*** American mail order catalogs with boys clothes--the 1910s

American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: The 1910s

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<i>Figure 1.--Younger boys by the 1910s were wearing simply styled button-on outfits like this boys

Mail order catalogs and magazines show major changes in American boys clothes. Several important fashion trends are notable during the 1910s. We notice a basic trend toward simplier less formal clothing. This trend was especually pronounced in children's clothing. Another notable trend is the increasing gender specific styles for younger children. Earlier both girls and boys wore dresses and it was often difficult to identify gender. We still see boy dresses advertized in the 1910s, but such offerings became increasingly rare as the decade progressed. The Oliver Twist suit was much simplier than the fancy suits that younger children had previously worn. HBC notices another catalog, Stuarts in the 1910s. Boys continued to wear tunics. A new style called an Oliver Twist suit appeared for todlers in the 1910s. The straight-leg knee pants common in the 1900s were replaced by knickers in the 1910s. Long stockings were still the dominant hosiery, although young children often wore three-quarter socks during the summer.


We have some items that we cannot date to a specific year, but believe appeared in the 1910s we will add those items here. Sewing patterns in particular are difficult to date. We notice a Standard sailor suit. We also note Buster Brown long stockings. These ads probably appeared throughout the 1900s and 10s. We note an undated Notaseme ad for long stockings. The boy in the illustration is pictured wearing a tunic suit.


We have found a few catalog and magazine items for 1910. We note somje skirted items for todlers, both dresses and tunics. Some of the boys in the accompsnying illustrations have short ringlets. Both dresses and ringlets were becoming less common for boys, even toddler boys by the 1910s, although tunics were a very popular style. All we have at this time is a Ladies Home Journal illustration for younger boys' blouses. We do not have the ad copy, but believe the magazine is offering patterns for these blouses. Children commonly wore long stockings. A Sears catalog offers hose supporters. There is a Combination Belt and Supporter as well as Progress Suspender and Hose Supporter. This appears to be the ancestor of the suspender waist. We have found a newspaper ad for the Kern's Supporter Waist. We also have a page from the Montgomery Ward catalog showing some of the different styles of footwear offered, referred to as shoes and slippers. Included was double-strap sandals, one of the earliest ads we have noted for these sandals.


We have some information on 1911. Boys still commonly wore suits. Norfolk styling was still very popular. We note an ad from A. Shuman & Co. Suits of Boston with an illustration of a Norfolk suit. Boys commonly wore kneepants and knickers. Long stockings were very widely worn by both boys and girls. We note button-on long stockings in 1911. They were not common. Most boys wore various types of stocking supporters to hold up their long stockings. We do note advertisements for Velvet Grip hose supporters in 1911 issues of "The Youth's Companion", a children's periodical. We note Sears shoes in their 1911 catalog. Many styles were made in mens' and boys' sizes. There were both high-top and low-cut styles. 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. Chalmers of Amersterdam, New York made Porosknit fabric, a porous cotton knitted material for men's and boys' underwear that allowed perspiration to evaporate through its mesh-like construction.


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.


We still have very limited information on 1913 clothing. We have only a few ads at this time. We note a Sears page for men and boys winter caps. Many of the cap stles are fairly similar. Unfortunately Sears does not provde names for the cap styles. There is also an interesting ad for Velvet Grip Supporters. The ad not only shows the garment, but illustrates some contemprary family trends. We note little girls underwear in a Fairy Soap advertisemrnt.


World War I began in Europe during 1914. The War would have a major impact on fashions. America did not enter the War until 1917. We do not yet have many catalog or advertising entries for 1914. We still see boy dresses advertized in 1914, but such offerings are becoming increasinly rare. We have some information from a Ward's catalog. Tunics were featured for younger boys. Ward's calls them Russian blouses which was a widely used term at the time. We also note rompers. There were also a varietyu of shoes and sandals offered. High-top shoes were still a standard for boys. Sandals were available, but they were mostly for girls and younger boys. We do note a 1914 page which has children's shoes and sandals.


American mail order catalogs in 1915 featured increasingly simple casual styles for younger children. We note rompers and tunic suits. Fauntleroy suits had given way to Olivr Twist suits. They styles were also increasingly gender specific. We also note boys wearing sailor suits. Most boys wore knickers with long stockings. Suits were still commonly worn, but we see a lot of phoographs of boys wearing blouses and shirt waists with knickers. Knee pants had largely disappeared exept for outfits for younger boys. Long stockings were still very common necesitating sgtocking supporters. High-top shoes were still common. Youngr boys migh wear sandals.


American children in 1916 still commonly wore long stockings. The Good Housekeeping Magazine had an ad for Black Cat reinforced stockings which the entire family wears. September was obviously the month when mothers would be buying stockings for their young children getting ready for school. The boy in the photograph wears a Norfolk style knee pants suit with elbow-length sleeves and two (white?) ornamental buttons on his trousers, black long stockings, and low cut, slipper-like shoes. He wears a large white collar resembling an Eton collar in some respects and some sort of string tie. He points to the hosiery of his parents, surprisedly noting that they too wear "Black Cat" stockings. We also notice an advertisement for Hickory garters. We also notice an advertisement for Kazoo suspender waists. The major catalog companies offer a wide range of shoes. High-top styles are still dominant. We notice the Central Shoe and Rubber Company offering rubber shoe and sandal lasts. We note a Sears saddle shoes. This is the earliest advertisement for saddle shoes that we have found to date.


We have sone limited informatin on 1917 styles. The 1917 De Pinna Co. catalog was issued in hard over. De Pinna was an important New York retailer. It was located on 5th Avenue with other exclusive retailers and was the New York branch of an English boys clothing store that was founded in London, 1880, so I presume that the text was written by them.) The catalog advises, "The manly appearance of an English lad is always noticeable. Over there, the dressing of boys and young men has been standardized for years. There is lacking in their dress that suggestion of feminine intervention which has crept at times into the dress of American boys. There is no reason why any good healthy American boy should be decked in ribbons, frills, and laces. There is every reason why he should wear--according to his station in life--clothing and accessories that closely resemble those of men ..." The text runs on another few pages to tout the importance of "manly" attire... It is interesting that this word is no longer used in children's fashion ads It certainly was used a lot around the early 1900s! One wonders why the term fell out of favor. Sometimes the changing rhetoric of fashion is just as mysterious as fashion trends themselves. Also note the phrase "good, healthy". There is a psychological implication here. Did men innately regard a boy who is ill or a invalid as more the property of his mother than a "good, healthy" boy? We also note an ad for Porsoknit union suits for boys that appeared in the Literary Digest for 1917. Another ad appeared in Good Housekeeping. This is a summer union suit for boys which also is made in adult sizes. Notice that the appeal is to the athletic side of boys--those who ride bikes. We also notice an advertisement for Kazoo suspender waists. We also note a ad from Good Housekeeping Magazine (March, 1917) for a little boy's summer waist union suit.


HBC does not yet have detailed information on clothing offered in 1918 catalogs. 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. 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.


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. The Sears catalog in 1919 offered a selection of knickers suits in different styles and materials. They were pictured as being buttoned just below the knee. They were made for boys 6-18 years of age. Boys commonly wore flat caps.


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Created: September 1, 2000
Last updated: 3:46 PM 6/29/2011