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Little Lord Fauntleroy Suits

Francis Hobson Benett helped introduce a style of dress for boys that proved exceedingly popular among doting mothers. The author modelled her famous fictional creation after her own son, Vivian, and therby condemned a generation of "manly little chaps" to the picturesque romantic outfits. The clothing styles popularized in her book were based on the styles she adopted for her two sons, Vivian and his older brother Lionel. She made the boys' clothing herself. It became a labor of love, enhanced by the young author's romantic imagination. The result was the flamboyant page-boy costume poularized in her book and acompanying illustrations.

The story first appeared in St Nicholas magazine in November 1885. The fiirst book edition of Little Lord Fautleroy was published in 1886. She described Cedric's appearance in the book: "What the Earl saw was a graceful, childish figure in a black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with lovelocks waving about the hansome, many little face, whose eyes met his with a look of innocent good-fellowship." It was an instant success and indelibly popularized these elaborate velvet suits. The sons of countless impressionable American mothers were condemned to velvet page-boy suits, short pants, lace collars, and the crowning burden--long flowing curls. Little Lord Fautleroy had arrived on the American sartorial scene with a vengence.

Boys beginning at about 2-5 years of age who wore dresses often were outfitted in Fauntleroy suits as their first boyish outfits. Most stores offered Fautleroy suits in sizes from 2/3 to 8 years. This meant a boy receiving a new suit at 8, might still be wearing it at 9 or 10. Boys as old as 13 in rich or aristocratic families are known to have worn them. The heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortue, for example, was still wearing velvet suits at 13.

The Fauntleroy rage began in the 1880s and continued through the turn of the century. The most distinguishing fearture was an elaborate lace collar and blouse. Many of the early suits also had lace at the hem of the knee length pants. Very young boys might be dressed in a Fautleroy jacket and lace collar with a kilt or frock instead of pants. The suits at first had mostly knee or below the knee pants worn with black stockings and shoes. As time past the use of white stockings, shorter pants, and black patent strap shoes was introduced. Some mothers also kept boys wearing Fauntleroy suits in long hair with sasuage curls.

Styles varied, but one clothing catalog described the following Fautleroy suit:

In this instance the costume is pictured made of dark-blue velvet, white silk, cambric and all-over embroidery. The trousers reach a little below the knees and are shaped by darts and the customary seams along the inside and outside of the leg; and the closing is made at the sides with button-holes and buttons. The trousers are attached by means of buttons and button-holes to a cambric shirt-waist.

The shirt-waist is shaped by shoulder and under-arm seams and closed at the center of the front with buttonholes and buttons, a box-plait being arranged in the front edge of the right front. The fullness at the waist-line is collected at the back and at each side of the closing by two rows of shirring made at belt depth apart; a belt is applied to the waist between the shirrings, and buttons are sewed to the belt for the attachment of the trousers. The shirt sleeves are of comfortable width and are finished with wristbands, to which deep, round cuffs arc joined; and a stylishly deep sailor-collar mounted on a band is at the neck.

The back of the jacket is nicely conformed to the figure by a curving center seam, and joins the fronts in shoulder and side seams. An opening to a side pocket is made in each front, and the closing is made at the center of the front with button-holes and buttons. The coat sleeves are of comfortable width and are shaped by the usual seems along the inside and outside of the arm. The sailor collar and round cliffs of the shirtwaist roll prettily over the neck and wrists of the jacket, and the waist is encircled by a silk sash. The long edges of the sash are seamed, and the ends are gathered up closely and finished with tassels. The sash is knotted at the left side, and its ends fall to uneven depths.

Fauntleroy costumes are still fashionable for little men, and are developed in velvet, serge, flannel and cloth. Silk is used for the sash and the collar and cuffs may be of Irish point or point de Gene embroidery or Hamburg edging.

We have pattern No. 471.6 in six sizes for little boys from two to seven years of age.

Various materials were used for Fautleroy suits. One of the most popular for dress suits was velvet. Other materials included serge, flannel, and a variety of clothes.

Most Fautleroy suits were black or dark blue, but others colors such as burgandy were also made.

Fauntleroy suits were often worn with various accesories. They almost always worn with hats. The most common were broad-brimmed sailor hats. A common accesory was a silk sash.

Even at the time of publication, velvet suits and lace collars for boys were not received with unbridled enthusiasm. Some neighbors had criticized the clothes in which that her two sons were dressed. The Washington press allged that she was posing the two charming children to impress guests and further her litteary career. She anwsered her critics: "That the little fellows have worn velvet and lace, and being kindly endowed by Nature, have so adorned it as to fill a weak parent with unbridled vanity, before which peacocks might retire, is true, but I object to their being handicapped in their childhood by stupid, vulgar, unfounded stories, and I advance with due modesty the proposition that my taste for the picturesque has not led me to transform two strong, manly, robust boys into affected, abnormally self-conscious, little mountebanks."

Less elaborate Fauntleroy suits continued into the 1920s, but with short pants. Mothers on the Continent, especially in France or Italy, chose very short short pants for boys with lacey blouses, although not as elaborate as those worn during the height of the Fauntleroy craze in the late 19th Century.

Boys during the Victorian and Edwardian period generally wore what was selected by their mothers. They generally had little say in the matter. But of all the common styles, Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, especialy those with elaborate lace collared blouses, and kilts were among the most disliked. Only limited information is available on boyish preferences. As a result, it is unclear which were more disliked.