*** boys' suit jackets : cut-away jacket

Boys' Suit Jackets: Cut-away Jackets

boys' cut-away jacket suits
Figure 1.--Here we see two brothers from Philidelphia. The portrait is undated, bu vwe would guess was tken in the late-1860s. Note that the younger brother wears the cut-away jacket. He looks to be about 8 years of age. Note the embroidery on the jacket outline and pockets and stripes on the bloomer knickers. We are not sure just what he is wearing under his jacket. Also note the Argyle long stockings. The photographer was F. Gutekunst.

We note a wide range of cut-away jackets in the mid-19th through the late 19th century. They become less common in the 1890s. The cut-away jacket was a style for a younger boy. We first notice them being worn with a variety of fancy suits for little boys during the mid-19th century. These suits were done in a variety of styles. One popular style was the Zouve suit. These cut-away jackets are perhaps best known as the jacket worn with the classic Fauntleroy suit. These jackets in the mid-19th century were often decorated with embrodiery and other trim. We have also noticed younger boys, girls and women wearing these jackets with dresses. We note a few impages of children wearing these dresses with skirts and are often not sure about their gender.


We believe the best term for these jackets is "cut-away". I do not know if this term was used at the time they were popular, the 1850s-80s. Or if so how commonly. Some period sources seem to have called it a "Zouave" jacket, at least the ones with Zouave styling. We have seen it used since. A modern term is "bolero" jacket. It is often used for girls' outfits. The two terms we believe describe essentially the same garment. HBC likes to get to the lowest common denominator so to speak--the generic term. This often means creating a single term for consistency throughoutb HBC, even though there was no such accepted term at the time. The way to do this is to use a term describing the garment physically. I think cut-away jacket is a good basic description for all the different types such as Zouave and Fauntleroy as well as the plain, unadorned jackets of the 1860s. Zouave may have been the first such jacket, but that does not mean that this should be the generic term used. HBC is always interested to know why the itemns were called in period catalogs and fashion magazines, but we can not always use that because period writers were very often not careful about terminology. Thus for manyb garments we see specufic fashion authors or catalogs using a term which may or may not have been used by other writers.


We are not entirely sure about the oruigins of this style. The small cut-away jackets worn by French Zouaves may have been the inspiration for these jackets. The soldiers and their destinctive uniforms were created in the 1830s and received a great deal pf publicity through the 1850s. The actual origins would have thus been Middle Eastern as the French created these uniforms for locally recruited troops in North Africa. They were meant to look Algerian and thus used local styles of Middle Eastern origins. The exploits of the Zouaves gradually begame legend in Europe as were well known by the 1850s. Thus the timing is approximately correct for a boy's fashion style. We see American boys beginning in the 1860s weating these jackets. They may have appeared earlier in France. We see cut-away jackets styled very plsainly as well as elaborately detailed omes, clearly showing the Zouave influence. At the same time the cut-away jacket appeared for boys, we note both Federal and Confederate Zouave units being formed in the Civil War. We can not, hosever, yet confirm this through period fashion magazines. One HBC cobntributor is convincd that the Zouaves were the inspiration for the boy's cut-away jackets that became popular. We note that they were commonly worn with bloomer knickers which may have also been been inspired by the Zouave uniforms.


We have just begun to develop a chronology for cut-away jackets. They appear to have been primarily as concerns boys, a mid-19th century style (1860s-70s). We note a wide range of cut-away jackets in the mid-19th through the late 19th century. Our information on the early 19th century is limited, in part because of the absence of photographs. We are not sure about the 1840s, but we see them quite commonly in the 1850s. A good example os John Van Horn in 1859. We see them most commonly in the 1860s. A good example is Charles J.J. Carter. Another example is two unidentified brothers in 1864. We note a German boy wearing a cut-away jacket suit in the 1860s. Another example is John Schwensusen, we think in the late 60s. We note that they were still quite common in the 1870s. Good examples in America are Tom Baird in the 1860s and Elmer Dayton in 1870. We note an unidentified Syracuse boy in the 1870s. We see far fewer cut-away jackets in the 1880s. Here an exception was the Fauntleroy suit. The classic Fauntleroy suit of the 1880s was of course done with cutaway jackets. They become less common in the 1890s, although we still see Fauntleroy suits with cut-away jackets. We see examples in the 20th century of little boys dressed formally in cut-away jackets, but they were not very common.


The cut-away jacket was a style for a younger boy. We are not yet sure about the precise ages which varied somewhat over times. We would guess that the principal age range as about 3-10 years of age. We mote a German boy who looks to be about 4-years old. We also note two English boys wearing matching cut-away jackets in the 1860s. We would guess they are about 7-8, perhaps 10 years old. We can't be too far wrong because of their younger brothers and sisters. There is an important factor to remember, however, is that in the mid-19th century when these jackets appeared that there was no ready-made clothing. Garments were sewn by mother or seamstresses. Thus there was much more variety than by the end of the century.


The construction of these cut-away jackets varied. There were major construction differences were the size of the jacket and the degree to which the jacket was cut away. The Fauntleroy jackets were often quite small, noy only showing off the front of the blouse, but some times the waist areaa as well. Of course this was done to best show off the fancy work of the Fauntleroy blouse. The cut away-jacket means that the jacket was increasingly cut away from top to bottom. Here the angle of the cut varied. Some jackets were cut awau very sharply. Some curved and others were a straight angle from top to bottom. Some jackets while buttobing only at the top were hardly cut away art all. These cut away jackets were thus made to be worn open, although there was normally only a single closure at the top. It may button or have a tie. Many employed a tab made in the same matrrial as the jacket.

Suit Types

We first notice cut-away jackets being worn with a variety of fancy suits for little boys during the mid-19th century. I am not yet sure just what the suits were called at the time or the best term for them today. The most destinctive feature, however, was the cut-away jacket. These suits were done in a variety of styles. One popular style was the Zouve suit. Francis Hodgson Burnett, an English-born American, helped popularize a style of dress for boys that proved exceedingly popular among romantically inclined, doting mothers. The author modelled her famous fictional creation, Cedric Erol, after her own son, Vivian, and thereby condemned a generation of "manly little chaps" in America and Britain to elaborate, picturesque outfits. Cut-away jackets are perhaps best known as the jacket worn with the classic Fauntleroy suit.


These jackets in the mid-19th century were often decorated with elaborate embrodiery and other trim. Not all cut-away jackets had elaborate emroidery. Many wee in fact very plain with almost no embroidery or other trim. A factor here was age. The suits for the younger boys seem to have the most elabortate trim and decoration. The style of the emroidery varied widely. They were a wide variety of geometraic ptterns. The embroidery was most common around the edges of the jacket, bnut sometimes there is embroidered work all over the front of the jacket. I'm less sure about the back because almost all photographic portraits are frontal shots. I am not sure what the inspiration was. I think some magazines may have carried patterns, but can not yet confirm this. The work was all hand done. Some jackets had patch pockets which might also be a focus of the embroidered designs. This jacket trim and emroidery was often repeated on the pants, but not commonly on the vest (waistcoat). Stripes on the pants, especially bloomer knickers were also very common.

Mock Cut-away Jacket

The cut-away jacket was one of the molst popular styles for younger boys over several decades. It is pergaps, thus not particularly surprising that mock cut-away jckets appeared. We noticed a few examples of jackets made to lookm like cut-away jackets with vests (waistcosts). We are not entirely sure why this was done. The only thing we can think of is that such a jacket would cheaper than an actual cut-away jacket and waistcoat. This is, however, only a guess and such outfits are extremekly rare.

Accompanying Clothes

We are unsure at this time about the headwear worn with these jackets. We suspect that a major factor here was the type/styling of the jacket and suit. We think that these jackets may somerimes have been worn with vests. Here a major exception was the Fauntleroy suit. The cut-away jacket was commonly worn as part of a Fauntleroy suit so the fancy blouse commonly worn with these suits would be exposed to maximum affect. We see these jackets worn with both kilt/skirts and trousers. We do notice them with skirts, but are unsure about the gender of the child in the available images. Generally they were worn with shortened-length trousers like bloomer knickers and kneepants. Less common were long pants. At least in America kneepants were more common with Fauntleroy suits.


We have also noticed younger boys, girls and women wearing these jackets with dresses. Jacketed dresses were a popular style for many years. One of the jacket styles was the cut-away jacket. There were other names for these jackets, including bolero and Zouave jackets. I am not sure what they were called in the 1860s when we see many girls wearing them. We note a few images of children wearing these dresses with skirts. Usually the gender is obvious. A good example is an unidentified American girl in 1865. Other times gender is less obvious. We are often not sure about their gender. A good example here is a unidentified Buffalo child about whom we are unsure.

Country Trends

The cut-away jacket was worn by boys in many different countries. It wa a very widely worn suit style. We arevnot sure where the style first developed. We suspect it was England, but we can not substantiate it at this time. The cit-away jacket was a common style throughout Europe and North America in mid- and late-19th cenyry. We have not yet developed pages for many of those countries. There was considerable similarities among the suits worn in the different countries and the time line seens similar in the various countries. We do not yet have a sufficient archive to develop information on every country, but we are expanding our coverge. We do have a page on England. We do have a German page. There is also a United States page.


Many boys wearing these cut-away jackets are asrchieved on HBC. A good example is Charles Foxm sam American boy in the 1860s. We not Richasrd Wade-Gery an English boy in 1873..


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Created: 11:18 AM 12/31/2005
Last updated: 1:48 AM 10/2/2009