What’s With The Sailor Suits…?

There can be no doubt: Communion season is just around the corner. For several weeks, the shops in Spain have been displaying a selection of breathtaking outfits:

Communion outfits

If it’s trashy enough, Toledo has it!

I shall not got on about the dresses… though I could (hell, I wore one of these frightful contraptions myself at the tender age of 9!). What struck me were the sailor suits. Only a few months ago, I was watching a popular Spanish TV series set in the 70’s, and the communion boys were strapped into these garments, ready for their first crunch of the sacred wafer. (Though you’re most definitely not allowed to crunch them!). It would seem that the naval theme has not suffered a decline in popularity since then, at least here in Spain.

Rummaging around in my own childhood memories, I don’t recall seeing these when I was shunted through this most Catholic of rituals. My male peers, as far as I remember, just wore ‘normal’ monkey-sized dark suits.

My initial guess was that Bavaria not having a proud (or any kind of) naval tradition may have played a role in the absence of sailor suits, but then, I suddenly remembered that I was in possession of my granddad’s First Communion picture! Here it is:

HIs enormous shoes were most likely borrowed from a grown-up relative.

My Granddad! And the collar most definitely smacks of seafarer’s style, don’t you think? Gotta love the short trousers πŸ˜‰ This picture must have been taken around 1940. His family was dirt poor, so these enormous shoes were most likely borrowed from a grown-up relative.

I’d love to hear from my readers… are sailor suits (still) popular as formal wear for boys where you live? I’ve just been googling around a bit, and I discovered that Japanese school uniforms frequently feature this style.

Enough about clothes, let’s finish off with some food:

I've posted these bread flowers before, so feel free to ignore them, but look at the advertisement behind: Communion cake! I never one of those, and I'd be sure to remember, believe me... I'd have traded that in for a stupid white dress any day!

I know I’ve posted these magnificent bread flowers once before, but look instead at the advertisement behind: Communion cake! I never got one of those, and I’d be sure to remember, believe me…! I’d have traded my insipid white dress for a succulent cake in a flash!

On the other hand… that cake does look a bit dull and prissy for my taste… (and, at the same time, strangely phallic). (Sour grapes, me…? Nevah!)

In any case, I’ve no real reason for retrospective cake envy, as my birthday cakesΒ  were quite something… here’s the evidence, in case you missed that mouthwatering post with all the bad hair:

70’s/80’s Flashbacks: My Love Affair With Cakes

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75 thoughts on “What’s With The Sailor Suits…?

  1. wannabe polyglot

    I have no clue what they do here, but we wore the little white altar boy robes, same for boy and girls. Except the girls had thing in our hair, like a tiara or something. Man, I haven’t thought about that in years! I don’t remember much of it, except that I really didn’t care for that wafer and would have liked a sip of water to wash it down. And no, Catholicism really didn’t stick. πŸ˜‰

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I had some kind of white muslin crown thing on my head… I’d have posted a picture, but they are in Germany with my mother.

      Actually, I think I really enjoyed the day, it’s a blessing being nine years old – any kind of frilly dress is “pretty”, you’re the centre of attention, you just do what everybody else does, your brain hasn’t started to ask the wrong kind of questions πŸ˜‰

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      1. wannabe polyglot

        I’m sure I was older than 9, maybe 12 or so? Also no frilly dress of any kind, literally a white robe with a big, black cross around our necks and a white rope around our waist. We did walk through the village though in some sort of a procession, I did like that. πŸ™‚

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      1. Expat Eye

        I don’t remember any sailor suits – but then it was a LONG time ago! I do remember my dress – and that some mothers treated it as a mini-wedding, trying to out-do all of the other girls. Pathetic.

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      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I remember my best friend and I having our hair in rollers the day before, and they bloody hurt! Why anyone would want to put my hair in rollers is a mystery for me… must have been part of the coming-of-age ritual.

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      3. Expat Eye

        Ha ha! Was your hair always as curly as it is now!? That’s insane! I think I had the same though, now that you mention it – but my hair was always (pretty much) straight!

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  2. narami

    Boys wear suits here and girls wear that exact kind of dress (la conquista de EspaΓ±a nos influye por los siglos de los siglos amΓ©n) which, because my maternal family is spaniard I can’t help it! I find them beautiful and would put my daughter into one of them in a heart beat.
    πŸ™‚

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      You can get away with a lot when they’re little (i.e. under 10)… but I reel almost every time I look at quinceaΓ±era dresses! EEEEEK! Malgusto gone mad…

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      1. narami

        Oh, those have changed a lot here. A LOT. They look more like red carpet dresses lately and the parties look much more like weddings, I know because the older brother law is a party designer/coordinator. I have sign these things the girls want and honestly, I would prefer to see them be charras instead of little bridezillas.

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      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Aw… I think I got all of that out of my system by the time I was 12, what with pink princess and fairy dresses for carnival season, etc. Fun times πŸ™‚

        Sounds interesting re. the party trend insights supplied by your brother in law – now that would make a cool post…

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  3. June

    Those shoes really made me smile! I don’t remember any sailor suits in Ireland – it was either a plain grey or navy suit or a Harvard-style navy blazer and beige pants. My dress was a hand-me-down (I was the third wearer) but I loved it. I had short hair, so no rollers!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Aha… Ireland seems to have been a sailor suit free zone πŸ˜‰

      Mine was borrowed, I think. Definitely not new, nor a family hand-me-down. I didn’t mind…

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  4. northern_star

    I think Thomas needs a sailor suit immediately. Imagine his joy when I drag him to Bremt Cross to get one.

    Fantastic granddad photo! Long shorts, I say.

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  5. Bernard O'Shea

    I like the photo of your grandad; i suppose many families would have suffered in the 1940s. I don’t remember any sailor suits in fashion in Africa where I grew up. Except maybe in productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMAS Pinafore. Those bread flowers look awesome

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  6. bevchen

    I know nothing of communion, in sailor suits or otherwise. I was chistened but that was the end of my church life. I have, however, seen a phot of my aunt’s first communion… which would have been in the 70s at a guess. No sailor suits, but one girl was wearing an actual veil to go with her white dress. Taking the child bride look a bit TOO far, I feel.

    Love the photo of your grandad! He looks very handsome.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      A veil… *shudder*!

      Whenever you’re ready (and if you’re so inclined), why not post some pics of your granddad – would love to see them. I love old family photos. … (I hope this wasn’t too insensitive a “request” for today considering the circumstances.)

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  7. linnetmoss

    I love the granddad photo, especially his darling little gloves. They must have felt compelled to lay out the money for those–hardly an everyday item! As to the sailor suits, I pity the lads who have to wear them, no doubt under protest! But sailor suits were all the rage for little boys in the nineteenth century, so maybe it’s a nostalgia thing. As for the miniature wedding dresses: shudder!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, the whole affair would have constituted a great expense, including having this picture taken. There’s one more pic of my granddad as a boy, in which he’s herding pigs in a meadow. It’s badly deteriorated, but I shall try to digitalise it somehow next time I’m in Germany πŸ˜‰

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  8. theblackberryboys

    I don’t see them selling sailor suits here in Hungary, so if they don’t sell them, then I don’t think they wear them either. I kind of like them. They look so aristocratic, like somethink pronce William wore when he was little πŸ™‚ The Communion cake cannot be that bad πŸ™‚

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, there’s a tradition of British royals wearing these suits as children.

      “Pronce” is the most excellent typo – that’s exactly how I think of these people, lol!

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      1. theblackberryboys

        πŸ™‚ Sorry about the typo πŸ™‚ “somethink pronce” = something Prince. I was eating cake while reading/commenting so I guess That must be the reason πŸ™‚ My brother moved next to a great, old bakery (Ruszwurm) in Budapest so he keeps bringing me this really yummy chocolate-hazelnut cake, which is really rich, hard to concentrate next to eat. They also have a cream pastry. Oh my. It is so creamy, I have never tasted anything like it, I couldn’t eat one it was so rich, I had to take a break πŸ™‚

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  9. Anna

    I’ve seen those kinds of elaborate breads in Spain and throughout Europe. Here’s the question, does anyone actually buy and eat them? Or are they just petrified props?

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  10. barbedwords

    Ha ha, I would love sailor suits to catch on again in England, it would be hilarious to see pre-teen boys dressed up in them, complete with iPhone, Converse and large scowl. Great picture of your Granddad πŸ™‚

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  11. Jenna

    I flashed back to the end of Clueless, when Dionne is talking about her wedding, and how everyone will have sailor hats and suits….oh dear.

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  12. Daina

    Here in the U.S. I’ve seen little boys in sailor suit type of outfits, but not at first communions. Just regular suits on the boys, and the white dresses for the girls. I’ve never quite understood the mini-bride syndrome at these events. It’s very strange. But – then again – there are quite a few Catholic customs that seem strange to me!
    The last first communion I attended was about 2 yrs ago; the child’s aunt ranted and raved afterwards about all the outdated customs and traditions. She’d grown up in the Church, but now greatly disliked most everything it stood for. I, too, noticed that the priest (maybe 55-60yrs old) during his homily told two stories, both of which featured little boys, and one of which featured “Dad coming home from work”, and made me wonder if he’d taken a good look at his church and noticed that at least 50% of the kids getting first communion were girls, and that at least 50% of the people attending the service were girls and women.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi there, and thanks for chipping in πŸ™‚
      Well, the organisation is deeply patriarchal, and that ain’t ever going to change. On the other hand, it’s less hostile to women than some other religions one could mention…

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  13. Jackie Cangro

    Lovely photo of your granddad! He looks charming.

    I’m not sure about the boys, but the girls wear tiaras with “bling” and long veils. They look like mini-brides. I think I had one of those get-ups back in the day. πŸ˜›

    Did you wear an outfit like that also?

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