United States First Communion Outfits: Garments

Figure 1.--Many boys wer outfitted in new suits for their First Commnion. There were, however, other outfits. This boy is dressed up in a white tunic suit for his First Communion. He was probably 7-years old. The portrait was taken at Hirsch's Studio, in Chicago. Put your cursor on the image to see the complete outfit.

We know very little about First Communions garments during the 19th centuyry. A factor here is that America was a largely Protestant country in the 19th century. This beggan to change with the arrival of the Irish in the 1840s and even more so when large numbers of Italians and other immigrants from southern Europe began to arrive in the 1880s. Thus we have been able to find very few American First Communion portraits from the 19th century. We are not sure to what extent First Communions were celebrated. I'm not sure what Catholic boys wore in the early and mid-19th Century, but by the late-19th Century those families that could afford it dressed their sons in smart new suits. We know much more about the 20h century. We note many First Communion portraits in the early 20th century. First Communions apper to have become a major event. We suspect this reflects in part the increasing success of Catholics in Ameica. We see many boys posing in new outfits purchased for the occassion. Looking at First Communion suits over time are a good indicator of popular boys' fashions during the 20th century. For the most part this meant suits, but this was not always the case. We see some boys in the early 20th centry wearing tunics, but it was not very common. There was another major shift in the mid-20th century as suits became less commonly worn.

Tunic Outfits

We do not commonly see boys wearing tunic outfits for First Communion. We have, however, noted a few examples in the photographic record. They were usually white tunics with fancy trim. This usually occurred during the 1900s-10s when tuncics were very popular for younger boys. The tunic was a versitile garment. We see many boys wearing them as a play suit. But they could also be worn for dressing up. Often the same garments coud be used. There were, hwevr some tunic suits that were especially for dressup. These were primarily white tunic suits. And these white tunic suits were perfect for First Communion. The tunic suits involved could be very plain. But we see some done with fancy lace trim. We note some churches which have all the boys wearing matching white tunic suits. We do not see boys wearing white suits for First Communion in the 19th century. This changes with the turn-of-the 20th century.


Boys wore a variety of suits, mostly knee pants single and double breasted suits. Some boys wore sailor suits, but this was not as common as in Europe. Styles for younger boys such as Fauntleroy suits were not normally worn, even though some older boys did wear Fauntleroy suits. After World War I (1914-18) styles changed with boys wearing mostly knicker suits through the 1930s, but usually long pants suits since the 1940s. Some boys wore short pants suits, but they were less common. This continued through the 1950s, but the trend since has been more to a less formal outfit, a white shirt, tie, and slacks. American boys commonly wore single breasted suits for First Communion. Some suits, however, were made in the double breasted style. The predominately knicker pants styles for First Communion suits began to change in the 1940s. Long pants suits became the predominant style, but short pants suits were worn by some boys through the 1960s. Boys that did wear suits would often wear a special white suit. The trend toward casual fashions also affected First Communion attire. Beginning in the 1960s it became less common to buy a suit for First Communion, at least for boys. Boys began wearing a simple white shirt, tie, and slacks. Many girls continue, however, to wear quite elaborate white First Communion dresses.

Sailor Suits

We do not see mamy American boys wearing sailor suits for First Communion. This became very popular in some Europen countries, espcally France and Spain. But it never caught on n America for some reason.

Informal Styles

There was another major shift in the mid-20th century as suits became less commonly worn. We see boys doing their First Communion in more informal outfits like just shirts and ties rather than suits. This was quite common by the 1970s. This aloso almost always mean long pants rather than short pants. In many cases the boys wear the informal outfits while the girls continue to wear the fancy white junior wedding dresses.


Hosiery is a item of particular interest when the boys are earing shotened-length pants, adding to the look of the outfit. Genrally speaking hosiery for First Communin outfits followed overall trends, but as formality was involved here, the color and time line could be a little different. We notice mostly dark suits in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. We see mostly knee pants (late-19 and early-20th century). Knicker suits were common (1910s-20s). And short pants were comon (1920s-60s). We see many black or navy blue knee pants suits. Boys almost universally wore wore commonly wore long stockings with these knee pants suits. We begin to see fancy blouse outfits with knee pants and/or knickers in the 1910s. Knicker suits were also worn with long stockings. They were commonly worn with white long stokings. This continued through the 1920s, but we begin to see short pants suits as well as well as some long pants suits. White was a popular, but not universal color for the short pants suits. At first we see these suits being worn with white knee socks. Eventually we also see three-quater socks and ankle socks. We also motice dark short pants suits worn at first with knee socks and then anklesocks as well. As long pants became more common in the 1960s it is no longer apparent as to the hosiery worn and it becomes less of an issue. Girls as they wore white junior wedding dresses wire white hosiery which over time include long stockings, three-quarer, knee, and ankle socks. Of course as long pants became more common with First Communion outfits, hoiery was no longer important as it was covered up by the pants.


Footwear for First Communion has varied over time. In the early-20th century when formal First Communion outfits began to become populsar, we see boys mostly wearing high-top shoes. As early as the 1910s we see boys commonly wearing low-cut ocfords and these were the dominant footwear by the 1920s. We see some boys wearing strap shoes but these were much more common for girls and rarely seen with boys after the mid-20s. The shoes were usually black. When boys began wearing white outfits, we begin to see white shoes as well. This continued into the 60s. At first we see boys wearing both oxfords and white strap shoes, but after the mod-20s we see mostly oxfords. Many girls continued wearing strap shoes, both black and white even though their First Communion outfits werre junioe wedding white dresses. Even after First Communion outfits began to become more common in the 60s, bioys continued wearing leather oxfords.


Navigate the Historic Boys' First Communion pages:
[Return to the Main U.S. First Communion page]
[Return to the Main First Communion page]
[Return to the Renewals]
[Argentina] [Belgium] [Canada] [England] [France] [Germany] [Ireland] [Mexico] [Spain] [Switzerland]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essays] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web style pages:
[Short pants suits] [Blazers] [Jackets] [Kilts]
[Sailor suits] [Sailor hats]
[Ring bearer/page costumes] [Shortalls]

Created: 12:50 AM 2/23/2008
Last edited: 12:41 PM 10/11/2018