There have been many different styles of sailor suits. The classic styles based on the uniforms of English enlisted sailors have been substantailly modified to create a variety of elaborate styles and garments. Some of the modifications have been to adopt the styling of the national navy. In other cases the modifcatiins were to create garments for younger children or tonstyle the rather plain classic suit uin the more elaborate boys' stles of the late 19th century. Changes were also made to the classic bell-bottom trousers to reflect the trousers more commonly worn by boys in different historical periods. Some suits appeared in officer designs, but the classic style of the enlisted sailor remains the standard. We have noticed different terms being used for sailor suits. We do not fully understand what these terms signified. This is complicated by the fact that the terms were npt alwys used consistently.
Younger boys in the late-19th century and early 20th century wore kilted sailor suits and dresses with middy blouse affects. Similar outfits were also worn by little girls. The kilted sailor suits were often very plain as were some of the sailor dresses made for boys. Some mothers, however, preferred more elaborate styles with frills and lace.
One of the most popular style of tunics in
turn of the century America were sailor tunics. They were worn by younger boys who had been breeched, but whose mother did not think they were ready for a more boyish kneepants suit.
Stripped sailor suits appeared in the 1880s and were very
popular in the 1890s. They usually were white suits with blue stripes. Like white suits, they were worn in the summer.
A jersey suit means that the middy blouse was
pulled on over the head like a sweater and did not have buttons
at the front like a jacket. Knitted jersey's appeared during the 1860s
and were popular at the seaside in the 1880s. One fashion columist in Myra's
Journal (1884)wrote, A robust agile rogue of 6 or 7 never looked so well as when his shapely figure is displayed by his close-fitting knee breeches and jersey ... being woolen they keep the body in a due state of warmth ...on the head is either a Tam-o-shanter or a kind of brewer's cap ... of the same kind of
stockinette as the suit. Jersey suits were often very plain without all the details on other styles.
Many boys had what look to be sailor button-up blouses. Some might refer to them as blouses. jackets. These were not pull over middy blouses, but button up garments. We are not sure jacket is the best term because they were not worn with shirts undeneath. Some were bloused and others were not. We are not sure what terms were used at the time for these garments. They were done in many different styles. And we note them being worn throughout Europe and North America. They were primarily worn before World War I, but we we still see them occassionalky after the War.
The classic middy suit appeared in the 1870s and
was usually worn with kneepants and long stockings. White suits made of linnen or
other light fabric were worn in the summer. Blue and black suits made
of serge or flannel were worn during the winter. The better suits were
Queen Victoria's sons were initially dressed in Jack Tar suits with bell-bottom long trousers.
This style was particularly popular
during the early 19th Century. It was more commonly worn with
long trousers than many of the other styles. Usually worn
with a wide-brimmed straw sailor hat.
Some sailor suits in the late 19th Century were made with double-breasted styling. They were popular before classic middy blouse
styling had become an accepted standard. The double-breasted suits were not much seen after the turn of the 20th Century.
generally in the doublebreasted style were worn by boys during the winter. The term reefer refers to the task of deploying or taking in the sails. The sailors needed short jackets while working aloft. The reefer jackets they wore are also believed to have been the inspiration for the blazer.
One elegant style of sailor suit appeared in the late 1890s. It was a solid color suit without any stripes are embelishments. These suits appeared in both navy blue and white. Some of the navy suits might have white dickeys are other appointments. These suits were popular through the 1900s and early 1910s.
Different designs for sailor suits appeared in the 1880s-90s. Many differed substantially from the classic suit.
Wenotice button-on sailor suits done in a range of styles. They seem to have been most commoin in the inter-war era. We notice them both in Europe and America. They were done in both play and dressy styles. After World war I the play styles became less common. We do note button-on styles in dressy outfits, often sol in fassionable botiques.
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