Poor Albert Edward. In the summer of 1846, when he was four years old, the British crown prince, later King Edward VII, received his newest sailor’s suit. White blouse, wide-legged long pants, large V-neck with white stripes, silk tie handkerchief and straw hat.
Why poor Albert Edward? Well, during a royal visit to the Channel Islands he had to stand endlessly in suit to paint, his mother, Queen Victoria, thought the creativity was very special. The package has stood the test of time: it can be found in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (UK).
Children wore uniforms of officers and sailors
The packaging immortalized in the painting is special because it broke with tradition. Until then, it was not uncommon for children from noble families and other notable families to wear the uniform of a miniature officer on special days. You can’t get rich kids to get used to it early enough that later they’ll be captain of a sea ship themselves.
But Queen Victoria chose an ordinary sailor’s costume. It wasn’t the first: as early as the 18th century, images of what might be called sailors’ suits were known in Germany and France, among other countries. But the British crown prince’s suit will serve as a model for sailors’ suits that will truly flood the world.
The elite and ordinary children wore sailor suits
Because that’s what happened. For a century, the sailor’s suit was unstoppable. It was the most popular children’s fashion of all time. At first only among the rich, and later as clothes for “ordinary” people. The rise of the sailor’s suit was a sign that the boundaries between the different classes of society were slowly being replaced. While suits became more common in “lower” circles, children in “higher” circles also continued to wear them. You can call this special safely.
The sailors were strong and lovable
So sailors’ suits were suitable for everyone. That was according to Ignaz Mathi, the book’s author It sounded so cute on you, sailor suit cultural history (How beautiful it is to have such books), because of “the visual appeal and poignant appearance of this fashion: the sight of a child in sailor’s clothes aroused an almost reflexive love.” At the same time, the suit also had something difficult, just like real sailors. The suit fully met all the requirements for the image that parents had for their children.
With this outfit you expressed that you were stylish
For decades, sailors’ suits were worn more prominently on special days, like “Sunday” outfits. If you were going out as a family that day, eg to church or to the park, the sailor suit was a great choice for my son. You expressed that you were a “fair” family. Catholic boys also wore the sailor’s suit on Eucharist. When the boys’ pictures were taken, with the school class or with the family, they also knew that their sailor’s suit would be taken out of the closet.
The wealthy naturally had a tailor come into their house to wear a tailored suit. But ready-to-wear has been on the rise, too. Many fashion stores have released their own sailor stripes. Packages were already available for young children from the age of two. How cute!
The package came with a nickel whistle
Perhaps the British crown prince’s suit was the mother of all sailors’ suits, but the topic was endlessly diverse. At first, suits usually had long pants (just like real sailors), but in the 20th century, shorts took the upper hand. It was popular and still is a nickel whistle on a white rope that often comes with a sailor’s suit. It was in a special chest pocket.
The collar of the pack was not comfortable
It is almost inevitable that the children themselves must have hated their sailors’ suit. The starchy, solid collar (“show collar”) did not fit well and perhaps most importantly, the package was not allowed to get dirty.
There were also adults who saw it. The magazine was written in 1922 Dutch magazine: “Mothers who put on their son a sailor’s suit and long pants, offend the nature of children. The child does not take pleasure in wearing such a cumbersome dress, except in the desire to be noticed, he should naturally find such a pair of long straight tubes unpleasant and unjust – see if He could run and play with them!”
The girls also wore sailor suits
Sailor suits were especially popular among boys up to the age of twelve (or rather, among their parents). But it also turned out to be a hit with girls and women. They also began to wear the designs of sailors on special occasions. Swimwear and blouses were introduced with sailor stripes and I also saw them in girls’ and women’s sports clubs, such as tennis, sailing and gymnastics clubs.
Matthey writes: “The sailors’ dress for girls hilariously broke through the strict division of roles between men and women: for a moment girls were allowed into the world of men.”
The pilots were ultimately stricter than the sailors
After World War II, the sailor’s suit ended very quickly. In Germany, the market for sailors’ clothes collapsed: no one there wanted to put their children in anything resembling a uniform. Elsewhere, too, I was quick freaky if you wore such an old suit.
The ready-to-wear market became bigger and bigger: there was more and more to choose from. According to Mathie, the decline was partly due to the rise of (military) aviation: pilots were now stronger than sailors. Becoming a pilot was the new childhood dream.
They no longer express social differences in clothes
In addition, according to Mathie, the distinction between weekday and Sunday clothing has disappeared, in part due to increasing secularization. He writes: “It has arisen from a taboo to publicly emphasize social distinctions in clothing.” He believes that this phenomenon is the main reason for the decline in sailors’ suit.
In the 1960s, using your clothes to express that you were prettier or more important than anyone else was completely antiquated. The sailor’s suit helped smooth out the social folds between the rich and the poor, but it didn’t completely lose its elitist image.
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