English mail order catalogs, fashion magazines, and sewing publications are a valuable source of information on fashion styles and trends. These items offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. And they often include details on construction, material, and featurs that can not be determined by photographs. Our material on English catalogs is still very limited. Hopefully English readers will help us expand this section.
We have not yet found any English catalogs from the 1870s. There were company catalogs, but as far as we know no mail order catalogs from the 1870s. The store catalogs were not very well illustrated. There were fashion magazines that did have detailed illustrations. Mant English publications during the 1870s used Paris fashion plates so the illustrations were in many cases French rather than English styles. Of course the French fashions in the magazines, influenced English fashions. One of the important English fashion magazines was The Queen Magazine A good example is a plate showing boys summer suits (August 1873).
Boys very commonly wore suits in the 1880s. There were a variety of popular styles. Younger boys mostly wore knee pants suits. We note a store advertisement for a range of popular suit styles in 1889. There are suitable styles for boys of various ages. We also note an advertisement for various school outfits during the 1880s. As some of the styles overlap, it would have been placed at about the same time as the 1889 advertisement. The firm was Charles Baker & Co., a retailer that had several outlets in London--in Fleet Street (in the City), in Oxford Street (in the West End), and in Tottenham Court Road. Unfortunately there is no description of the various suits.
We have found an English pattern page for sailor outfits. It is not dated, but looks like the 1890s to us.
We note an interesting page from a catalogue published by Frederick Gorringe, Ltd., a rather upperclass emporium of children's clothes in London. It had the fashionable West End address of Buckingham Palace Road in S.W. 1, a high rent district even in 1918. The store sold clothes for both boys and girls. All the children depicted here are quite young, probably no older than 6 or 7.
The clothes offered are for upperclass children who would be able to play games such as tennis and golf and would probably have access to their parents' country houses as well as town houses in London. The prices are very upscale for 1918.
An issue if Weldon's Home Dressmaker from the early 1920s provides information on a wide variety of garments worn by boys of all ages, althugh most of the garments are not named or described. Younger boys wear a variety of short trouser outfits. The shorts are called "knickers". There are also some romper, tunic, and smock outfits. Some older boys wear knickerbockers. While the Weldon's drawings are very clear, they provide lottle information about the various garments, other than the age range and amount of material required to make the garment from the pattern.
An undatd book entitled Children's Wear: Illustrated Book of Draftings provides a sries of drawings and patterns for boys and girls wears in what looks like the 1930s. The publiction includes information about the age for each style and pattern. Littlewoods began mail order operations in 1932 and their catalogs leave a wonderful record of changing styles beginning in the 1930s.
The availability and variety of clothing during the 1940s was of course strongly affected by World War II (1939-45) and its aftermath. Of course during the War, clothing was ratione and there was little need to advertise. Britain helped win the War, but the country was virtually bankrupt as a result. We have little information from stores during the 1940s, even the late 40s after the War. A reader has provided us a n item from a Gratton's catalog. for suits.
Littlewoods was the principal company selling mailorder clothing in Britain during the 1950s. Their catalog offers a wide range of boys clothing, including suits, coats, shirts, trousers, and hosiery.
We have very few 1960s catalogs or advertisements at this time. We have one ad for suits. We have another ad for playsuits in a wide variety of styles. One of our HBC readers rembers games at the time. We would be interested in any that our English readers might be able to contribute.
English boys are increasingly wearing long pants in the 1970s. The short pants that are worn for dress wear are shorter cut continentl styles. Shorts are, however increasingly being worn for casual summer wear and sports. Interestingly, when English boys stopped wearing "culottes anglaises", what they wore were described as "continental-style shorts". At the same time as the Brits were looking to the continent for fashion ideas, the French started dressing their boys in longer culottes anglaises. It's curious how the British and rench admired each other's styles, yet they couldn't manage to both dress the same way at the same time.
English readers report major chain retailers like British Home Stores (BHS) and Marks and Spensers (M&S) handling traditional grey shool shorts in sizes up to 13 and 14 years, respectively. Another Engliosh source points out, however, that tgis does not mean that 13-14 year olds commonly wear traditional grey shorts to school. He writes, "Quite simply boys are getting bigger and probably sizes are getting smaller. There are not many 14 year olds who would actually fit into a pair Of M&S age 14 school shorts. At in case, it is now for even 11 year olds to wear school shorts in England." HBC believes another factor is that British boys are becoming stouter and that many younger boys now require larger waist sizes.
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