*** Little Lord Fauntleroy suits: American garments blouses Fauntleroy blouse

American Little Lord Fauntleroy Suit Garments: Fauntleroy Blouses

Fauntleroy blouses
Figure 1.-- This unidentified boy was from Kansas City, Missouri. He looks to be about 6 years old. The portrait is undated, but was probably taken about 1900. He wears an especially elaborate Fauntleroy blouse. The delicate work woukd have been more expoensice than most such blouses. Not only does the lace collar extend over his shoulders, but the front of the clouse cvers most of the jacket. We wonder if this may have been sewed by mother rather than store bought. Note the extensive use of lace, it would have been an expensive garment.

The classic Fauntleroy suit of the mid-1880s was worn with a cut-away jacket showing off a fancy blouse. These blouses were quite varied, but had many common features. There were attached lace or ruffled collar--commonly very large collars. There were often also front ruffels. Some of these blouses had huge collars. Some had matching wrist cuffs. They blouced at the waist with a string closure. The classic Fauntleroy jacket was a small cut-away jacket. Velvet was common, but they were made in many oher fabrics as well. Other jackets were worn with Fauntleroy outfits, but it was the cut-away jackets were normally worn fancy blouses. The cut-away blouses were worn open. This mean that mother assured that the fancy blouse could be seen to full affect. The collar and blouse were a very important part of the Fauntleroy style. The Fauntleroy blouse that the boy here wears is a good example of this (figure 1). Note that you can see most of the jacket. On many Fauntleroy outfits the jacket was smaller. Sometimes you could almost not see the jacket, It is not always easy to tell if the collar and cuffs are actually part of the blouse or not. Because the Fauntleroy suit was especially popular in America, the Fauntleroy blouse was also an especially popular American style. We also see boys wearing Fauntleroy blouses without a jacket or with a light-weight jcket. This was especially common during the summer.

Classic Fauntleroy Jacket

A variety of jackets could be worn as part of a Fauntleroy suit, rather complicating our discussion of Fauntleroy jackets. Some were specificically designed to be a Fauntleroy suit. Others jackets were made to look like Fauntleroy suits by adding the fancy trim. Thus actually identifying a Fauntleroy suit and jacket is a little complicated. The variety of jackets used somewhat expanded the ages at which Fauntleroy outfits were worn. We note Fauntleroy outfits with two types of jackets, both small open jackets and collar buttoning jackets. The classic Fauntleroy jacket was a small cut-away velvet jacket. There were other small open front jackets, but not done in the cut-away style. These open-front jackets were made to be worn as Fauntleroy suits. They were designed to expose the fancy blouse work to maximum advantage. We also note collar-buttoning jackets worn as Fauntleroy outfits. We also note boys wearing sack suit jackets with Fauntleroy trim added. Any jacket could be worn and made to look like Fauntleroy outfits by adding a fancy blouse or pin-on collar. Many of these jackets could be worn with other collars for an entirely different look.

Fauuntleroy Blouse Types

We note two different types of Fauntleroy blouses. The first type was the fancy blouses designed to be worn wih classic cut-away Fauntleroy jackets. They were mostly white blouses, not always white, but the vast majority were white. These blouses were varied, but ften were done with lace and ruffled trim and had very large collars. They were usually done in very fine fabrics. They were motly done inthe small sizes for which the jackers were usually done. Most commonly this would be for boys about 3-6 years of age. The second type of Fauntleroy blouse was not usually worn with the classic Fauntleroy jacket. They were often done in plain fabrics. We do not see lave being used , but we do see large collars with back flaps and various types of trim. Unlike the classic Fauntleroy blouses, these blouses were commonly done in colors and various prints. And they were done in older sizes than the classic blouses. We see even younger teens wearing them. They were commonly worn without jackets. Some boys wore them with suit jacket, but not the classic Fauntleroy jackets for younger boys. The chronology of the older boy blouses was a little different than that of the classic blouses.


Mrs. Burnett published her book Little Lord Fauntleroy launching the Fauntleroy craze (1885). Fancy blouses were seen before these, but not as commonly or as fancy and cerainly not as large as we see with the Fauntkeroy craze. TheseFauntleroy blouses were poppular for two decades. These blouses appeared in vast numbers and increasingly elaborate decoration after publication of the book to fill the resulting demand demand for Little Lord Fauntleroy blouses. We see them in the lare 1880s, but they were most common and most elaborate in the 1890s. We contunue to se them in the 1900s, especially the early 1900s. Some were modest such as the one wotn by New York boy Freddiec Deveraux in 1892. Others were much more elaborate. We not only see the elaboate blouses designed to be worn with Fauntleroy suits, br we also see fancy blouses for older boys that were worn without suit jackets. The chronplogy of these two types were slighly different, but very similar. These blousces cotunued to be poplar through the turn-of-the 20th century. A good example is Raymond J.D. Webb, probably about 1900. These blouses begin to decline notably in popularity after about 1905. We often begin to see simpler Fauntleroy blouses. A good example is Roy Swanson in the early-1900s.

Blouse Features

These Fauntleroy blouses were quite varied, but had many common features. There were attached ruffled collars--commonly very large collars. The collars varied in size and shape. This provided for endless variation. Many blouses had a back flap rather like a sailor blouse. The ruffles could have lace mixed in, often near the edges. There were often also front ruffels. Some of these blouses had huge collars. Some had matching wrist cuffs. Quite a few were done with these wrist cuffs. Most of the fancy blouses had them. A good example is Roy Swanson in the early1900s. The standard Fauntleroy blouse was done with the matching cuffs. But we do see some without them. A good example is an unidentified boy, we think in the late-1890s. They blouced at the waist with a string closure. The collar and blouse were a very important part of the Fauntleroy style. The Fauntleroy blouse that the boy here wears is a good example of this (figure 1). Note that you can see most of the jacket. On many Fauntleroy outfits the jacket was smaller. Sometimes you could almost not see the jacket, It is not always easy to tell if the collar and cuffs are actually part of the blouse or not.

American Style

Because the Fauntleroy suit was especially popular in America, the Fauntleroy blouse was also an especially popular American style. We see more of these blouses in America than any other country. They were intially made to be worn with Fauntleroy suits, but we see a lot of boys wearing blouses with large rufled collars dome with back flaps. We see large numbers of boys wearing these blouses without the Fauntleroy jackets. They might wear them with standard jackets, but often without jackets during the summer. To some extent this was during the summer when younger boys just wore blouses without suit jackets. But we see older boys wearing these blouses who were beyond the age that most boys wore Fauntleroy suits. These blouses becme kind of a dressy style that was acceptable for boys to wear without jackets. This is something we have not noted in other countries, at least to the extent we see it in America. It was very common for school age boys, even younger teens to 13 years of age. White was most common, but older boys might wear colored or striped blouses.


We also see boys wearing Fauntleroy blouses without a jacket or with a light-weight jacket. We think that this was often a seasonal convention. It can get very hot in America during the summer, hotter than in Europe. Americans still dressed formally during the years that the Fauntleroy suit was popular. Boys were, however, were allowed to just wear a blouse without a suit jacket, even for formal occassions. Men commonly wore suit jackets, but it was seen as acceotable for boys just to wear blouses in hot weather. They were all long-sleeve blouses. Short-sleeved shirts for boys had not yet been introduced. A tern developed describing this, 'shirttail youngster' meaning a boy. As far as we can tell, boys mostly wore just their blouses almost entierly if not always just in the summer. We see more boys wearing just the blouses in thw 1900s, but this may reflect the sudden availability of family snapshots after the turn of the 20th century.

Color and Patterns

Most Fauntleroy blouses were white. This was especially the case of the fancy blouses worn by younger boys with the classic cut-away Fauntleroy jackets. A great proportion of the Fauntleroy blouses in the photographic record appear to have been white. White was, however, not the only color, but it was the primary color. Fauntleroys blouses were often done in colors and patterns. There were also some colored blouses. Unfortunately the black-and-white photography of the day offers few clues as to what the other colors were. We do notice some dark colors. They were not common, but we do see some. In addition to different colors, we also see patterns. There were a variety of patterns, including stripes, polkadots, and patterns. This often was a white shirt with a colored pattern. A good example is an unidentified Michigan boy about 1900. These patterned blouses were commonly worn by school age boys even boys 12-13 years old. They were most common in the late-1890s and early-1900s. They were not commonly worn with the cut away jackets worn by the younger boys. hese were very popular for dressing up in the summer when earing jackets were unfomfortable. They were not as fancy as the classic white Fauntleroy blouses, but had large collars often edged with ruffles.


These fancy blouses were a boys' garment. As far as we know they were not worn by girls. We do not see them in the photographic record. Of course the 19th century photographic record shows girls mostly wearing dresses and not blouse/skirts. Girls for formal occassions were more likely to wear dresses. Blouses and skirts were worn, but we have not yet found portraits of American girls wearing Fauntleroy blouses. We believe that means at the least that it was certainly not very common. Our archive is substantial enough to confirm that. Girls of course did wear blouses, but their collars were normlly more simple than the boys' fancy Fauntleroy blouses. We are not sure how common it was for girls to wear blouses in the 19th century. The photographic record mat be misleading. Mothers probably dressed the girls up in their best outfits to have a studio portrait taken. And the vast proportion of 19th century photograohy is studio portraits. Probably or everyday wear girls may have worn bloues and skirts more commonly than suggested by studio portraits. We are not entirely sure about that yet, at least the actual dimensions involved. But we do not see any evidence that girls wore fancy blouses like the Fauntleroy blouses that the boys wore. Nor do we see the girls wearing dresses with collars anywear apoproaching the huge Fauntleroy collars and floppy bows. We see more girls and women wearing blouses after the turn-of-the 20th century, but nothing like the fancy Fauntleroy blouses that the boys wore.


We note school-age boys wearing blouses with large collars up to about 13 years old. Actualy Fauntleroy blouses, however, were nomally worn by younger boys. We see boys as young as 2 years wearing Fauntleroy blouses and suits. The most common age seems to be the pre-school years, sbout3-5 years. A good example is B. Curtlis Sunderland who looks about 3-4 years old. We begin to see fewer boys wearing Fauntleroy blouses after about age 6 years, although blouses with large collars were worn by boys up to 12-13 years of age. The older boys seem to have usually worn colored or pattern blouses that were not as fancy as the blouses commonly worn by the younger boys. Some boys 6 years and older did wear elaborate Fauntleroy blouses, but the plainer but large collar blouses were more common. They were referred to as Fauntleroy blouses at the time so we will include them in our age listing here.


We do not yet have a lot of information on the fabrics. We think that the really fine Fauntleroy blouses for f\dress occasions were made in fine fabrics like silk and linnen. We also notice Fauntleroy blouses being worn for play or less formal situations. These less expensive blouse could still be very fancy and were made in basic and less expensive cotton fabrucs.


The Fauntleroy blouse is commonly seen as a formal dress up garment. This was especially the case of white blouses done in fine fabrics. And of course it certainly was. The Fauntleroy suit was a boy's best dress up garment, worn for parties, church, and other formal occassions. At the time, parents saw events as formal that we would now consider casual. Thus there were plenty of opportunities for a boy to wear these suits. Among them was a formal studio photographic portrait. these blouses were, however, not alwats worn for formal occassions. We see boys in the 1890s and 1900s wearing these blouses to school or even to play. These more casual blouses were still often elaborate wuith large ruffled collars, but done in less expensive cotton fabrics. We see them done in colors and patterns. And of course boys were less likely to wear nows with them. Social class was a factor here. A working-class boy might wear one og these less ecpensive blouses when dressing up while a more well-to-do boy might wear them as a play garment.

Floppy Bows

Floppy bows were very commonly worn by American boys with Fauntleroy blouses. American boys wore their Fauntleroy blouses both with and without floppy bows. This was entire up to mother's discression. There were no establidhed colnventions. Both were equally acceptable. Like the collars, the floppy bows varied in size. Many were quite large. Some were large enough to almost cover up the smaller collars. Some times we can not tell the type of collar. Often younger boys had very large floppy bows. We can almost always tell the Fauntleroy collar blouses because they were so large, but Eton, Perer Pan, andd other collars are often covered up. The bows were used to add a little color to what was often a black and white outfit. We notice bows in all kinds of colors asnd patterns, including white. Black seenms to have been less common.

Hair Styles

The iconic impage of Fauntleroy styling is with boys wearing ringlet curls. Actully only a minority of boys with Fauntleroy outfits had their hair done in ringlets. Actually it was a small, but not tiny minority. This comes out clearly in the photograaphic record. Most boys with Fauntleroy outfits including the blouses had short hair. The boy here is a good exmnple (figure 1). Here age was a factor, the younger the boy, the more likely his hair would be done in ringlets. But gain it needs to be stressed that only a ninority of boys, even boys wearing Fauntleroy suits hd theit hir din in runglets. This includes both boys wearing full Fauntleroy suits as well as boys just wearing the blouses. We suspect that boys who were photyographed in Fauntleroy blouses also wore the full suits. Just eearing the blouse seems more of a summer option. The cost of the small-cut away jackets would not have beem nmuch of a determent to the mothers purchsing the fancy blouses. After ll the boys just wearing the blouses are wearing the knee pants that went with the suit. We see more images of boys with ringlets wearing the full dsuit than just the blouses. We suspoecty this was a calendar matter. In tghe lte-19th century when these blouses were poopular, theAmerican population was much more concentrated in th northermn part of the country where warm summer weather was limiited ton only a few months.

Boys' Attitudes

While we can follow the styles in great detail using the photographic record, one matter we cannot readily assess using the photographic record is what the boys though about the oufits mathers purchased for them. It was generally mothers who selected and purchased outfits for younger boys. Fathers usually got involved only for older boys in their teens. All of this varied somewhat from family to family, but this was the general pattern. The boys were too young to commit any of this to writing, but some comments show up in biographies. We know mothers were aware of some of this, but not all togeter of the boys' feelings. THis is why age grading was so wide spread. The age grading helpd to indicate foughly what the conventiimns were at the time. We notice only a few notable clues in the photogtaphic record.


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Created: 3:07 AM 3/1/2009
Last updated: 1:47 PM 11/17/2022