Kilt Suits: National Trends


Figure 1.--This American boy was photographed in Brockton which I believe is in Massachusetts. It is undated, but the Eton collar suggests the 1890s. Note the flat pannel kilted styling on his kiltsuit. The boy looks to be 4-5 years old. Click on the image for a more detailed assessment of the boy's kilt suit.

HBC has have no clear informational on national trends. We know kiltsuits were very popular in America. I'm less sure about the popularity in Britain and continental Europe. Our failire to find much evidence of kiltsuits being worn on the continent may mean that it was not a style that was worn. It may, however, simply reflect our very limited information at this time. We have noted French sailor kilts, but have yet to find kiltsuits as worn in America. We believe that kiltsuits were worn in England, but have bot yet been able to document that. Boys stles during the 19th century in continental Europe is a topic on which HBC is trying to obtain more information.

America

While few American boys in the 19th Century wore proper Scottish kilts with Highland regalia, many more boys wore the kilt suits that were popular in the late 19th Century. While Higland kilts were most popular with families that had Scottish conections, there does not seem to have been any relationship between kilt suits and Scotland. Mothers of many varied ethnic backgrounds chose klit suits for their boys. These suits were only worn by boys. The kilt suit was a very popular American style. The kilt suit became one of the most popular styles for younger boys in the late-19th century. It suited mothers who thought their sons were growing to old for dresses, but were not yet ready to breech them. They were popular with affluent amd middle-class families .

Canada

As with boys in America, England, and Scotland, Canaadian boys also wore kilt suits. We know less about Canadian kilt suits than these other countries because our Canadian archive, especually for the 19th cedntury is limited. We do note some well-to-do Canadian boys wearing kilt suits. We do not know how common it was. We do not think it was quite as common as in the United States. We can not, however, confirm this until we have expanded our Cananadian archive. As far as we can tell, the conventions for kilt suits were fairly similar in all the different English speaking countries where thry were worn. Most of the imasges we have found were pre-school boys, but we believe some boys wore them to even 7-8 years. In Canada we are not sure if French Canadian boys also wore them. We note a varity of styles. We begin to see kilt suits in Canada in early CDVs (1860s). We are not sure about the 1850s. We see kilts suits in Canada through to the 1890s as well as the early 1900s for pre-school boy

Continental Europe

The kilt suit does not appear to have been a popular style on continental Europe. They were worn to some extent in France, but I believe were much less common elsewhere in Europe. We have not noted them, for example, being widely worn in Germany or Italy. Our information on those countries, however, is very limited.

England

We have no information that kiltsuits were worn in England. We have never noted photographs of English boys wearing kilt suits. We have, however, a relatively limited number of 19th century images. English mothers had some idea about how a kilt should be worn, although certainly not as much as Scottish mothers. The decission of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to dress the princes in kilts mean that the boys wore proper Highland kilts. There was, however, no precedence for any kilt-like garments like kilt suits. A Scottish reader has provided an assesment of kilt suits in Scotland and England. His conclusion is that they were not worn in either England or Scotland. The kilt suit appears to have been a destinctly American garment.

France

They were worn to some extent in France. They do not appear to have been nearly as common as in America, but this is a topic we are still researching. We have noted some rather fancier outfits that could be classified as kilt suits. The kilt suit as worn in America and England was rather a plain garment and French boys in the late 19th century were often dressed in fancier outfits. While the klitsuit itself does not appear to have been a major style for boys, we do note that sailor kilts were quite popular for younger boys in France beginning in the 1880s.

Germany

The kiltsuit does not appear to have been as popular in Germanya s it was in Ameruica and Britain. Our knowledge of 19th century German boyswear, however, is still quite limited so this is a matter we are still investigating. We do not that Albert Einstein as a boy growing up in Germany wore a kiltsuit.

Scotland

HBC has no indication that kilt suits were worn in Scotland. We have never noted photographs of Scottish boys wearing kilt suits. It is likely that Scottish parents familiar with the kilt probably would not have accepted a non-traditional usage. A Scottish reader has provided an assesment of kilt suits in Scotland and England. His conclusion is that they were not worn. The kilt suit appears to have been a destinctly American garment.

Wales

The second type of kilt outfit is the kilt suit, more commonly worn in America than in either Scotland or England. We note a huge number of American boys wearing kilt suits. Many would not consider this a true kilt. We also notice English boys wearing kilt suits. It was not a chaacteristic Welsh or Scottish garment. Just a popular fashion furing the secvond half of the 19th century. We suspect that conventions were very similar in Wales to those in England. Other 19th century clothing trends were similar in England and Wales, especially for boys. Women and girls were still wearing folk styles at the beginning of the 19th century, but that had begun to decline by the mid-19th century. Given our small Welsh archives, however, we can not yet make any valid assessments of Welsh trends and conventions. Thus the images we have found may well be simply a reflection of English fashion trends inspired by Queen Victoria than Celtic-related trend of wearing kilts or other skirted garments in Wales.







HBC





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Created: December 20, 2001
Last updated: 6:46 AM 9/25/2010