FI Symposium – Zoom meeting transcripts
Part II / Olga Vainshtein
Olga: There were cases of direct influence when bohemian women used Fauntleroy suit as alternative, subversive fashion. For instance, the Russian poet Zinaida Gippius donned it while posing for her portrait by Leon Bakst in 1906. Choosing such attire for a woman was at that time was a flamboyant and rebellious act, yet it allowed Gippius to achieve the desired effect of impartiality and defiant aristocratism. In 1967 Barbra Streisand wore the green Fauntleroy suit in “The Belle Of 14th Street”. It was made for her by Brooks-Van Horn.
Also, one could trace the indirect influence of Fauntleroy fashion on women when mothers turned to Fauntleroy suit as a symbolic means of self-expression. They used children’s fashion to demonstrate their social ambitions, competing with each other to produce the biggest lace collars or the most elegantly designed aristocratic velvet suits for their sons. In the debates provoked by Burnett’s novel in popular magazines, readers often accused mothers who dressed their sons in Fauntleroy suits of pandering to their own vanity. Their boys, critics claimed, were little more than accessories, deliberately decked out to complement the mothers’ own outfits. This accusation in fact reflects the standard conservative criticism of fashion itself as being based on vanity.
Just like little lord Fauntleroy influenced boy’s clothes, a similar impact on fashion for girls was made by Kate Greenaway. Her highly stylized images of children in historical dress created a new trend in children’s fashion, making popular an outfit for girls including a full ruffled skirt or smocked dress, a sash tied in a bow, sometimes an apron, hat or bonnet, and flat shoes.
Olga: The picture I have shown is from the American clothes catalogue H.O’Neill and Co. There was quite a number of manufacturers producing suits in little Lord Fauntleroy style, but I cannot name the exact retailers and manufacturers. Some parents ordered Fauntleroy suits from the dressmakers or sewed them at home.