Clothing Patterns for Boys, 1920’s

Butterick patterns for boys up to 17; Delineator, August 1924.

I don’t mean to neglect clothing for men, but it evolves more slowly and less obviously than clothing for women. Seeing the great sweaters and knickers on the boys who visited Mount Lowe, I remembered that I’ve been compiling a file of Butterick patterns f0r boys. Today’s focus is on pre-teens and boys up to 16 or so. [With a digression on the Butterick Deltor….]

Boys about to play an informal game of baseball, Delineator, April 1928. From an ad for Quaker Oats. The jacket on the right is very like the pattern illustrated above, and… there are two more great, patterned sweaters!

Boys had been wearing short trousers, knickers, and Norfolk jackets for some time. This is an ad from 1917, but the trousers would be much the same in 1927:

Ad for boys clothing from Sampeck Company, Delineator, May 1917.

Boys’ clothes were often very similar to men’s clothing — with the exception of those short trousers.

Suit jacket, tie, and bare knees. Butterick pattern 4840. These boys were shown in an ad for Butterick patterns. Delineator, February 1924. Clothing for pre-school boys (left) was less “manly” than for their school-age brothers.

Butterick assured mothers that they could make clothes for their children that would not look obviously home-made. Delineator, February 1924.

The Deltor was Butterick’s patented instruction sheet. In an era of blank tissue pattern pieces, identified only by punched holes and purchased in an envelope with all the sewing instructions that would fit on the envelope  — and nothing more — the innovation of a pattern that came with an illustrated “how to” guide made Butterick’s reputation. The guide was called “The Deltor.”

Bottom of Butterick pattern ad, February 1924.

Butterick patterns included a suggested fabric layout, as well as assembly instructions, but the pattern pieces were still unprinted, factory-cut tissue in this 1924 ad.

Happy ending of the Butterick ad from Delineator, February 1924.

Why boys were expected to suffer the cold — wearing trousers that ended at the knee in all weathers — I do not know. At least these aren’t flapping in the wind:

A Mackinaw coat and a polo cap from Butterick, December 1924. Mackinaw pattern 5709 for boys 4 to 16 years; cap pattern 4068 for boys 2 to 12.

Their knees might be cold, but their socks were spectacular. Butterick overcoats for boys, Delineator, September 1926. Right, double-breasted Butterick 6256 for boys 2 to 6 years; left, a man-styled overcoat (Butterick 6270) for boys 8 to 16.

This knicker suit (Butterick 7096) even has a matching vest, just like Dad’s suit. The little boy’s double-breasted overcoat (Butterick 7056) is a classic — it looks much like men’s winter overcoats today. Delineator, September 1926.

The day when a boy got his first pair of long trousers marked his entry into manhood.

A suit with optional long trousers, sized for boys from 5 to 12. Butterick 6145, July 1925. Note the short-trousered version at left, for young boys.

Butterick 5010. A boy’s shirt might still be called a blouse in the twenties. Delineator, February 1924.

A man’s soft-collared shirt was sometimes called an outing shirt or a negligee shirt. Delineator, April 1924. Both boys and men wear short neckties.

Summer meant even shorter pants — or possibly golf knickers — for boys.

From left:  Pattern 6025 is for young boys; the blazer (Butterick 4458,) golf knickers (No. 5950,) and an outfit (right) meant for hiking or camping (Butterick 5378) are for older boys. July 1925.

[Butterick Play suit 5365 will be covered when I write about Overalls, some other day.] This is another view of those “camping togs,” Butterick 5378.

Even in Africa, this was the basis for the Boy Scout uniform:

Two boy scouts in Africa; Delineator, March 1929.

Four Butterick pattterns for boys from August, 1926:  shirt 7023, short trousers 4480, windbreaker 7031, and golf knickers 5950. Delineator, August 1926.

That wide range of pattern numbers, from 4480 to 7031, is a reminder that boys’ clothes, and children’s patterns in general, have a longer fashion life than women’s clothing.

Just as 1920’s women’s skirts sometimes were attached to an underbodice that hung from the shoulders, trousers for little boys whose pants wouldn’t otherwise stay up were sometimes attached to a button-on top. Naturally, this made trips to the toilet difficult without assistance.

Talon Zippers had a 1929 ad campaign stressing that zippers would make children able to dress and undress themselves, building self-reliance.

Click to read Zippers Are Good for Your Children. How did over-the-knee socks stay up? Click here.

A page of costume research for one character in the musical She Loves Me. Sometimes, if the costume will be “shopped” or rented instead of built, a sheet like this shows the director, the actor,  and the costume shop what to expect.

8 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear

8 responses to “Clothing Patterns for Boys, 1920’s

  1. Trish

    This is really interesting. Nice to see the boys fashions too, to balance against the girls. Maybe one of the reasons for long shorts or knickerbockers was economical? The number of times my son went through the knees in his trousers, falling over, or climbing etc was nobody’s business!

  2. I’m fascinated that the clothing terminology does not yet seem to have become gender coded–that boys can wear blouses and negligee shirts.

    • Maybe because women had just started calling their own tops “blouses” in stead of “waists” — as in “shirt waist?” I’m not sure when “negligee” became a sexy robe, instead of what women wore at the breakfast table before doing their hair and putting on the corset…. Time for me to hit the library again!

      • Many of my vintage patterns show both a boy and a girl in the same garment design, as they seemed to be gender-neutral for children 11 and under. I also notice that this gender-neutrality ending between the 60’s and 70’s, with nightwear being the last to change! As for terminology, I have no idea, but that would make for an interesting way to look at this subject. As one who sews vintage for my son, I LOVE this post! Thanks for sharing!

      • I have another set of boy’s clothes pattern images, but they are for really little boys — some are “brother & sister” patterns, but I don’t think they are identical, except maybe for overcoats — and even those would button with the overlap on opposite sides. Many of the boy’s outfits are those shorts that button on to the shirt at the waist. So impractical! I’m glad to have photos of my uncles (circa 1906) in practical bib overalls instead. Thanks for reminding me to get started on those posts!

  3. I too have thought that damage to the knees of pants was the reason boys would have been kept in short pants–and for girls, short skirts too, up to a certain age.

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