*** Skeleton Suits: Double Breasted Suits

Skeleton Suits: Double Breasted Suits

Figure 1.--.

We are not enitely sure when double breasted style first appeared oo boys clothing. We believev it was a militarry style during the Napoleonic era (early-19th century). Double breasted styles were used in military uniforms well into the 20th century.And as far as we can tell it first appeared on boy's skeleton suits. We are not sure when itbapprared on other suitbstles, but we do see it by the 1850s. An unidentified American family is a good example. . We do not yet havev a lot of historical information.

Early Suits

The first usage we have seen of double-breasted styling was in skeleton suits. One of the classic characteristics of many 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.Boys suits in the 1850s. These early suits have the look of military style jackets with a a rows of large numbers of buttons--often brass buttons. Some of the suits had 30 or more buttons on them. Some were purely ornamental, but some of the suits had to be buttoned. These were mostly a single row, but we do see double rows like doubke vreasted styling.

Oher Clothes

The double-breasted style was not limited to boys' jackets. Parallel rows of buttons appeared on many other types of clothing. Even dresses for little boys and girls appeared using the double breasted style. In comparison to the 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 reefer jacket. It was widely used in boys sailor suits and jackets in the late-19th century.

Non-Military Styled Suits

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 syylesd becoming importangt 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. We haven't had a chance to persue this yet, but will when I have a chance. Double-breasted suits were very common i the lzte-19th centyry for both boys and men. The jacket stylec was similar across thec agec groups, butv the pabts differed, shorter styles for the younger boys. We do not note any double breasted Fauntleroy suits. Mothers beingmothers, however, some double breasted jackets were embellished with ruffled collars, bows, and wrist ruffles. 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. When modern suit styles developed after the First World war,Wev havev seen some double-breasted blazers, but not for British schoolwear. And they were not very common in general. The blue flannel blazer became a standard boy's dress up garmentb in America, but very few were done with double-breasted styling.


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Created: October 17, 1998
Last updated: 5:35 PM 1/26/2023