American Patterns: Harper's Boys' Outfits (1878)

Figure 1.--Here we see an ad for cut paper patterns to make a pleated blouse which we might describe as a tunic. They were worn with rather tight knickers. This was a magazine ad which appeared June 20, 1878. We think that the source may be "Haper's Bazar". They were for boys 4-9 years of age. Source New York Public Library.

We note pattern ads for boys' outfits which we believe appeared in Harper's Bazar. They included a sailor suit and pleated blouses worn with knickerbockers. The sailor suit was a very popular garment, we are less syre about the pleated blouses. The advertisement offers paper patterns to enable purchasers to make their own children's clothing.

Harper & Brothers

Here we have some of the most venerable names in American publishing. Harper has played an important role in American publishing since the early 19th century. Several different magazines have had the Harper's title. These magazines had a different focus. The publishing runs of some overlapped. Harper's Magazine began as a literary magazine. Eventually it was the fashion focus of Harper's Bazar that proved the best seller. We don't know in what catalogue or magazine this advertisement appeared. We note that the New York Public Libraryb has coded this pahe with an H. This suggests that the publications may have been an early issue of Harper's Bazar.


The advertisemenr illustrates two different outfits, a sailor suit and a tunic suit called a "pleated blouse"..

Sailor outfit

The sailor suit began to become a major fashion style for American boys in the 1870s. We are not sure about the early chronology of sailor suits in America. This is the earliest pattetn we have found todate. It looks to be a trasitional garment. The image shows an outfit for a boy from 4 to 9 years old. It consists of a "Cutaway Coat," a "Sailor Vest-Blouse" and "Knee Pantaloons". The "panatloons" are not knicker-like trousers, however, but knee pants with the traditional three buttons just above the lower hem.

Pleated blouse suitss

In the center of the advertisement here we have a "Pleated Blouse and Knickerbockers for a boy from 4 to 9 Years Old" (figure 1). The pleated blouses as they are called look to us rather like tunic suits, although the garment the boy at the right wears buttons at the front. We are unsure how popular these outfits were. We have not noted many of them in the photographic record of portraits we have archived. There pants are not drawn in detail, but appear to be knickers. The ad copy used the term knickernockers and they appear to be closed at the leg hem rather than open like kneepants which were the most popular option at the time. The knickerbockers are somewhat unusual--not bloused as later knickerbockers usually were but closely fitting at the knee and more like knee breeches from the 18th or early 19th century.

Other Clothing

Several garments are illustrated here. It should be stressed that these outfits, especially the pleated blouses would have been worn nby boys from fashionable families and not by the average boy. The headwear illustrated is interesting as caps and hats are often missing in the many period portraits we have archived on HBC. The boy on the left wears a Glengarry cap while the boy on the right a sailor cap with streamer flying. Notice the buttoned leggings that the boy on the extreme right wears and the calf-length boots that the boy on the left is wearing. We are unsure what kind of hosiery the boys are wearing. The boy at the left appears to be wearing light colored long stockings.

Playing Horsey

The two boys in the illustration seem to be playing a game of horsey in which one of the boys pretends to be a horse. The other boy pretends to be driving him with reins and a whip. The boys here have a very elaborate rig. Notice the elaborate frame and plume on the harness complete with a bell. We are mot sure if the magazine was offering this rig for sale or was just the illustrators fantasy. We have noted other illustrations in period catalogs and illustrations of this game theough 1900. After that with the increasing importance of the automobile, this game appears to have declined in popularity.


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Created: 2:53 AM 3/7/2005
Last updated: 4:39 PM 3/8/2005