Solemn Communion Suits: Canadian Chronology--The 1930s

Figure 1.--This portrait shows the children of the Lithuanian School in Montreal after their First Communion in 1932. Pastor Jonas Bobinas presided over St. Casimir's Lithuanian Parish. The boys wear black suits, I believe knicker suits with black long stockings. The girls wear white wedding dresses with white long stockings.

Our information on Canadian First Communion outfits during the 1930s is still limited. We note some groups very elegantly dressed in identical dark suits. Other groups appear in a wide variety of styles. Most boys wore short pants suits, but we also see knickers and long pants suits as well. A few boys wore sailor suits. Most boys wore suits, but some did their First Communion in shrts and ties. Here some churches seem to have given detailed instructions while others just left it up to the parents.

Halifax Church (1930)

Here we have a portrait of the children doing First Communion at an unidentified Halifax church (May 1930). The children are all boys. Presumably this was a school group. The boys unlike some First Communion groups do not wear the same kind of suits. Rather there is a range of colors, and styles. Three boys wear sailor suits. Several boys just wear white shirts without suit jackets. and short, knicker, and long pants. They also wear a range of kneesocks and long stockings. Many of the children hve the First Communion sleeve ribbons. A reader writes, "It is worth noticing here that the boys wearing long stockings for First Communion seem to be wearing exclusively white or black stockings--not the beige that had become fairly common for school or ordinary occasions. Black or white long stockings appear to have been thought more formal. And yet this color conservatism doesn't seem to apply as rigorously to the boys wearing knee socks." HBC's take on this is the boys wearing long stockings probably had them purchased specifically for this or other formal event. The boys wearing kneesocks, however, probably wear the kneesocks they normally wore with their suits.

Lithuanian Quebec Group (1932)

One available images from the 1930s show boys wearing dark suits with Eton collars and white bows (figure 1). This is obviously an immigrant community. We are assuming that the children in the 1930s came from mostly working-class families. Note how imacuately the children are dressed. This is probably an indication tof the degree to which immigrants were suceeding in Canada as well as how seriouly the Lituanians looked on religion. They are very formally dressed. Some of the French Canadian grouos we note are less formally done up. I think the boys were wearing knicker suits with black long stockings. A reader writes, "The boys are clearly wearing black long stockings, however I think they are wearing knee or short pants raher than knickers. I agree that it's hard to be sure." This is an image from a Lithuanian Catholic Church. Most Canadian Catholics are French speakers, but not all the immigrnt groups chose to spaek French, even in Quebec. We think that some French Catholic boys commonly wore similar outfits, although we note French Cnadian boys less formally dressed. The girls wore small white wedding dresses with veils and white long stockings. This church was in Montreal. I'm not sure if the children in school were taught in French or English. Many Canadian First Communion groups were single gender groups. This is the case of French Canadian groups we think because the numbrs were sufficent fior separate classes and schools. This was not the case for mny of the immigrant goups, especially immigrants from smller countries like Lithuania. Thus this is a church group, we are not sure about their school.

Unknown French Canadin School Group (1936)

Here we have another all boys French Canadian First Communion group. Presumably they are a school group although are photographed outside the church where they are doing their First Communion. Allwe know for sure about the group is the boys ae French Canadians and the portrait was taken n 1936. Some schools/chrches did not give the children instructions about how they should dress. We see thatin the 1930 Halifax group above. And other churches gave very detailed instructions as we can see in the 1932 Lituanian church above. Here the parents were clearly given some instructions. The boys all wear suits. This is more formal rhan some groups, but less formal than the black suits and black long stockings that we see some boys wearing. We see various styes both single- and double-breasted suits. The colors seem to be mid-range colors, but two boys seem tonbe wearing white or very light-colored suits. They are mostly long pants suits, although ome boys wear short pants and knee socks. THe long pants may reflect suggestion from the church because we do not believe that long pants were this common for boys this age. We do see more long pant in the late-1930s, but such a predominance seems rather unusual. Notably none of the boys seemn to be wearing knickers which were common at the time. It is also interesting that the boys wearing shots are wearing knee socks. Long stockings were still very common in Canada at the time.


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Created: 12:11 AM 4/7/2005
Last edited: 3:49 PM 4/18/2013