American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: Garments

Figure 1.--Sailor suits were all the rage for American boys at the turn of the centuary. Sears in 1902 offered many different styled of was sailor suits. Most were for boys from 3 to 10 years. There was even a pink suit! Notice the crease in the trousers.

American mail order catalogs offer a very view of the styles and garments overtime to help us view changing fashion trends. The various catalogs and advertisements archived on HBC provide a huge amount of detailed information on garments. We are still working on this section. Most of the catalog pages have been added to the chronolgical section. For now we are just adding the undated pages. We hope to eventually cross index them here under each garment category, but will this will take some time.

Baby Clothes

Toddler Outfits


HBC has noted a wide variety of headwear advertised in clothing catalogs during the late 19th century. Hats seemed more popular in the 19th century while more informal caps became increasinly popular in the 20th century. Also the numbers of different styles decvlined ar the 20th century progressed.


Some of the earliest catalogs HBC has advertising coats is the B. Altman catalog number 49. The term coat and jacket appears to have been used interchangably along with cloak. HBC does not at this time have the date but it looks to be the early 1880s.




Boys' suits have been made in a wide variety of styles, including kilt, blouse, single and double breasted, and many others. Suits were also made for girls which were basically less elaborate dresses, often with styalized jackets. Some of the earliest catalogs HBC has advertising suits is the B. Altman catalog number 49. HBC does not at this time have the date but it looks to be the early 1880s.




Catalogs and advertisements have shown the different styles of pants worn by American boys including kneepants, knickers, long pants and short pants. Our information on the 19th century is limited, but ctalogs in the 20th century provided a great deal of information. They not only provide an indicator of popular styles but also a great of detailed information on material, colors, and stylistic elements. Pants at the turn of the 20th century were often purchased as suits or to be worn with suit jackets. Gradually in the 20th century it became more common to purchase pants separately. As the century progressed increasingly casual styles became popular.


HBC has not noted Highland kilts in American mail order catalogs. We have noted some old photographs of boys wearing these kilts, they were probably ordered from seamstresses or made by the mothers or, more likely house staff because the boys wearing them probably came from affluent families. While Highland kilts were not commonly offered, kilt suits were very common for young bous through the early 1900s.




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Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
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Created: April 19, 2001
Last updated: 4:44 AM 5/16/2017