German 19th Century--Late Victorian Sailor Suits: Styles (1870s-90s)

Figure 1.--Here we see a German boy with his sister. All we know about them is that they were from Magdeburg. The portrait is undated, but we would guess was taken about 1885. It is a good example of a period tinted portrait.

The limited information that we have shows a wide variety of styles. Many were not traditional styles. Traditional here means styles similar to the uniform actually worn by sailors, especiall "V"-neck middy blouse with 3-stripe detailing and a back flap. Sailor suit styles varied significantly by decade, although we do not yet have enough 19th century images to fully assess the many varied styles. We do note one style that seems to have been popular in the 1880s or even early 1890s. The style incorporated a more standrd collar with a sailor suit. We have not noted American boys wearing this style, but we are unsure to what extent this was a destinctive German fashion. More traditional styles began to become more standard in the 1890s. The characteristical three white stripes on cuff and collar recall the three famous sea battles of Nelson. At the end of the 19th century, textile factories for sailors' clothes were established in the naval port of Kiel, from where Germany pursued its colonial and imperialistic policies. The real "Kieler," also among the favorite clothes of the emperor's children, became an expression of national pride for the bourgeoisie. by the 1890s German boys were also commonly wearing sailor suits. Germany became a united country in the 1870s and the use of the sailor suit in the Holenzorian ruling family by the 1890s, influenced by Queen Victoria, was a major factor. The German decission to begin building a major navy was a matter of imense national pride and must have been another factor in popularizing the sailor suit for boys. I have little information on styles. They seenmed to have been worn primarily with knee pants.


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Created: 6:35 PM 4/22/2006
Last updated: 6:35 PM 4/22/2006