Paletot or Tunic?
Would you know one when you saw it? I thought I would share this piece with you all, in hopes that perhaps you will think twice the next time you quickly assume that A~line post Civil War era 'dress' you are looking at is a girl's paletot (generous fitting overcoat). There are several clues straight away, when I saw the photo above, that immediately told me this was a tunic or boy's jacket, rather than anything for a girl. Do you see the belt? Obvious clue number one....girls 'usually' did not wear a belt over a paletot, not this early anyway...(to the mid 1870s they did wear belts over their elaborate overskirts).
Do you see anything else? Obvious clue #2 is the asymmetrical front~ if you see a bodice with asymmetrical front, you should hear a little voice on your shoulder screaming boy boy boy boy!
Of coarse obvious clue #3 is the trousers.....but what if your piece is not still matched with its original trouser bottoms? The above silhouette I have seen time and time again in period displays misidentified as a girl's dress or coat.
Adding the belt, one can immediately see the change in character of the entire ensemble
Even boy's clothing of the 1860's used an enormous amount of fabric to obtain the fullness of a period correct silhouette.
This is a excerpt from the Butterick & Co engraving ~Spring & Summer Fashions of 1868. I love group engravings as they show the difference in dress for different age groups at the same time....(and for same reason I love early 1840-60 class photos)
Young boys would first wear dresses, then as they aged, would go from knee length trousers to pants ect ect..
One can see a slight resemblance to our fellows suit in the yellow one in the center above
The boy in blue, in the center above, shares elements and details with our suit~ the pointed waistband on the knee length trousers, and the asymmetrical design on his shirt. One rarely comes across an exact match in an engraving, but there are enough detail matches to firmly date our little suit to the 1868 period.
The little fellow who once wore this suit was from a prosperous family~ one need only count it's 36 matching gilt brass buttons.....18 on the top, 2 on the belt and another 16 on the trousers~ the cost alone at the time for just the buttons would have been more than what some folks made in wages for a month.
The front of the trousers have 2 cute functional pockets that match those on the jacket. There are no fastenings at all on the waistband~ it would have originally buttoned onto a shirt.
The seat of the trousers cut full for nice range of motion (you had to squat to play marbles after all....)...and all those buttons, save for the last one at the knee, all are decorative.
Folks say boy's clothing is so rare, when actually, there is just as much out there as girl's clothing....it's just misinterpreted.