American Sailor Suits: Chronology--Decade Trends (Late-19th Century)


Figure 1.--This cabinent card portrait was tken by Simson Photographer in Buffalo, New York. It is not dated, but looks to have been taken in the 1880s. Notice the bold stripe doen the side of the pants.

The sailor suit as a boy's fashion was first popularized by Queen Victoria in England during the 1840s. It seems to have begun to catch on in America after the Civil war during the 1870s. But it was not until the 1880s that the sailor suit emerged as a principal boys' fashion. We note both traditional and non-traditional styles. We see boys wearing traditionally styled sailor suits during the 1880s. A good example is Michael Carmichael Carr in 1880. A wide range of non-traditional styles seem to have been even more common. And many suits in the 1880s seem to have diverged substantially from tradtional styling. Pants with side stripes seemed particularly popular through the 1880s, but went out of style in the 90s. The salor suit became a standard boys' fashion by the 1890s. Even through the Fauntleroy craze of the late 1880s and 1890s, it was the sailor suit that most boys wore. A good example is Percy Brown in 1891. Clothing catlogs by the 1890s had whole pages devoted to different styles of sailor suits tht could be selected. We not only the suits with blouses and pants, but there was also a jacket suit. These seem most common in the 1890s. An example is the Wards 1895 catalog.

The 1880s

The sailor suit as a boy's fashion was first popularized by Queen Victoria in England during the 1840s. It seems to have begun to catch on in America after the Civil war during the 1870s. And we do see examples of sailor outfits in the 1860s and 70s. The sailor suyit does not, howver, seem to have been a major style. But it was not until the 1880s that the sailor suit emerged as a principal boys' fashion. We note both traditional and non-traditional styles. There was still consdiderable variation in the styling, depite the fact that ready made clothes was beconiong increasingly common. Detailing was still highly varible. We see boys wearing traditionally styled sailor suits during the 1880s. A good example is Michael Carmichael Carr in 1880. A wide range of non-traditional styles seem to have been even more common. And many suits in the 1880s seem to have diverged substantially from tradtional styling. Pants with side stripes seemed particularly popular through the 1880s, but went out of style in the 90s. Most boys wore knee pants sailor suits. We see some long pants sailor suits, but rarely sailor suits with knickers.Almost all Americn boys except the very youngest wore long stockings.

The 1890s

The salor suit became a standard boys' fashion by the 1890s. Even through the Fauntleroy craze of the late 1880s and 1890s, it was the sailor suit that most boys wore. A good example is Percy Brown in 1891. Clothing catlogs by the 1890s had whole pages devoted to different styles of sailor suits that could be selected. W note both traditional white and dark suits. The traditional suits haf become increaingly popular by the end of the decade. We still see non-traditional suits, but styl;ing was beginiining to become increasingly stndardized. We not only the suits with blouses and pants, but there was also a jacket suit. These seem most common in the 1890s. An example is the Wards 1895 catalog. Most boys wore knee pants sailor suits. We see older boys wearing knee pants and the knee pants tended to be cut shorter. We see some long pants sailor suits, but rarely sailor suits with knickers.Almost all Americn boys except the very youngest wore long stockings. Some boys diring the summer might wear white socs or stockings. We note varied footwear.








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Created: 5:06 AM 3/21/2008
Last updated: 1:45 AM 4/16/2011