Thursday, October 10, 2019

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Lord Fauntleroy Writes a Letter
From the 1886 Book
Growing up I vaguely remember hearing someone (maybe myself) described as a "Little Lord Fauntleroy".  I equated the description as looking like a sissy or a boy not recognized as boyish. In my secret world, I loved the concept of being a sissy, desiring to dress as a girl and be recognize as such. However, my outside person saw the need to fit in with the neighborhood boys, so I hid and buried deep my internal sissy.  

Just recently I did some research into the ""Little Lord Fauntleroy" movement of the late nineteenth century.  (Before my time. And I am sticking by that.)   

"Little Lord Fauntleroy" is a novel by the English-American writer Frances Hodgson Burnett, her first children's novel. It was published as a serial in St. Nicholas Magazine from November 1885 to October 1886 (common for that day), then as a book by Scribner's publishing  in 1886.

Boy photographed in a
Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.
It is written that Little Lord Fauntleroy "was the Harry Potter of it's time and Frances Hodgson Burnett was as celebrated for creating him as J.K. Rowling is for Potter." It was published as a serial (common for that day) in St Nicholas magazine and readers looked forward to new installments. The fashions in the book became popular, with velvet Lord Fauntleroy suits being sold, as well as other Fauntleroy merchandise such as velvet collars, playing cards, and chocolates. During a period when sentimental fiction was the norm, and in the United States the "rags to riches" story popular, Little Lord Fauntleroy was a hit.  

The stories and book's impact on children's fashion was enormous. The Fauntleroy suit, (also known as the Buster Brown suit) so well described by Burnett and realized
 in Reginald Birch's detailed pen-and-ink drawings, created a fad for formal dress for American middle-class children

From 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 handsome, manly little face, whose eyes met his with a look of innocent good-fellowship. — Little Lord Fauntleroy

I believe a Americanized version of Little Lord Fauntleroy (Buster Brown) came later and started as a comic strip character in 1902.  I remember as a child getting "Buster Brown Shoes" and seeing illustration of the fictional Buster Brown.  "Oh yuck" my outside self commented, all the while longing to be dressed that way - and more.  Anyone else remember Buster Brown Shoes? I think they had an androgynous "Mary Jane" look with a strap and buckle. 

The Fauntleroy suit appeared in Europe as well but nowhere was it as popular as in America. The classic Fauntleroy suit was a velvet cut-away jacket and matching knee pants, worn with a fancy blouse and a large lace or ruffled collar. These suits appeared right after the publication of Burnett's story (1885) and were a major fashion for boys until after the turn of the 20th century. Many boys who did not wear an actual Fauntleroy suit wore suits with Fauntleroy elements, such as a fancy blouse or floppy bow. Only a minority of boys wore ringlet curls with these suits, but the photographic record confirms that many boys did.

Buster Brown 
It was most popular for boys about 3–8 years of age, but some older boys wore them as well. It has been speculated that the popularity of the style encouraged many mothers to breech their boys earlier than before, and it was a factor in the decline of the fashion for dressing small boys in dresses and other skirted garments. Clothing that Burnett popularized was modeled on the costumes which she tailored herself for her two sons, Vivian and Lionel.


The source of much of this is Wikipedia and the complete book/story "Little Lord Fauntleroy", 1886 edition is available here. The pen and ink illustrations are beautiful. This post is dedicated to my internal boyhood sissy.  More on the Mary Jane side of this story later.  

 Buster Brown & Dog Tige Heart Shaped Balloons
Pre-1907 From Ebay 


  1. I remember Buster Brown shoes from my childhood.
    You discuss the velvet in use in the 1880-1900 period.
    Do you recall 'velour'? This was a velvet like fabric that was in style in the late 1960s. It was rather unisex. It has soft and nice to touch and could be worn by girls or boys.

  2. Yes, I had my Buster Brown shoes. With a name like Buster Brown, how could they not be sturdy enough to withstand the rough and tumble lifestyle of a little boy? I recognized the dichotomy of it all early in life, and it was but part of what contributed to my gender confusion. In the logo you've shown above, why, do you suppose, is Buster winking? Even his dog has a sly smile! ;-)

  3. Yes I do remember velour. I remember sewing a jumpsuit for my wife at the time out of velour.

  4. I wore velour in junior high school. My mother, who was very distraught that she had a son who liked to wear her clothes, used to buy clothing for me that was not necessarily so masculine. I remember the red v-neck velour sweater, along with the white dickie I wore under it. More confusion for me? I do remember pairing that sweater with a pair of her cigarette pants when I was alone at home. Of course, I replaced the underlying dickie with a socks-stuffed bra for that outfit. :-)

    Remember the Young Rascals, a band of white guys playing R&B music while wearing "Little Lord Fauntleroy" outfits? They were my favorite band, but I was happy when they dropped the outfits and became just "The Rascals." Still, I appreciated the original joke.

  5. I remember the Rascals well. I played guitar in a band that covered many of their songs back in the day. They were somewhat local, mostly LI and NJ and my school bus passed Gene's parents house daily.
    We recently saw the first of their reunion shows about two years ago and we have seen various splinter groups with all four of them still a bit active.
    It is interesting how us older folks remember those velour shirts and that we had a tendency to gravitate towards them since that was about the most feminine type garment we could wear back in the day.
    Oddly, I thought Buster Brown's dog was named 'Tide' since I never saw it spelled out as 'Tige'.

    1. I was playing drums in a band when the Young Rascals hit the national music scene, and we covered a few of their songs, as well. I thought Dino to be a dynamite drummer, and I was very impressed that Felix could hold the bottom so well just with the bass pedals on the B3 organ. The two of them were "in the pocket," as we say now. As with most bands in those days, their tightness was developed through knocking around, playing the many bars and clubs every night.

      I originally took up the drums for two reasons: overcompensation to hide my feminine instincts, and to try to attract girls. These days, I am totally out of hiding, and I try to be as attractive as a 68-year-old girl can be. Oh, and I've always been a bit of a rascal, myself. ;-)

    2. Oh you rascals!

      A banner day - a comment from both Pat and Connie!!!

    3. I think we can attribute that to "Good Lovin'!" :-) Or, maybe it was just that "It's a Beautiful Morning" to comment?

    4. Just "Groovin on a Sunday afternoon [All dressed up]" or "People [like us] Got to Be Free!"

    5. And when the next person who looks me up and down, and then poses the question, "How Can I be Sure?," I'm going to let them know that if you can't tell, it shouldn't matter. Hopefully, they'll walk away saying they've never met "A Girl Like You."

    6. LOL!!!!! I give up - The last two are the best - "If You Knew" how you had made my day!

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