First Communion Suits: Belgium


Figure 1.--This Belgian boys, probably in the 1930s, wears an elegant sailor suit for First Communion. Note the cap, white gloves, and long black stockings. Also notice he is wearing a white button front vest under the middy jacket and over the white shirt or dickie. This boy looks older than some of the other children doing First Communion, perhaps about 11 or 12 years.

Belgium like France is a catholic country. Belgium is also a bilingual country being divided into both French (Waloons) and Dutch (Flemish) speakers. While linguistically divided, both the Waloons and Flemish are Catholics. First Communion has thus been an important event in a Belgian boys life. We believe there may have been social divisions here. We also believe that along with the decline in the importance of religion in Belgium as in much of Western Europe that the event is less important than it used to be. We have little information at this time, but we do know that some boys in the early 20ty century wore sailor suits.

Linguistic Division

Belgium like France is a catholic country. Belgium is also a bilingual country being divided into both French (Waloons) and Dutch (Flemish) speakers. This division has been the source of regional, social, economic, and political differences among the Belgian people. We are unsure of there was any difference in the First Communion suits worn by Flemish and Waloon boys. We note, for example, that some boys wear sleeve ribbons like French boys for First Communion and some do not. We wonder if that could be due in part to differing conventions in the Waloon and Fleshish communities.

The Belgian Church

While linguistically divided, both the Waloons and Flemish are Catholics. While most Belgians are Catholics. We do not know, however, how the Belgian Church is organized. The linguistic differences may be reflected , First Communion has thus been an important event in a Belgian boys life. We believe there may have been social divisions here. We also believe that along with the decline in the importance of religion in Belgium as in much of Western Europe that the event is less important than it used to be. We have little information at this time, but we do know that some boys in the early 20th century wore sailor suits.

Chronology

We have just begun to assess chronological trends in Belgian First Communion suits. As a result our chronological information is still limited. We note that boys in the 1910s were having their portraits taken in what look to be new suits for their First Communion. Kneepants sailor suits with long dark over-the-knee stockings were popular in the 1910s. Boys commonly wore white gloves. Belgian boys in the 1920s were still weraring sailor suits, especially in the early 20th century. Dark long stockings were still common in the early 1920s. Boys in the 1930s were less commonly wearing sailor suits for First Communion. Both single and double breasted suits were worn. Some are very formal looking black suits. Fewer boys wore white gloves. Some boys wore open collars despite the formality of the occassion.

Schools

I do not know how Belgian boys prepare for First Communion or to what extent schools are involved.

The Experience

We have little information First Communion in Belgium. We do not know if there are differences among French and Dutch speaking boys.

Garments

HBC has only developed limited information concerning the garments worn by Belgian boys for First Communion. These garments are primarily a reflection of how boys dressed for formal events. Often he would receive new suit for First Communion which would then be worn as his best suit. Sailor suits were especially popular in the early 20th century. Most were dark suits, but we note some white suits as well. Most boys wore sailor caps with these sailor suits. We are less sure what kind of headwear boys with other suits wore. We note a variety of single and double breasted suits. Suits with Norfolk styling were popular in the early 20th century, some work weiyh Eton collars. Conservatibe dark suits were popular in the early 20th century. We note patterened shirts by the 1930s. We note Belgian boys at the turn of the 20th century commonly wearing dark long stockings for First Communion and other formal occassions. White long stockings were not worn, always black long stockings or possibly some other dark color. Even when kneesocks became common by the 1920s, many boys still wore long stockings for First Communion and other formal events. This changed by the 1930s when not only kneesocks became more common, but even patterned kneesocks with loud patterns were worn for First Communion. Boys almost always wore gloves in the ealy 20th century for First Communion.

Personal Experiences

HBC does not yet have any personal experiences describing Belgian First Communions.







HBC







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Created: January 16, 2002
Last edited: 1:52 AM 9/15/2012