Nothing to wear but clothes
To keep one from going nude.
--Benjamin Franklin King, The Pessimist
Nothing to wear, indeed!
Just look at these 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. clothes for young boys: Wash suits of linen, sateen and chambray; striped and boxed waists (shirts) of linen lawn, percale, India and French linen…a veritable shopper’s delight of fashion!
Sailor suits were all the rage, and here’s a spiffy blue and white Pencil Striped Percale Wash Suit, made from an “extra heavy narrow blue and white striped percale,” with large sailor collar of blue sateen and a “white duck shield and monogram in the center.”
All this for 75 cents.
Or here’s another sailor suit, with a large collar “trimmed with a neat pattern of insertion” and a “cord effect pique shield.” The cuffs of the waist and pants (at the knees) have white pearl buttons and shaped sleeves. “A most handsome summer suit,” it reads.
This one’s selling for $1.00.
Some of these suits were made from “crash,” a cheaper fabric made from undyed yarns. Linen was used for the warp yarn, while the jute was woven in for filler – these suits were coarser, rougher; they probably itched like fury!
Suits of this crash fabric were, however, much cheaper—an entire suit might sell for only 35 cents.
Older boys had more sophisticated choices—a military style cut that was a step up from the sailor motif. “One of the handsomest white waists you can possibly get no matter what price you pay,” reads the copy for this white linen lawn waist. It had a Bedford cord effect, and was “trimmed with heavy ball pearl buttons and double cuffs.”
A steal at $1.00.
But here’s my favorite waist (and my favorite model): a Little Lord Fauntleroy number made from white lawn (linen) with “large sailor collar, neatly embroidered” and double cuffs.
I can’t believe any self-respecting boy would ever parade around in this number…it’s flouncy and fluffy and totally inappropriate for a game of Fox and Chase, or Base Ball, or Halley Over, or Hoops…
…but it’s only 50 cents.
I think I’d rather go naked.