The American Blouse: Height of fashion for little boys!
With little boys and girls being dressed almost the same for such a long period of time, I was delighted to find this two-some as part of a group of children's wear.
The sailor collar was one of two included in the group, and being an individual piece, heavily stiffened and so naval in character, it could have dated to any period beyond the 1860's, when sailors dress became so popular. However, the top, as you see here, is a real find and dates them perfectly, thanks to my usual children's wear guide: 'Children's Costume in England' by Cunnington & Buck [A. C. Black Ltd. 1965]
The top is called an 'American Blouse' and can be seen on page 187 of the above book, as shown here. I have also shown the more traditional version of the sailor collar which can be found on on page 184. Both date to the mid 1890's. The American Blouse would have been worn with knickerbockers, and was an altogether more feminine version of the traditional sailor suit. Indeed, Cunnington & Buck tell us that little boys, generally aged from 4 to 10, would be left with long hair to complete the rather Dandy appearance!
I have kept the sailor collar and blouse together because they look so charming, but the blouse would be worn without a collar also, as it has it's own huge collar, and very decorative it is!
In fact, the blouse is decorated with feather stitch embroidery and broderie anglaise flounces at the collar edges, the deep and slanted turn back cuffs and either side of the mock front placket [hidden buttons actually fasten the garment beneath.]
Constructed from a strong, pique style cotton with a subtle texture, it fastens at the hip with ties and a linen button, and also proudly displays a top pocket to one side, duly edged in feather stitch to match.
The collar is in cornflower blue cotton with three rows of 'sailor' lines all around the edges. It has a strange little tab inside the back neck and I am not sure what this would be for - most possibly to keep it in place on wearing. It fastens to the lower front with original ties and is absolutely charming!
The condition of both is very good, but please read the condition report below for minor flaws.
You see it on my 'baby' mannequin with a 23" chest, but it is probably for a 4-5 year old little boy.
The blouse is very fresh and clean. It is generally in very good condition but I found a moderate wear hole to one shoulder back, completely hidden by the collar. There are tiny flaws to the decoration, of no consequence. The outer 'show' buttons are all good, but two of the inner fastening buttons are replacements.
The collar is in excellent condition with no damage. However, there are a couple of tiny stain spots to the top side and a little discolouration to the cream underside [see photo's].
I am quite sure these would clean on washing but I do not want to wash it, as the stiffness of the true old fashioned starch may be lost. If you know how to starch in the old fashioned way, then do go ahead!