. We have jist begun to work on this section. There may have been other tyoes thast we have not yet noted.
The Fauntleroy blouses varied greatly. Many were hand sewn, although there were also less expensive ready made versions available. There were Fauntleroy blouses with modest collars, but medium and large sized collars appear to have been more popular.
The front of a classic Fauntleroy blouse had lace and ruffled trim matching that of the collar and the cuffs. The classic blouses were all one piece. They were easily destinguishable because they were designed to be worn with small, open jackets. The classic Fauntleroy jacket was small and worn open so the front detailing of the blouse could be seen. The jacket was was open to show off the fancy front piece work of the blouse. Later Fauntleroy jackets were larger and worn closed and even buttoned at the collar. Separate lace collars and cuff trim were pinned on to these jackets. The closed jackets, however, covred up the had the fancy front pieces. The front piece was not only ornamental, but also had a practical purpse--the buttons were worked into. The material used varied from fancy lace to more mundane fabrics. During the summer boys often wore these blouses without the jackets so the etire jacket can be seen.
An almost obligatory element of a Fauntleroy suit was a large, fancy collar. Many, but not all Fauntleroy suits had matching, equally fancy wrist cuffs. A classic Fauntleroy blouse also had lace and ruffled trim to match the collar trim. The cuffs varied greatly in length. They extended well beyond the boys hand and were designed to be folded back over the sleeves of the jacket Sometimes the cuff trim extended back to the boys elbow. This was not obligatory. We see many portraits with boys in fancy Fauntleroy suits without fancy cuffs. The fancy cuffs, however were very common. HBC is not sure about the precise construction of the fancy wrist cuffs which were often worn to match the ruffled or lace collars in Fauntleroy outfits. Some of the collars and ciuffs were part of fancy blouses. This meant that the blouses were made with sleve lengths exctending well beyond the boy's writs. They were then doubled over adter he put on his jacket so they cobered the lower portion of the jacket sleeve. Others appear to have been separate items sewn on to the jackets. One HBC contributor believes that they were worn with cuff links.
An example of a Fauntleroy blouse with matching cuffs is Robert Mason Hamilton, a Chicago boy in 1897.
A Fauntleroy blouse could be made of India or China silk,
surah, linen lawn, figured batiste, white French percale
or fine nainsook. White cambric was another popular material. The
blouse was was trimmed with lace, fine embroidery or rows of
Fauntleroy suits were often made in black velvet, but other dark colors such as blue, black, burgandy, and green were also made. The blouses, however, were usually made in white and cream to contrast best with the usually dark colored suits. Some color information can be found in the Fauntleoy blouse actual bouse section. Paintings and store catalog listings provide further information. While white and white shades like cream and ivory were the most common, Fauntleroy blouses were also made in a range of colors, including some quite bright colors. Here the black and white photography can give us only clues about actual colors. Painted portraits are much more helpful for the actual shades and colors. This was primarily because these blouses were often worn without the velvet Fauntleroy jacket which would be quite hot during the summer. Many images from the late 19th century show boys wearing these blouses without the jacket, although for formal portraits the jacket was usually worn. In which case the boy wore a white blouse. We have not noted images of boys wearing brightly colored Faiuntleroy blouses with a complelete Faintleroy suit. Some color infformation can be found in the "actual blouse" sectiion below. Paintings and store catalog listings provide further information.
HBC primarily has used actual period photographs to illustrate the various style pages. While these are the most useful images, they have some drawbacks. Often the photograph is taken at some distance to get a full view of the boy or family group, thus losing detail. In other instances the garment might be covered up or obscured. Un the case of Fauntleroy blouses, they are often covered by the boy's jacket. Also the old black and white photographs do not show colors. For these and other reasons, we also archive actual modern photographs of actual blouses from museums and private collections.
A typical Fauntleroy blouse was advertised in the 1893 issue of the Dileneator:
The blouse is cut from India silk and has a seamless yoke that is square at the back and rounding in front and is cut away at the front to accommodate a short shield. The shield is prettily trimmed with cross rows of braid. The full back and fronts depend from the yoke and are joined in underarm seams; the fullness is arranged at the top in backward-turning plaits at each side of the center of the back and in forward-turning plaits at each side of the closing which is made at the center of the front with buttonholes and buttons. The blouse droops in regulation fashion and is turned under and stitched at the bottom to form a casing through which tapes are passed to hold the garment well into the figure. At the neck is a turnover collar, the tapering ends of which meet below the shield. A bow of ribbon is placed over the closing just below the shield. The free edge of the collar is prettily trimmed with a frill of embroidered edging. The full sleeves are finished with narrow wristbands which are concealed by rolling cuffs that are prettily rounded at the outside of the arm. The free edges of the cuffs are trimmed with frills of embroidered edging.
The Fauntleroy craze spread throughout North America and Europe. Thus Fauntleroy blouses were widely worn. The blouses were especially popular in the United States where the Fauntleroy style was especially popular. We see large numbers of American boys wearing them. They were worn in England, France, Italy and many other countries throughout Europe. We have less information on European countries than on America. W note mail order offerings in both America and England. One reason that the Fauntleropy blouse appeared at a time of enormous economic expansion. America was making a transition from a backward frotier country to an wealyhu induistrial giant. Fortunes were beuing made. Woke historians like to focus on the industrial moguls. Less attention is given to the fact that both the middle-class and workers eere benefitting. This is why European workers flocked to Anerica in their millions. And the millions of Americans energing from rural poverty into urban affluence wanted to how off their success. Fressing their children in elvorate, showy outfits was one way to do this.
We notice many portraits of boys wearing Fauntleroy blouses without the jackets. This was only a style for boys. For many years it was seen as inappropriate for an adult man to appear in public without a jascket. But this was seen as acceptable for boys. There was even a term for it--shirt-sleeve youngsters. We believe that this was primarily a summer fashion when it was too hot for boys to wear jackets. This seems a logical conclusion. This is a thesis a little hard to test in the photographic record because so many old portrairs are undated. We have, however, noted noted some boys wearing just blouses even in the Winter. An example is a Canadian boy in 1897.
A variety of garments were worn with Fauntleroy blouses.
Caps were often an important part of a Fauntleroy outfit. With the 1893 Delineator article a made of velvet was recommended. It had a hexagonal crown joined to a band which fits the head closely. A tassel is attached to the center of the crown and droops jauntily at the right side. The cap could be made of the same kind of material as the trousers or may contrast effectively with them, as preferred.
The Delineator recommended that the blouse be worn with a Fauntleroy suit. The editor explained that "Blouse suits are always admired for little boys. The suit fashioned for 2 to 8t year olds is here pictured made of white India silk and black velvet and is especially attractive."
The same style of Fauntleroy blouse could be worn by boys wearing either kilt/skirts or kneepants. Boys commonly wore Fauntleroy blouses with their kilt suits. The kilt suit had a jacket, and often a best, to go with the kilt skirt. Boys might wear the blouse with just the kilt skirt--this was especially common during the summer. The blouse worn with the kilt suit, however, was precisely the same as the worn worn with a Fauntleroy suit. Thus when a boy was breeched he could continue wearing the same blouse. We know that these Fauntleroy blouses with kilt suits were commonly worn by American boys. We are less sure to what extent they were worn by boys in other countries.
Fancy Fauntleroy trousers are made of
black velvet. They were often made without a fly. The Delineator
added that the trousers were "... shaped by the usual seams along the inside and outside of the legs and by a seam at the center of the front and back. They extend to the knees and are closed at the sides." Velvet, corduroy, cheviot, diagonal tweed, fancy mixed suiting, and other materials could be used for the kneepants.
We have archived quite a number of individual boys wearing Fauntleroy blouses. Our plan is to link many of these pages here so the reader can see the many varied examples of Fauntleroy blouses. Many of these are American boys. Unfortunately we have hust begun to do this. One example is a Canadian boy in 1897. Another Canadian example is A. Balfour in 1898.
Interesting sites, careful as these will take you away from the "Boys' Historical Clothing Website".
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