Belgian First Communion Suits: Garments


Figure 1.--This Belgian impage is undated, but we would estimate about 1920. He wears a dark Norfolk jacket with knee pants (notice the ornamental buttons on the pants legs) with an Eton collar, small bow, and black long stockings. Note the dark rather than white gloves. White gloves were a rule in France.

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.

Headwear

Most boys wore sailor caps with these sailor suits. We do not note sailor hatsm byr almost alwats sailor caps. They wee usually the soft caps and almost always the dark colored ones. We are less sure what kind of headwear boys with other suits wore. We have not noted Belgian boys wearing berets for For First Communion. They wre presumably considered to informal a style to be used for First Communion.

Shirts

Many boys wore sailor suits and with the middy blouse no shirts were needed. Before World war I shirts waists were often worn with other suits and Eton and other collars added. By the late 1920s bous began wearing soft collared shirts. An an open collar style became popular. We note a few boys wearing fancy blouses, but this was not common.

Sailor Suits

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 do have one undated photograph of a Belgian boy taking First Communion in an elegant kneepants sailor suit. I am not sure if it is black or navy blue. We would guess that the portrait was taken in the 1910s, perhaps before World War I. The sailor suit pictured here is a rather elegant one. It is worn with a matching soft top black cap. There is a jacket which buttons rather than a middy blouse. It is worn with a plain white shirt with clored detailing at the collar, rather like a dicky. Also notice he is wearing a white button front vest under the middy jacket and over the white shirt or dickie. It is worn with matching dark kneepants and long black stockings. He has lace-up shoes. He has white gloves and even a hankerchief in his sailor jacket. HBC rarely noted hankerchiefs being worn in sailor jackets. This suit was a dark suit, but we note white suits being worn in France during the 1930s-50s and the same was probably true of Belgium.

Suits

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. A woman's fashion magazine in 1952 showed a rather elegant-looking double-breasted short pants suit for a First Communion suit. The suit was for a 6-7 year old boy. I'm not sure about the color, but looks to be a grey suit rather than dark blue or black. It was worn with similarly colored kneesocks. We are not sure what kind of headwear boys with suits wore. Heqdwear was very common before World War II, but delined in popularity after the War.

Hosiery

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. Some did not consider them appropriate for First Communion.

Gloves

Boys almost always wore gloves in the ealy 20th century for First Communion. We have noted both white and dark leather gloves. The white gloves seem especially common in the early 20th century and with boys dressed more formally. A French reader is sonmewhat surprised at Belgian boys wearing dark gloves for First Communion because this was apparently not done in France. He writes about one of the images, "I have my doubts that this portrait was taken the day of his First Communion. For a First Communion this sort of kneesocks with patteerned style is not appropriate. And above all this sort of gloves! No. The rules concerning the gloves are well known. On such an important day, only the white gloves or nothing was the rule. About the white gloves. They were to be worn by children in the street, in the church, and when in prayer. If not they must be held in the hands, such as when entering someones home. Wearing white gloves was very common before the 1950s for both church and other ceremonies. White gloves were a symbol of purity like the white viel for girls. This they were often worn for First Communion." HBC has noted more example of dark gloves being worn by Belgian boys than we had expected. Our French reader writes, "I'm a bit surprised of this custom . If there was only one such portrait, one could consider it as a exception, but not on several portraits. I am sure that in France boys wore white gloves as a symbol of purity. One can still sometimes see it to day, for instance by the pages in a wedding. For some reason as regarding First Communion there appear to be differences between France and Belgium. There are, however, also similarities. Normaly on the portraits, when the boys are standing, they must have their gloves in the hand; and if he's kneeling at prayer he puts on his gloves."

Decorative Items

We note that many of these Belgian First Communion portraits do not show the boys wearing decorative sleeve ribbons. Such ribbons were very common in France as well as in America. Apparently they were much less common in Belgium. Some boys do have these sleeve ribbons and we have noted other items such as corsages and candels. The candels are, however, much more common in neighboring Germany.







HBC







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Created: October 31, 2002
Last edited: 2:37 AM 12/7/2007