We are not sure when double breasted style first appeared or who designed them. They almost certainly were inspired by the military uniforms of the early 19th Century. Flashy turn of the 19th century military uniforms for officers often had row after row of buttons amd elaborate trin. Double breasted styles were used in military uniforms well into the 20th Century. We do not yet have any historical information. I am collecting available images which hopefully will provide some insights on the developmentof this important style. It is one of the most common boys' styles. It is today a minor suit style, with most boys preferring the single-breasted style.
The first usage I have seen of double breasted styling was in skeletonsuits. One of the classic characteristics of a skeleton suit was parallel rows of buttons stretching from above the waist all the way to the shoulders.The inspiration is clearly the double breasted style of early 19th Century military uniforms. However, I do not yet have any contemporary fashion articles discussing this style. The double-breasted style was not limited to boys' jackets. Parallel rowsof buttons appeared on many other types of clothing. Even dresses for littleboys and girls appeared in the double breasted style. In comparison tothe skeleton suits and mid-19th Century suits with large numbers of buttons,some of the double breasted dresses had only four buttons. One of the most enduring double breasted garment was the reeferjacket. It was widely used in boys sailor suits and jackets in the late-19th Century.
Double-breasted sack suits were widely worn in the 19th century. The double-breasted style was adopted from earlier fashions when the sack suit appeared. We are just beginning to develop information on the mid-19th century, but we note double-breasted suits in the 1860s. And they continued to be poular throughout the rest of the century.
Double-breasted suits were popular in the ealy 20th century. Double-breasted suits at the turn-of-the 20th century were very common, perhaos more common than single-breasted jackets. We see quite a number of boys wearing double-breasted suits in the early-20th century. The photographic record shows that the style was very widespread. We see many American boys wearing them. Many boys had double-breasted suits for formal occassions. After World War I, in the 1920s, the popularity of the double-brwasted suit varies, but generally declined with single-breasted jackets gradually becoming the most important style for boys' suit jackets. The double-breasted style, however, has not disappeared.
I have seen double breasted suits without military-style buttons in 1870s or 80s clothing catalogs. I haven't had a chance to persue this yet, but will when we have a chance. At this time, the earliest image I have of a double breasted boys' suitdates to the 1890s. It is an American image is a boys' knee pants suit. I believe the double breasted style was used primarily for older boys'styles. I do not recall any double breasted Fauntleroy suits. The suits were worn by a fairly large age range, including some younger boys. Mothers being mothers, many tried tomadd little touches to these suits for the younger and sometimes so young boys. Some double breasted jackets were embellished with ruffled collars, bows, and wrist ruffles. Some mother with several bows would use stylistic elements such as lace or ruffled collars or large bows to stress the differet ages of the boys, even though the suits they were wearing were quite similar.
Collar-buttoning jackets domimated suit styles for boys in the mid-19th century. This was a style influenced by military jackets at mid-century. Gradually we see other styles becoming important and widely worn in the late-19th century, including cut-away jackets and lapel sack suits. We see them both in the photographic record and the mail order catalogs that began to appear. There were were several boys' suit jacket types for which double-breasted styling was employed. It was not the primary style for any of these suit styles, but it was at times employed.
Skeleton suits apopwared before the turn ofv the 19th century andc werev worn through the 1820s. Some skeleton were dione with doubke-breasted styling, This was before the advent of photograpy so weare unsure just goe commion it was. It does not appear to have been the most common type, but without the large number of images provioded by photography we cannot at this time provided a definitive assessment.
One of the most common and long lasting boy's suit style was the collar-buttoning jacket. It was mostly worn by pre-teen boys. It appeared before lapel suits began to be worn. It was basically the style of a U.S. Army jacket. We see them beginning in the 1840s, possibly influenced by the Mexican War. These were very plain jackets. Most has a single row of buttons, early collar buttoning jackets were done with sn unusally large number of buttons. While a single row of buttons were the most common, we do see some with the double row characteristic of double-breasted styling. This style was popular through the late-19th century. It declined in popularity after the turn-of-the 20th centuty.
Sack suit appeared appeared in the mid-19th century. The sack suit was lapel jacket style. They were done in both the the single- and double-breasted styling. Double-breasted styling became very poopulat in the 1880s abd we see many of then in the 1880s-1900s decasdes. After that the single breasted style becomes the dominant style. We can follow this in some detal because of the growing photographic record. Men also wore lapel jackets, but thry generally wire frock suits of a different cut. The primary difference between boys and men's suits. howeverv were the oants. Gradually in the second half of the 19th century boys began wearing shortened-length pants whuch had become standard for boys in the 1880s. In the 20th century, especiallynafter World War I, single breasted suits were generally chosen for boys. American boys generally wore their suits with knickers while British boys wore shorts. Double breastedjackets, however, were relatively rare, even during the 1930s and 40s when double-breasted suits were popular for adults. Double breasted suits were a very common choice in the 19th century. This changed in the 20th century. have never been the most popular styles. Single breasted suits becanme standard for American boys. Double-breasted stylin persisted longer as a popular style for adult men. Designers occasionally since the 1960s bring out a line of double breasted suits for boys. Generally, however, they do not sell as well as single breasted blazers, but are considered stylish by many. As a boy in thev 1940s and 50s, I always thought of double breasted suits as giving an old fashioned, stolid look. Since the 1980s, howevrr, we think the double breasted suit has been perceived as a cutting edge stylistic look. Stylists now say that doubke breated suits, at least for boys gives a slimming look. Even so, the standard suit style is the singlke-breasted suit. The British conservative leader William Hague has been ordered by his spin doctors to change from double breasted to single breasted suits. As you may know he is still in his 30s and the idea is to make him look fatter and more substantial and therefore more able to command respect.
Since blazers were introduced in the late 1880s at British schools, boys have generally wore single breasted jackets. I do not know of any British schools that adopted double breated blazers. As a result, thevdouble breasted style for Brirish boys is relativey rare. When modern suit styles developed after the First World war, single breasted suits were generally chosen for boys. American boys generally wore their suits with knickers while British boys wore shorts. Double breasted blazers, however, were relatively rare, even in America during the 1930s and 40s when double breasted suits were popular for adults.
We note a variety of pants or trousers worn with double-breasted suits. This has included short pants, knee pants, knickers, and long pants. The popularity of each type of pants has varied over time and among countruies. There care also associated age conventions. We notice rather elegantkly dressed Dutch boy, Fans Leferink wearing a short pants double-breasted suit in 1927.
Double-breasted suits were wudely worn in Europe and America both during the 19th and 20th century. We think they were most popular in Western Europe. The double preasted suit seems to have social-class connotations and in the 20th century gradually became to be seen as a more formal style and more suited for adults. These developments and time-line varried from country to country. We see them being worn throughout Europe, especially Western Europe. They were also very popular in Europe. We do not yet have much country-specific information on double-breasted suits. We do not know aboutvany destinctive country styling. Nor do we know much about the time line of the popularity of double breasted suits or styling changes in different countries. Souble breasted suits seem particularly popular in America and we do have an American page. We are still developing information on double breasted suits in Europe.