Sailor Suits: Middy Suits

Figure 1.--Turn of the Century American boys wore middy suits, generally with kneepants and long stockings. Bangs were a popular hair style and had begun to replace long ringlet curls.

The classic middy suit appeared in the 1870s and was usually worn with kneepants and long stockings. Formal middy suits, however, required long pants.

Middy Blouse

The classic middy blouse i trimmed with three white stripes. Tradition attributes this to Nelson's three great victories. Some scholars, however, dispute this. The blouse does not tuckinto the pants but instead is "bloced" over the pants. Blouces for smaller boys sometimes button on to the pants.

Light-colored middy blouses made of linnen or other light fabric were worn in the summer. The blouses were white or other light-color such a light blue.

Blue or black suits made of serge or flannel were worn during the winter. The better suits were lined.

Middy blouses were relatively standard around the world. The major differce from country to coutry was the dicky worn between the "v" of the collar.


Most boys in the late 19th Century wore their sailor suit with knee pants. They were worn with long dark stockings. Both white summer suits and black or blue winter suits were worn with the dark stockings. After the turn of the century sailor suits were worn by increasingly younger boys. Gradually short pant and kneesocks replaced the kneepants and long stockings.

Usually boys wore the same color of middy blouse and pants. Some boys wore white middy with black or blue pants, but never a blue or black middy blouse with white pants.

Formal middy suits required long pants. Such formal long pants suits were more common in Britain than America, but were not as common as the suits worn with kneepants and short pants.

European and American boys both wore knee pants middy suits during the late 19th Century. Long pants suits were somewhat more common in Europe. After the turn of the Century, especially by the 1910s, the sailor suit was generally worn by younger boys. Older boys continued to wear sailor suits on the Continent (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and other countries). Many of the European boys, including older boys, wore the sailor suits with short pants and knee socks.

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Biographies] [Bibliographies]
[Activities] [Countries] [Contributions]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web sailor pages:
[Return to Main sailorsuit page]
[Middy blouse] [Reefer jackets] [Sailor dresses] [Other sailor styles] [Sailor hats]
[Middy suits] [National sailor suits] [The Royals] [Ring bearer/page costumes]

Created: October 30, 1998
Last updated: August 20, 1999