Movie Depictions of Boys Clothes: Kilts

Figure 1.--The boys in "My Life So Far" not only wore their kilts to dress up, but also casually with sweaters. They do not seem to be wearing their sporans. One boy wears his kilt with "Wellies".

Although an important boys' style, kilts are not commonly used in movies. Boys outside Scotland began wearing kilts in the 1840s after Queen Victoria began dressing the princes in kilts. Kilts, especially kilt suits, were widely worn by American boys in the late 19th Century. Even so, it is fairly rare for boys to be costumed in kilts for movies. Two movies where they do appear is Life with Father (kilt suit) and The Magnificent Ambersons (Highland kilt). An HBC contributor suggests, My Life So Far, set in Scotland during the 1930s. The film is of interest for other period dress besides kilts.

(The) Green Years - (US, 1946)

Lovely movie based on the A.J. Cronin novel about Robbie, an Scotts-Irish boy. Robbie's mother was a Scottish girl who disgraced the family by marrying an Irish Catholic. When his parents die, Robbie comes to live with his aunt's family in a small Scottish village. The film begins when Robbie arrives in Scotland in 1900. The family is staunchly Church of Scotland, but allow Robbie to go to Catholic church when he insusts. There is an emotional scene in the film, when Robbie shows up in the Catholic Chirch, the priest tells him, "I've been waiting for you Robert Shannon." Robbie's uncle is a terrible penny pincher and sells Robbie's prized possession--his tricycle. His grandmother makes him a suit out of her green petticoats (with flowers) and he is teased and bullied. (In the book I believe that the suit is made from curtains.) Robbie's great grandfather tells him to pick a fight with the most respected boy at school. He is the only boy who hasn't been teasing him--Gavin. The younger boys at the Academy (the private school) all dress alike in dark kneepants suits with Eton collars. There does not, however, seem to be a uniform as such as the school does not object to Robbie's flowered green suit. There is a school cap with a badge that all the boys wear. The little girl Robbie falls in love with wears a tam--but the boys always wear school caps. His best friend (Gavin) wears a kilt, but not at school. He wears it while hunting for eggs. It is interesting that he does not just wear a kilt for Church, but for outdoors activities like hunting eggs. The film does not address whose ide, Gavin's or his mother's that he wear the kiklt, None of the other boys in the village or depicted wearing kilts. Robbie insists on remaining a Catholic and has trouble getting his First Communion suit. The boys have a strict, but understanding schoolmaster. Robbie is beautifully played by Dean Stockwell. This is wonderfully produced classic, well worth seeing.

Life with Father (US, 1947)

A really wonderful film set about 1880 in New York. Through a series of reminiscences, a man recreates a childhood spent with his eccentric Victorian father. A financier rules his numerous family, consisting of his wife and his four sons, with the meticulousity of a bookkeeper.This comedy's plot is simple: get Father baptized. It was quite a well done film about a large New York family in the 1880s. The family was an affluent one. It was a well done period costumed film, with a lot of different period outfits shown--especially for the two younger boys. A kind hearted wife and her four sons find ways of manipulating an otherwise tyrannical father. The well-ordered household becomes unglued when the wife finds out that her husband has never been baptized. The two youngest boys wear very attractive costumes, both with knee pants and long stockings. The youngest boy, Harlin (Derek Scott), has to be the best outfitted boy in any major movie. He wears kilts in two scenes and a lovely blouse with lacy collar and cuffs in another. I understand he objected to this when they shot the movie. He his rather young, I'd say about 6 years old, but his outfits are great. I especially liked his kilt suit outfit when his mother went shopping with the boys. It is a sort of blue-gray outfit with matching jacket and kilt, both with all kinds of black trim. He wears his kilt outfit with a big floppy beret with a long tassel. The kilt is above the knees and he has long stockings. His frilly blouse with the lacy collar and cuffs are also very nice. The lace collar is enormous and the lace intricate. Presumably his knee pants are velvet, but it is hard to tell from the film. It is clearly a Fauntleroy-type outfit, but he doesn't wear a jacket with it. All the little details in his and the slightly older boys outfits, such as ribbons hanging from the back of sissy boy hats are done perfectly. Harlan's Sunday best hat is especially nice, broad-brimmed sissy hat with a long streamer. Its very unusual for such outfits to be so accurately pictured in movies. They are surely some of the best sissy outfits depicted in the movies. The next oldest boy is about 10, perhaps 11 and not dressed nearly as well. He does, however, wear kneepant suits, including a sailor outfit.

(The) Magnificent Ambersons (US, 1942)

Like Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons was another Orson Wells masterpiece. A complete copy of Wells film, however, does not exist. All that is left is the extensively cut version released by the studio. It is unfortunate that Ambersons, regarded by some as a work finer than even Kane, should be a film of speculation. Some believe that had a complete copy of the film managed to exist today it would be The Magnificent Ambersons and not Citizen Kane which would be hailed as the greatest film ever made. This classic movie begins (about 1885) with some superb shots of the protagonist as a terribly spoiled boy. He wears lovely sausage curls and appears in both a Fauntleroy suit and a kilt. He is teased for his sissy clothes and gets into a fight. Two of the very best sissy outfits I have ever seen. Based on the Booth Tarkington novel about an eccentric Indiana family clinging to tradition during a time of social change.

My Life So Far - (Scotland, 1999)

Scottish film My Life so Far was filmed in Argyll at Ardkinglas House and around Loch Fyne. The film is the memoir of family in post World War I era. The family lives on an estate and is headed headed up by a strong disciplinarian matriarch (Rosemary Harris). The family includes her daughter (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), her inventor husband (Colin Firth), their 10-year old son (Robbie Norman), and his older sister (Kelly MacDonald). Through the household comes a number of suitors hoping to impress the young woman, including a flyer (Tcheky Karyo). The elder woman's son (Malcolm MacDowell) shows up at the estate with of all things, a French maid (Irene Jacob)--throwing the family into turmoil. The young boy is smitten with her and his father is disturbed by his own feelings. The boys wear short trousers and kilts, usually with bkazers and coat jackets.

(The) Three Lives of Thomasina - (US/UK, 1963)

We always thought that cats had nine lives, but apparently Thomasina only gets three. The Disney film, The Three Lives of Thomascina reminds one of Pollyana. The little girl in Thomasina is not as engaging as Haley Mills, but it nonetheless a wonderfull film. It is a sentimental, early 20th century story which provides an interesting view of what Scottish children were wearing. The actual date is 1912 I am not sure, however, how accurate the fashion depiction is. The film is based on Paul Gallico’s book Thomasina. It is a lovely little Disney movie set in Scotland. A bit soppy, especially the ending, but worth seeing. The story line follows the tribulation of a little girl's tabby cat. The main character is a little girl. Three boys play prominent roles. The older boy appears to be 13 or 14 and still wears a short pants suit, although the shorts are very long. Some boys wear knickers. Two of the boys also appear in dressy kilt outfits. They all dress up smartly for Thomasina's funeral. One of the boys is the younger boy in Bed Knobs and Broomsticks.


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Created: January 26, 2001
Last updated: 5:37 PM 8/18/2004