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Boys' Clothing in the Early 20th Century

Little boys and girls were dressed in rompers for play. This was a significant improvement over the confining, formal clothes more common before the turn of the century.

Children's dress was now specifically designed for them and their active play. There were a large variety of patterns. At last clothes were simple and childlike.

The small girl's dress covered her knees and her waistline was placed low. Tots under six wore a baby style, soft, full frocks shirred to a tiny yoke. Though schoolgirls wore shirtwaist and skirt there were three popular and almost uniform styles for that age and under, the sailor costume or "middy" blouse, the Russian tunic with pleated skirt and the jumper dress of navy serge worn over a lingerie blouse or "guimpe." Accordion pleating designated a party dress. From about 1908 for everyday wear small girls for play wore bloomers instead of drawers and petticoats.

The legs of American children were still mostly encased in long stockings although socks were coming in and being covered by leggings in winter. Short pants or trousers worn with knee or even ankle socks appeared in England for younger children. Cold weather always called for high, buttoned or laced shoes and in summer, Oxfords and strap shoes.

Children and adults almost always wore head gear. The older miss wore youthful versions of grown-up fashions, securing the hat to the hair by means of a long, vicious looking hatpin instead of the chin-elastic of childhood. Boys generally wore sailor hats of various designs. Straw hats held on with elastic chin straps were still popular. The more modern styles of sailor caps worn by the various national navies also were adapted for boys. Boys also began wearing flat caps with peaks.

It was in the hairdo that teen-agers went fancy free. With either center or side part most young females wore long curls, flowing hair or long braids or dressed the front hair into a pompadour and tied it with a bowknot. And, on the subject of bowknots, wide ribbon was the thing and often not just one bowknot but two big bows. All this was followed by the Dutch cut with straight, trimmed bangs. Boys often wore long hair until they got their first hair cut at 5 years or so. The long Fauntleroy curls popular in the 1880s-90s became less common/

Like their sisters, boys also dressed in sailor suits and the Russian blouse. A suit resembling the Russian blouse was the American Buster Brown tunic with wide starched collar and black silk scarf. Buster Brown was a popular, small hero of a Sunday newspaper serial which had quite a following among the youngsters. The older boys wore knee pants with tunic or short jacket and about 1910, one notes the Norfolk jacket with knickers and white shirt. Collar and tie accompanied the Norfolk outfit. Eton collars were considered esential for proper dress in England. It was customary for American boys to adopt long trousers in their teens. During the first decade long) ribbed, black stockings were worn with high, laced, black slices, or Oxfords according to season.






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Christopher Wagner

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