Boys' Clothing Patterns: Suits

Figure 1.--This 1940 Butterick boys jacket and short pants pattern was made in various sizes. The sewer could make the shorts into either regular or suspender shorts.

The difficulty of sewing varies greatly from garment to garment. One of the most difficult items were suits. There were patterns for men and boys' suits, but this was more pronounced in the 19th century. By the 20th century sewing suits became much less common, but it was still done, but most commonly for younger boys. I'm not precisely why this was. Presumably mothers were more willing to devote time and eergy into sewing for younger children. Also making garments in smaller sizes is a simpliier matter than in larger sizes. It may also be that younger boys wear what they are told to wear where older boys by the mid-20th century may have not been as happy with clothes sewed by their mothers. By that time it was nmuch easier to buy ready-made clothes and how much satisfactioin could a mother get in making a pair of jeans.

Sport Suit (America, 1940)


An HBC contributor provided the following information about a pattern he found. Something I ran accross in an old shop lately. My mother was quite handy with sewing, as were a lot of women from the earler years, but she never actually took on the task of making a complete suit for me from scratch. She made things mostly for herself, but used her sewing talent to repair and alter my clothes. I do know, though, that many mothers did make clothes for their kids, especially during, and immediately after the war years when supplies of consumer goods were in short supply.


I was a few years ahead of this time, growing up in the mid and late 1950's, but I had some older cousings who related that patterns like this were used for them (although not this particular pattern). You can see that although this is actually a short pants suit, it is much more casual looking than the traditional British or full dress up American short pants suit that would have been worn with a regular jacket and tie. Boys must have worn this at one time, but I don't remember actually seeing any myself with that unusal style of jacket. [HBC note: This style of jacket with a different, contrasting material around the shoulders was popular in late 1940s and early 1950s.]

Size and ages

You'll notice that the chest size is listed as 24 inches, and the total size of the suit was a size 6, but from the illustration of the boys wearing them, the designer looks like he intended it for a boy anywhere from age toddler to about 11 or 12 years old. [HBC note: The pattern was made in several different sizes. The illustration is meant to encompass all the different sizes. Notice that the sizes are stamped on and not printed.]

The shorts

The younger the boy, the more casual the look. If you'll notice the todder, the short pants are suspender shorts, but they may also be the same for the older boys, because the jacket covers any view. The proportionate length of the shorts is the same for all ages (slightly higher than mid-thigh), and knee socks are pictured for the older boy.

Actual pattern

The pattern inside had no real pictures with models, only boring traces and measurments that would be best understood by a person with experience in sewing, but like the illustration indicates, measurments were included for boys up till age 11 or 12 years.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 1, 2000
Last updated: December 1, 2000