Hyam & Co. suit

Boy's suit by Hyam & Co, UK 1870-80 Museum no. MISC.227-1979

The boy's suit pictured was made between 1870 and 1880 by the British manufacturer Hyam and Company, who were based on Oxford Street. The jacket and knee breeches are both made from navy flannel, at the time a typical material for boys' suits. The jacket fastens with a single steel button and has a grosgrain lining, a fabric made from closely woven silk.

Deriving from clothing worn by working men, such as soldiers, sailors, fisherman and farm labourers, trousers replaced knee-length breeches for boys in the 1780s. Looser fitting and wider in the leg than breeches, trousers were considered to be more suitable for those who led an active life. The fashion for shorter trousers, like the ones pictured, came to the UK from the USA in the 1860s. These were often worn as part of a suit with various styles of jacket.

The waistcoat is made from ivory satin and fastens with six satin-covered buttons. Unlike the jacket, the style of the waistcoat is typical of the 1820s and 1830s, and elaborately embroidered with rosebuds, forget-me-nots and pansies.

It is possible that the waistcoat was originally made for an adult, and later made smaller to fit a boy. Popular motifs during the Victorian period, the embroidered flowers would have been more suitable for a relatively young man, as they each represent different aspects of love and romance. Rosebuds depict love in its early stages, pansies stand for thoughts and forget-me-nots for true love or remembrance. The romantic embroidered motifs suggest that the waistcost was originally intended as a romantic gift from a girl to her future husband.




Shop online...

Patrick Rylands Cool Cat

The V&A online shop stocks a distinctive and refreshingly different range for children, big and little, then and now, including toys, games, books and accessories.


Tel: +44 (0)20 8983 5200 | V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA