Figure 1.--This Sargent painting of 19?? depicts Essie, Ruby, and Ferdinand Wertheimer. Ferdinand wears a classic Eton suit, the formal dress for boys at the turn of the century that had graduated from Fauntleroy and sailor suits. The Eton suit became standard dress wear for affluent British and American boys.
Formal Eton suits and collars were a style which lasted for about a century in England and were also commonly worn in America. And offshoot
of the Eton suit, a colarless jacket for little boys became a staple for younger American boys
for an additional half century when the formal Eton suit had disapperared--except of course at Eton College.
Eton College is one of the best known schools in the world. Americans think of colleges as small universities. Colleges in most of the rest
of the world are secondary schools, as is Eton College, albeit a prestigious one. Eton College
was founded in 1440, nearly 58 after the founding of Winchester school, by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, under the patronage of Henry VI--the Scholar King, and with the title of "the College of the Blessed
Mary of Eaton beside Windsor." The buildings were completed between 1491 and 1523. The original buildings consist of two quadrangles containing
the chappel, the upper and lower schools, appartments for officials, the library, and offices. The school has produced a long list of distinguished former pupils, including Sir Robert Walpole, Robert Hartley, william Pitt the Elder, Horace Walpole, the Duke of Wellington, Thomas Gray, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Ewart Gladstone.
Several important styles have developed from the uniforms worn by the boys at Eton school.
Eton school had a major impact on British school uniforms. The first school uniforms in England were developed for poor charity children. Only in the early 19th Cebtury were unifirms adopted by prestigious schools like Eton for privilged children. They were part of efforts to better discipline the boys whose behavior was beginning to scandalize England as it moved into the staid Victorian era.
The classic Eton suit based initially on the Eton school uniform came to dominate older boys fashions for several generations. After moving from skeleton aand tunic suits or even Fauntleroy suits, an English boy
would generally wear an Eton suit. They were also commonly worn in America, France, and other countries. In America it had an upper-class look to it.
Figure 2.--This boy wears an Eton collar, but a suit without Eton styling. I believe this is an English image, but it could be American. It probably dates to the 1920s. Notice he wears a bowtie with his Eton collar.
The wide-stiff Eton collar became a mainstay of English boys clothes during the Victorian and Edwardian era. The tightly buttoned collar in many ways symbolized the Victorians. Eton collars is most associated with the Eton school uniform. Eton collars were,however, worn with many styles in addition to Eton suits, including Norfolk suits and kilts as well as choir costumes. An older boy in the late 19th or early 20th Century was not considered formally dressed in England unless he wore his suit with an Eton collar.
The wide-stiff Eton collar attracted the most attention. But Eton boys also wore prominent, stiffly starched cuffs. This pratice appears to havevbeen discarded at today's Eton.
American boys in the 19th Century wore classic Eton suits just like English boys. A new type od suir, commonly referred to as an Eton suit developed in America for younger boys in the 1920s. With the decline of the fauntleroy suit and tunic suit, a new dress style was needed for the younger boy. Thus a new style with a short lapelless jacket appeared. It was normally worn with an Eton collar and short cut suspender shorts.
Scottish boys through the 1920s and even into the 1930s sometimes wore their kilts with Eton collars. The most dresst kilts for formal occasions were wore with lace jabots. For less formal occasions a boy might wear his kilt with an Eton collar.
Some English boy choirs use Eton collars rather than ruffled collars as part of their choir costumes. I'm not sure when choirs began using Eton collars, but some still do.
Any discussuion of the Eton style would be incomplete without an assessment of what kind of neckwear should be worn with it. I am not sure what the arbiters of fashion suggested or if this changed over time. Some boys wore their Eton collars without any neckwear. Other boys wore a wide variety of styles. Mothers clearly preferred large floppy bows for their younger boys. Older boys wore small bows, bow ties, string like ties, and neckties of varying with.
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