Sailor Suit Dickies: Styles

Figure 1.--Here we see a German brother and sister tenderly holding hands in a 1920s portrait. (We tend to see body language like this as an indicater of family interactions. We note some portraits with family members standing stiffly with no body contact.) Note the boy';s sailor suit dickey. It has horizontal stripes rather conflicting with the vertical stripes of the suit. Note in particular the great embroidered anchor. Combining stripes with insignia as we see here was unusual.

There are also several different styles of dickies. Often they varied on the basis of the styles used in the uniforms of national navies. This was the case of classic sailor suits. Mothers being mothers, however, many were not quite satisfied with sailor suits based on uniforms. As a result, a fashion component is also often involved. Some dickies are solid colors other are much mote stylistic. Thus there are quite a range of dickies that are not based on uniform styles. Many outfits only loosely based on the sailor suit began to appear by the the 1870s. Soon outfits trimed with ruffles and lace appeared, hardly resembling actual sailor suits.

Solid Colors

Many dickeys were plain solid colors without any embroidered designs. They either the same color as the suit or contrasting with it. The matching colored dickies were the most common, often with "V" collars that had stripes In sdome cases thge "V" collar was a contrasting color and the blouse or jacket matching the dickie. The solid color dickie appear to have been most common in England, Germany, and the United States. The dickies were comonly blue, except for those worn with white sailor suits. There were, however, some white dickies with dark suits. I do not recall ever seeing a dark solid-colored dickie with a white suit.


Often the solid-colored dickeys had embroidered insignias of various designs. The designs used most commonly were destinctly nautical themes like anchors. Symbols of rank such as cheverons were also used. Stars were also popular. There were variations among countries. A variety of other often patriotic symbols were used such as eagles worn by American boys. Other insignias I can't identify, but perhaps sone of our readers from different countries can identify some of these. . There could be a combination of designs. These more elaborate designs appear to have been particularly popular in France. The American designs seem to be simplier, but we are just beginning our assessment by collecting different dickey insignias.


Some dickies were stripped, almost always horizontal stripes. The stripes varies in width with both narrow and wide stripes being worn. The stripped dickies were particularly popular in France and Russia, where the sailors wore the same stripped dickeys. The Tsareavich Alexis, for example, commonly wore sailor suits (until swithing tp arnmy uniforms when the war began) almost always wore his sailor suits with stripped dickeys. These stripped dickeys appear to have been a type of undershirt--seemingly a precursor of the "t"shirts appearing in America before World War II in the late 1930s.


Solid, colors, insignias and stripes were by far the most common styles of dickies, but they were not by any streach of the matter the only styles. These were not patterns that we have commonly, but rather patterns that do not fall in the three main patterns. One style we note is stripes used in cross hatching. We have rarely seen this, but there are other examples. We will add other patterns as we find them.


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Created: 6:05 PM 7/19/2005
Last updated: 1:15 PM 7/21/2005