Sailor suits were first worn by boys, but sailor outfits were eventually worn by both boys and girls. HBC has received several inquiries about girls sailor outfits. Unfortunately there is no sister site to address historic girls styles. Some basic information on girls sailor outfits is helpful in assessing old photographs. Girls generally wre sailor outfits of middy blouses and skirts and eventually sailor dresses. Boys appear to have worn early sailor dresses. Girls dresses from a fairly early period appear with elements of sailor styling before they can be called actual sailor dresses. Conventions varied greatly over time and between cuntries. Girls may have worn sailor suits with bloomers. HBC has not noted sailor suits with trousers, either short or long trousers. Girls did wear sailor tunics like the ones worn by boys.
The sailor suit for boys was popularized by Queen Victoria when she first dressed the future Edward VII in a white enlisted man's suit with bell-bottom trousers. HBC at this time does not have sufficent informatiion to assess when girls also began wearing sailior inspired outfits. The middy blouse, especially the white middy blouse with a blue skirt was commonly worn by American girls to school in the 1910s-20s. This may have been a factor explaining why the sailorsuit declined in popularity amony American boys. Dresses with sailor suit collars were very popular as gym suits in girls schools during the first half of the 20th century. Also, many girls and women's bathing suits used both versions of the sailor collar. If you'll check out the Dover Everyday Fashions of the Twenties on p. 38 you'll find a "sports" outfit for teenaged girls consisting of a "middy blouse" and a pleated plaid skirt. Modified sailor collars are also shown on the other "sports" and "play suits" for older girls shown on the page. On p. 78 are more "middies" touted as a "costume for the schoolgirl or co-ed for sport or year round
Sailor suit styles and conventions varied from country to country. There were, however, limits on national styling because all sailor unifirms and children sailor outfits arecbased on the uniform style set by the British Royal Navy. As a result fifferent styles could be elborated around the margins, but not the basic style. Thus we see most such outfits with V-fronts and back flaps andcwith stripes as the principal decorative device. This was true for both boys and girls. The only major dofference was the vottoms, pants for boys and skirts for girls. There were greater variations in other garments, especially the dresses that the girls wore. While wa have looked into variationjs in country trends that has been primarily for the boys. We need to look at countrty trends for the girls' sailor outfits as well. HGS knows little about how girls sailor outfits varied from country to country at this time styles. We are not yet sure about the late 19th century. We know that sailor suits began as a boys' style in Britain (1840s). We have Queen Victoria to thank for this. We see children includiung girls wearing sailor throughout Europe an America by the 1870s, but mostly by well to do fashionsnle fmilies. We see more girls wearing sailor suits and dresses with sailoir styling (1880s). It is later thsat ewe see sailor outfits becoming standard garments (1890s). They seem especially popular in America, England, France, Germany, and Italy. By the turn-of-the 20th century, the sailor suit was no longe seen as primarily a boys syle. And in some countrues we see more girls wearing sailor styles than boys , especially school ahe girks. This seems especially pronounced in America.
Girls first wore sailor dresses with elements of sailor styling. Only gradually did those dresses begin to look more and more like middy blouses. Eventually girls not only wore sailor dresses, but middy bloses and skirts. Of course when girls began wearing middy blouses, they became less opular with the boys. Little boys appear to have worn early sailor dresses. Girls dresses from a fairly early period appear with elements of sailor styling before they can be called actual sailor dresses. Conventions varied greatly over time and between cuntries. Girls may have worn sailor suits with bloomers. HBC has not noted sailor suits with trousers, either short or long trousers. Girls did wear sailor tunics like the ones worn by boys.
Both boys and girls have worn sailor outfits to school.
The sailor suit during the late 19th and early 20th century was widely worn to school by boys in many European countries. It was especially common in France and Germany. Interestingly it was least common in England, the country where boys first wore sailor suits and which had the most poweful navy. It was also worn in America, but perhaps because of the British connection not as commonly as in Europe. A few schools, mostly military schools hadsailor suit uniforms, but for the most part boys simply wore it because it was a common boys' clothing style. Sailor suits becan to commonly appear in the schools during the 1970s and were commonly worn through the 1920. The began to decline in popularity during the 1930s, but trends varied from country to country.
The middy blouse, especially the white middy blouse with a blue skirt was commonly worn by American girls to school in the 1910s-20s. Middy blouses and bloomers were a commn girls gym outfit in the early 20th century. The Japanese adopted sailor dresses as school uniforms for girls.
One HBC reader suggests that white sailor outfits were more common for girls than blue ones. HBC does not yet have sufficent details to assess this.
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