Little Lord Fauntleroy Suits: Boys' Views

Figure 1.--

As popular as Fauntleroy suits were with mothers, the same can not be said for their sons. Boys in the late 19th Century had much less to say about their clothes than is the case of the modern boy. That is not to say that they did not have their opinions on the matter and the opinions were almost universally negative. This was especially true if. as was popular in America, ringlet curls were added to the velvet suit and lace collar.

Various Incidents

The Fauntleroy suit was certainly not "universally favored", as Godey's claimed. The boys of America had very different opinions and had usually not been consulted by their mothers or polled by fashion editors. Nor were their fathers often consulted, the home and younger children being seen as the province of the mother. Newspapers carried occasional, unsubstantiated rumors of boys deliberately ruining their velvet finery. There is even one story, possibly apocryphal, of an 8-year-old in Iowa who burned down the family barn to protest his mother buying him a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. [Ann Thwaite, Waiting for the Party (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974), p. 117.]

Biographies describing boyhood experiences in the late 19th and early 20th century include numerous accounts of boys who were teased for wearing Little Lord Fauntleoy suits. Other were teased for being Lottle Lord Fauntleroys, meaning boys who wore fancy outfits, although not always precisely Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. Harry Hopkins (1890- ) was a key adviser to President Roosevelt. His biographer tells about Dwight Bradley who grew up in a small Iowa town, Grinnell. He was the son of the college president. Dwight and his brother were raised to be "quasi-Little Lord Fauntleroys". We are not sure just what that mean, but presumavly referred to how they were dressed. Harry and his junior highschool friends tied Dwight to a telephone pole and announced that they were going to burn him at the stake. The boys lit a fire and Dwight was terrified. Harry in the end used his jackknife to cut Dwight free. The two became good friends. [McJimsey, p. 8.]

Book Sales

One indicator of the popularity of the Fauntleroy suit was the popularity of Mrs. Burnett's book among boys. The New York Times polled 400 boys in 1895 about the best books for children to advise parents on the best Christmas purchases. The resulting list included Ivanhoe, The Three Musketeers and several works by Dickens--but no Frances Hodgson Burnett, despite the thousands of copies of Little Lord Fauntleroy which had been sold. ["Three Best Books for Children," New York Times, December 8. 1895, p.27, col. 6.]

Modern Assessments

Chrles L. Mo, a curator at the Mint Museum of Art explains that "During this period, the "Lord Fauntleroy" suits were highly popular with mothers. Boys very likely begrudged wearing these velvet two-piece suits with frilly blouses and ribbon bows. To complete the look, the child's hair was grown long and tightly curled." Mo coordinated a fascinating exhibit at the Museum in 1999, "Children's Fashions from the Nineteenth Century ".


Museum curator Perhaps even more telling is the fate of Little Lord Fauntleroy, when the boys of 1888 reached manhood.Plucky, manly Little Lord Fauntleroy became transformed into a sissy, "chiefly made up of wardrobe and manners", according to Burnett's biographer F.L. Potter. [F.L. Potter, "Frances Hodgson Burnett," Dictionary of American Biography), (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958.)] Cedric's name became synonymous with a pretty, effeminate mamma's boy. (Perhaps it did not help that in stage and film versions of the story, Cedric was almost always portrayed by a girl or a woman.)


McJimsey, George. Harry Hopkins: Ally of te Poor and Defender of Democracy (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1987), 474p.


Fauntleroy Related Pages:
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Created: March 30, 1999
Last updated: February 8, 2004