* American mail order catalogs with boys clothes -- 1912

American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1912

Figure 1.--Tunic suits were a popular style for younger boys. These Ucanttear suits were offered in the Sears Fall-Winter 1912-13 catalog. These suits were made for boys 2 1/2 to 6 years of age. These suits were described as Russian blouse suits and the pants as bloomer pants.

American mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. Boys commonly wore flat caps which were called golf caps. We have pages from the Sears catalogs showing a range of junior suits. We have pages from the National Cloak & Suit Company for 1912. This is not a company that we know very much about. The catalog offers a full range of adult and children clothing. Several pages offer clothing for younger and older children providing a useful glimpse of childrens clothing during 1912. We see flat caps. There are a variety of romper and kneepants suits for younger boys. There are knicker suits for oldr boys. We also see waists to hold up long stockings, a range of underwear, and night shirts.


Headwear was much more common in 1912 than today. Sailor caps and hats were worn by younger boys. The most common type of cap worn by school-age boys was the flat cap, commonly referred to as golf caps. Boys wearing suits might have a flat cap matching their suits.

Toddler Clothes

A variety of toddler styles with simple casual styles appear in the 20th century and were very popular by the 1910s. These todler stules were replacing the skirted garments wiorn by little boys in the 19th century. We see children, both boys and girls, wearing rompers which became very popular, but largely a play garment and exclusively for toddlers. We do not see older boys wearing them. We note Best and Company rompers. They were done both for toddlers and younger boys. Some were styled like tunic suits, but without the tunic skirt. We also notice Butterick patterns for children rompers in sizes 1-3 years. They were seen as suitable for both boys and girls. Butterick also called them overalls and offered a range of stylistic options. There were also toddler outfits done in styles worn by slightkly ilder boys. We note toddler and younger boys outfits done with both knee pants and bloomer knickers. The button-on style appears to have been very popular for boys. We also notice tunic suits, common referred to as Russian blouse suits, done in sizes ranging from toddlers to youngr primary school boys.


Tunic suits were a very popular style for pre-school or very early primary-age boys. Thus it does not fit easily into the roddler sectiin, but todlers did wear them. Most boys did not wear them to school. Many different terms were used for tunic suits at the time. Some ads suggested that they could be worn by girls as well, but we do not see many girls wearing them in the photographic record. Sears offered a range of Ucanttear suits, many of which were tunic suits for younger boys 2 1/2 to 9 years of age. Ucanttear was a Sears store brand. The suits were done as both tunic suits as well as in the sack suit style worn by older boys. The tunic suits were referred to as Russian blouse suits. Curiously some were even called Russian Eton suits, although we have no idea orecisely what that meant. Interestingly the length of the the tunics and suit coats were similar. The suits were done with knickers. Sears called the pants for the tunic suits bloomer knickers. The Frank Empsall Fall & winter catalog offered a galeta tunic suit which they called a frock suit for boys up to age 6 years.

Sailor Suits

Sailor suits were still available in 1912. We also notice tunic suits done with sailor styling.

Shirts and Blouses

American during the 1910s wore blouses, shirts, and shirt waists. The difference between a blouse and shirt was that blouses did not have shirt tails which is how shirts were tucked into the pants. Blouses at the time in contrast has drawstring clousres causing them to blouse out, thus the name. Modern blousesdo not blouse out, but the name hasstuck. Blouses in the 1910s were still very common for younger boys. They were not worn by adult men, but were worn by girls and women. Some were still done in sizes for teenage boys. We note blouses being offered by Sears in many different styles as part of the Ucanttear brand offerings. They were were done for boys 4-8/15 years of age, depending on the style.



Boys still commonly wore suits in the 1910s. And we note quite a range of different suit styles offered for boys in 1912. We even see many boys wearing suits to school, at least in the cities. We notice many knickers suits in 1912. Knee pants suits were still available, but seem to have been made increasingly for younger boys. Knickers suits were becoming increasingly popular. We do not yet notice short pants suits as had begun to be worn in Europe. Younger boys wore tunic suits. American boys in 1912 primarily wore knicker suits. They were pictured as being buttoned just at the knee. Norfolk styling was very popular. Most had belted waists.


American boys in 1912 were wearing both knee pants and knickers. but knickers were dominant. Knickers which appeared a few years earlier seem to have been become dominant for older boys. We see catalog offerings, although the photographic record shows boys wearing mostly knickers with the exception of pre-school boys and the younger primary boys. They were done in sizes up to 16 years of age. We also see both knickerbocker and bloomer styles. Most of the choice, kowever, was in the masterial. We see many catalog pages with many different knicker offerings and just only type of straight-leg knee pants for older boys. We also notice long pants, but mostly for older teenagers. We also see overalls on offer. We notice them bring widely worn in rural schoolsfor over 3 decades. Knee pants were quite common in the 1900s. By the 1910s, knickers had become the dominant style for boys. A National 1912 catalog page provides a good indication. Long pants and knee pants were available, but the emphasis was already on knickers. We do see a varierty of knee pants ouitfits on offer for younger boys. We do not yet notice short pants being offered. Acomplication here is that shoertswerenot always referredto as shirt pants wghen they first appeared.


Quite a range of underwear styles were available for children in 1912. The styles were still quite different from modern styles. There were shirts, drawers, and combination or "union" suits with the shirts and pants combined.

Support Garments

There were also waists, a support garment worn by women and children. Also sometimes combined with the waists are worn separately were stocking supporters for the still commonly worn long stockings. One of the most prominent items advertised in the Ladies' Home Journal for the years 1911 and 1912 were three different competing types of suspender waists and hose supporters for boys. All three variations appear repeatedly in successive copies of the magazine, and it is clear that the manufacturers were trying to convince mothers to buy them for their sons--especially their teenage sons. We think the reason for this new specificity about suspender waists in 1911-12 is that these garments were a relatively new invention at the time--a genunine innovation in boys' wear--and the three competing firms were trying to corner the market on garments that were just beginning to catch on and that were much more popular with boys than the conventional underwaists, skeleton waists, and pin-on supporters that had dominated the market theretofore. In earlier years boys wore pretty much the same kind of support garment


We note nightshirts for boys. The styles appear to be vurtually ankle length.


Children wore a wide range of socks and stockings. Long stockings were still very common and worn with various types of stocking supporters.


Boys still wore mostly high-top shoes, although low-cut oxfords were abailable. . Younger boys might wear strap shoes, often done up with bows. We also note sandals.


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Created: 3:56 PM 10/29/2004
Last updated: 12:56 AM 4/15/2020