** American mail order catalogs with boys clothes -- 1918

American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1918

Figure 1.--Here are some of the wash suits offered for younger boys. Note the different styles and the fact that they are done as kneepants rather than knickers. America entered World War I in 1918. Notice the biplane and rifle. Most of these suits were done for boys 3-8 years of age. They were offered by the Charles William Stores in New York. Notice the popularity of tassels.

American mail order catalogs offer a very useful time line on changing fashion trends. Boys commonly wore flat caps which were called golf caps. American boys by 1919 were wearing knickers. Some mostly younger boys were still wearing kneepants, a style which continued for a few more years, but knickers were much more common for older boys. Knickers were made for boys 6-18 years of age. World War I ended late in 1918. Soon after the War you begin to see less formal and more utilitarian, practical clothing. The Charles William company, located in New York City, produced a catalog similar to Sears and Wards. We notice in the 1918 catalog a wide range of wash suits for younger boys. We note a magazine advertisement for Kazoo suspender waists. We notice another ad for a Kazoo summer waist. Both long stockings and high-top shoes were common. We also notice William's footwear page. They offered among other styles two bar closed toe sandals, which look very similar to those shown in earlier years in the Montgomery Ward's catalogs. Union suits were common underwear.


Headwear was much more common in 1918 than today. 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. Younger boys might wear sailor styles. We note swabie-type caps, odten with down turned brims.

Skirted Garments

The centuries old convention of having younger boys wear skirted garmentsas clearly passing from the fashion scene as can be seen in the garments offered in catalogs and advertisements.


Dresses for little boys declined in popularity after the turn of the 20th century and had become much less common in the 1910s. We still see, however, some limited advertising in the 1910s, even as late 1918. The Best catalogs offered a wide range of dresses for very young children. There were two such pages in the Best 1918 Summer catalog. A few wee identified as being suitable for boys. The dresses are for children aged 1 to 3. There are several that are listed as dresses for boys. In some cases the trimming choices were pink or blue, suggesting that color conventions were different then or that they were made for boys and girls. The boy dresses seem to have collars and box pleats. Also the Russian styled dresses all seem to be more masculine. This is one of the last such advertisements that we have found so far.


Younger boys were still wearing tunic suits in 1918. The styles were changing as can be seen here on the Charles Williams catalog. The tunics are beginning to look less like tunics and more like jackets and the bloomer knickers are making a transition to short pants..

Toddler Clothes

A variety of todler styles with simple casual styles appear. They were often done with kneepants. The button-on style appears to have been very popular for boys. Knickers were more common for older boys. These toddler suits were done in a wide range of styles. A good example is the wash suits offered in the Best 1918 Summer catalog for toddler boys.

Sailor Suits

Blouses and Shirts

We note boys wearing both blouses and shirts. We continue to see boys' blouses offered in advertisements and catlog. Blouse at the time was still a gnder neutral term. A good example is that the shirt Sears included in their complete back-to-school outfit was actually a blouse without shirt tails.


Juvenile Suits

We notice a range of destinctively styled suits for younger boys. The same styles were worn by both pre-school boys and boys in the early primary years. Some manufacturers separated the two age groups, others did not. Some of the styles were just for the younger or older boys, but most styles were for both age groups. Most of these suits were done as knee pants suits. We still see tunic suits, but the tunics are looking increasingly like jackets rather than tunics.

Williams wash suits

We notice in the 1918 that the Charles Williams store catalog offering a wide range of wash suits for younger boys. Here we see some of the styles offered (figure 1). We know nothing about this store other than it was in New York. The suits here are for boys 3-8 years old. Some stores offered these or similar suits in pre-school age groups. These suits include sizes for boys in the early primary years, but school portaits show that most boys wanted more mature styles, especially after the first grade. Here we see some of the Williams offerings. Tunic suits were still popular, but notice that the tunics are now being styled more like jackets and are no longer the longer knee-length style we saw in the 1900s and early-10s. Also notice the poularity of Norfolk and Oliver Twist styling. Notice that the pants are straight-leg knee pants beginning a transition to short pants rather than the bloomer knickers we see in the 1900s and early-10s. Although not part of the outfits, the Williams ad has a lot of interesting information about hair styling, hosiery and footwear. And as it is a color advertisement, it provides useful information about color in boys' clothing--something we do not get from themostly black and white images of the day. And of course the ad shows a little pariotic fervor as the country was emersed in World War I.

Boys' Stonewall wash suits

I'm not sure what Stonewall meant. Perhaps it is is a manufacturer. The copy from atore advertisement read, "Cute models in non-fading matrials are always found in "Stonewall" Wash Suits. And at the price they are offered you can always dress your boy cheaper, almost one-half less than in overalls, and he will always be "dressed up"--light and dark material in Middy or Jr. Belted Norfolk models, ages 2 to 8. 89 cents."

World War I Uniforms

America entered World War I in 1917 and at the time this ad was placed, American units were preparing to go into combsat for the first time. Thus pants like the soldierts were wearing were apparently a fashion hit, rather like camafoge pants during the Gulf War. Thus in 1918 we note play suit costumes. We also note actual uniform items for older boys. We note a newspaper store advertisement.


American boys by 1919 were wearing knickers. Some mostly younger boys were still wearing kneepants. Some boys also wore kneepants for formal outfits. Knee pants were a style which continued for a few more years, but knickers were much more common. We do not yet notice short pants suits as had begun to be worn in Europe. American boys primarily wore knicker suits. They were pictured as being buttoned just at the knee. Most had belted waists. We notice one store offering a summer Norfolk suit with an associated hat and underwear, It was fairly cimmon at the time to offer complete sets which could be purchased separately or as a set. Boys in the 1910s still wore suits to school. And a corduroy knicker suit wa a school classic. Corduroy was popular because it ws hard wearing and inexpensive. A good example is Crompton Thrift Suits. Crompton was an important manufacturr of corduroy.


American boys mostly wore knickers in 1919, although kneepants had not completly gone out of style. The catalogs and advertisemenrs we have collected primarily offer knickers. We note the pants Sears included in their complete back-to-school outfit were knickers, but Sears just refers to them as "pants" and "knickerbockers". We note a newspaper store advertisement.


Children wore a wide range of socks and stockings. Long stockings were still very common and worn with stocking supporters. Some hosiery was made specifically for boys or girls. Other socks were made for infants and children that did not specify gender. Long stockings were made for boys and girls. Socks were mostly made for younger chidren up to about 8 years of age.


Quite a range of underwear styles were available for children in 1918. The styles were still quite different from modern styles. Union suits were still common underwear. There were shirts, drawers, and combination or "union" suits with the shirts and pants combined. 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. We note a newspaper store advertisement offering "unions" meaning union suits..

Suspension Garments

Children in the early 20th century wore a variety of suspension garments. The primary purpose was to hold up long stockings, but some were also designed to support pants as well. There were several different types of suspension garments being sold in 1919. We know a great deal about them because they were heavily advertized. We note brands like E-Z, Kazoo, Nazareth, and Sampson. Magazine adverisements tend to stress brands much more heavily than catalog listings. We note quite a number of magazine ads as well as catalog offerings for the various types of support garments in 1918. We note ads for garter waists, susppende waists, waists union suits, and other support garments. The ads for these garments normally stressed elaciticity, comfort, and durability as well as posture support.

Kazoo suspender waists

We note a magazine advertisement for Kazoo suspender waists.

Kazoo summer waist

The Harris Suspender Company of New York advertised the Kazoo suspender waist in Good Housekeeping (June 1918), p. 125, "The Summer Kazoo" for children from 2 to 12 years of age. This was a suspender waist for boys and girls who had switched from long stockings to ankle or knee socks for the summer months and hence did not need the hose supporters that came as part of the regular Kazoo suspender waist. The girl on the left in the illustration is wearing the "Summer Kazoo" which has the suspender straps, the waistband, and the waist buttons for supporting other clothing such as skirts and knee pants but that is missing the hose supporters for long stockings.


Boys especially school-age boys still wore mostly high-top shoes. We note strap shoes and sandals for girls and younger boys. Sneakers (canvas shoes) do not yet seem very common. We have found some actual catalog pages for footwear, but the illistrations on other pages also provide useful information about footwear.

Williams misses and children footwear

We know virtualy nothing about the Charles William Company. A reader tells us that they were located in New York City. They produced a catalog similar to that of Seas and Wards. This page comes from the 1918 Charles William catalog. The shoes here are for "misses and children". That means that the were for older and younger girls and younger boys. THe Williams catalog offers a variety of shoe and sandal styles.

Buster Brown strap shoes

Here is a Buster Brown Shoes ad from 1918. I wish it was clearer. But from what I can see, I think the ankle strap shoe pictured is for boys and girls --I dont see any mention of "Mary Janes", unless it is in the small print. What do you think? Strap shoes were still popular for both boys and girls in the 1920s in the US, and the Brown Shoe Co. may have wished to continue to sell them to boys. We are not sure when the term Mary Janes began to be used. We think it was the Buster Brown Shoe Company which ininiated the term in the 1920s, but we are not positive.



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Created: 12:36 AM 8/18/2005
Last updated: 7:30 PM 3/3/2015