*** Historical Presidential Clothing

Historic Presidential Boys' Clothing

Figure 1.--FDR after emerging from dresses and kilts mostly wore kneepants sailor suits until he was about 12 years old. From about 6 years of age to 12 he seems to have only wore sailor suits.

The clothing worn by presidents as children and the clothing worn by their children are a good reflection of contemporary children's clothing. America of course has no royal family to help set fashion standards as was the case in Europe. The American president and his family have in part played this role. Thus a review of the American presidents provide glimpses on popular children's fashions of the day. In addition, the clothing of the presidents themselves provide additional glimpses. Very limited information is available on the childhood of many presidents, especially the childhood of presidents like Abraham Lincoln that grew up in modest circumstances.


This website assesses the boyhood of each president to determine popular contemporary boys' fashions. We will also assess the clothes worn by the children in each president's family. Some basic historical information will be presented to place each president in historical perspective. American presidents have been the subject of intense historical scrutiny. The scholarship involved will be consulted here, but not replicated. We want to focus on the boyhood of the presidents which often is not assessed in such detail. We will look at their clothing as part of our assessment of children clothing as well a their childhood in general. We will also provide some basic historical informatioin to put their presidencies in perspective.

Individual Presidents

Available information on boys clothing worn by the presidents and their children is available for the following centuries:


One of the most cherished presidential traditions is the annual Easter Egg Roll, introduced by the Hayes in 1878. This has become one of the most cherished traditions at the White House.

Presidential Assessments

Most presidential historians agree that the three greatest presidents were George washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. In part the times in which they served preordained greatness if America was to survive. There is little controversy about Washington, although some historians raise the question of slavery. Washington's military leadership were critical as well as his staunch refusal to use the Army to seize control of the country. There is also little serious controversy about Lincoln, althoug some authots question is racial beliefs. Lincolm's achievenents in saving the Union and emancipting the slaves are epic. And the amazing aspect of the Lincoln presidency is how he rose with virtully no formal education. President Roosevelt is still the subject of considerable political conbtroversy, but it seems difficvult to deny his place as a major figure in the presidential pantheon. His role in fighting the Depression is now the subject of serious reconsideration. His role in fighting te Isolations and then as a war leader is without question a monumental presidentil schiecement. After these first three there is considerable debate about the various presidents. Some of the more important are surely Jefferson, Jackson, Polk, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan. There is also connsiderable debate as to the worst presidents were. Here some of the presidents leading up to the Civil War may fall in that category, not because of lack of character, but because of failed policies which failed to measure up with the enormity of the crisis. Many historians suggest Harding who thankfully served in less demanding times. Hoover should be considered here, although it is a complicated question. Hoover unlike Harding was a very competent statesman, having performed brilliantly during and after World War I to prevent starvation in Europe. The mistakes made in attempting to control a serious concession turned it into a depression. Other poor presidents include Filmore , Pierce, Bucanan and Carter. Some add Grant to the list.

First Lady Assessments

Most historians would rank Ekenor Roosevelt as the greatest First Lady although she was a very controversial because she was so outspoken. Many of the controversies such as her embrace of civil rights and Black Americans would hardly be controversial today. While she is admired for championing those and other issues, she can be faulted for not providing the personal support the president needed, especially as his health failed in the final 2 years of his presidency. Surely Dollie Madison and her insistence on resuing the portrait of President Washington as the British moved toward Washingtom has to place her high on the list. Many historians would rank Mary Todd Lincoln as the worst First Lady. Here we would not entirely agree. Mary Lincoln played a key role in assiting a very unpolished Abraham Lincoln enter the world of politics. It is true that as First Lady she was not particularly helpful. It is also true that she suffered the tragic loss of two young children, one of them in the White House. That surely would have been enough to unhinge many first ladies. The First Lady that we see as particularly unhelpful to the president was Bess Truman. President Truman was a faithful and deovted husband, but Bess Truman offered little support to her husband as he held office during a crucial point in history and was subjected to vituperative partisan attacks.


The Vice-President has virtually no responsibilities enumerated in the Constitution other than becoming president in case the president is incapcitated. The only other duty is to serve as president-pro-tem of the Senate. For most of America history, the 50 or so vice-presidents fulfilled no other real duties other than a range of ceremonial appearance. Vice-presidentGarner described his office as having the same value as a 'cup of warm spit.' New Yprk Governor Teddy Roosevelt was nominated as a way for the party bossess in Albany to get him out of the state and end his political career. In some cases the vice-president actually became estanged from the president, such as Aron Burr and John C. Calhoun. Most presidents ignored their vive-presidents. President Roosevelt virtually ignored Vice-president Truman. He did not even tell him about the atmomic bomb. The vice-presidency was so inconsequential than unless he became president, few Americansan name very many. President Nixon used Vice-Presidenrt Agnew as aolitical attack dog. Only in recent years has the president Kennedy began to assign real duties to Vice-President Johnson. Subsequentvice-presidents, including Walter Mondale, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden havecome to represent the midern vice-presudency. [Witcover]


We incourage our readers to contribute information that they may have about presidential boyhoods. We also need to ask for your support in maintaining this site due to the costs of maintaining an internet site. Here we have attempted to keep the requested contributions as low as possible to make access to the site open to as many readers as possible. All of the pages are open access pages, but to see most of the images we ask tha you make a small contribution to receive a password.


Witcover, Jules. The American Vice President: From Irrelevence to Power (2014), 560p.