18th Century Men’s Breeches

A description in the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (1754):

Breeches, the part of our clothing that covers the thighs. They are very difficult to cut correctly, because nowadays, to be well made, we consider that they need to cling to the thighs. The belt is attached behind and buttoned in front. Breeches start at the waist and go down as far as the knees, on the sides of which they are buttoned and tightened by a buckle and a garter. They also have an opening with buttons at the front, below the belt; this opening is called the fly, and has been put there so we can satisfy one of our natural needs without removing our clothes.

See also suits.



Fly-front breeches

Fall-front breeches

  • Met C.I.39.13.240, wool, America or Europe, 18th century
  • Met 08.86.5, silk, with embroidery on the buttons and knee bands
  • MFA 51.1976, silk satin, America
  • CW 1981-182, unlined brown silk, England (worn in Virginia), c. 1750-1760
  • Striped breeches, silk and cotton blend, Britain, c. 1760
  • MRAH T.1141, silk velvet, France, c. 1760-1770; part of this suit
  • V&A T.435-1967, silk, France, c. 1760-1770
  • A pattern for breeches in Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 1763, s.n. Boursier; regarding this diagram, Baumgarten (in What Clothes Reveal) writes: “In his essay on making leather goods, Diderot includes patterns for breeches. The top two illustrations of this plate, labeled figs. 1 and 2, show how to cut fall-front breeches out of a single skin, eliminating inseams between the legs. Figs. 3 and 4 use two skins. The author calls the fall-front style "à la bavaroise," literally translated as Bavarian style. The fall-front style developed around the mid-eighteenth century.”
  • CW 1987-730, white dimity, England or America, c. 1765-1785
  • CW 1960-697,3, silk lampas lined with cotton-linen, England, c. 1765-1790
  • Met 1976.148.1, cotton, American or European, 1770s
  • CHS 1962.43.6, brown twill-woven fustian, America, c. 1770-1780
  • CW 1991-563, cream tabby weave cotton, Virginia, c. 1770-1810
  • Met C.I.39.13.91, c. 1775-1825
  • Met C.I.39.13.255, c. 1775-1825
  • CW 1964-174,B, cotton, Isle of Wight, Virginia, c. 1780-1790
  • CHS 1962.43.7, white linen with twill-woven stripe, America, c. 1780-1790
  • CW 1953-837,2, purple ribbed silk with embroidery on knee bands and buttons, England, c. 1780-1810
  • CW 1954-1036, olive mohair plush, for a liveried servant, England, c. 1780-1820
  • CHS 1950.22.0, buff leather, America, 1781
  • CHS 1957.23.1, cream-colored kerseymere (a twill-woven wool), America, c. 1785-1790
  • Met 1976.149.2, cotton, America or Europe, c. 1785-1800
  • CW 1991-564, yellow-white cotton, Virginia, c. 1785-1810
  • CW 1998-7, yellow-white cotton (Nankeen?), Philadelphia, c. 1785-1815
  • CW 1995-35, leather-lined cotton velvet, c. 1785-1825
  • Met C.I.39.13.253, France, c. 1787-1789
  • Met 1970.281.5, silk, Britain, c. 1790
  • Etsy 53432722, black silk breeches with linen lining at waist and pockets, c. 1790s
  • Meg Andrews 6936, wool breeches “of a brown silky knitted striped weave,” c. 1790-1800
  • Augusta 8.4822.159.232, c. 1790-1820; “Beige wide-wale corded cotton breeches with narrow fall front, legs fitted to below knee, finished with wool band and four button placket, fourteen bone buttons”
  • MFA 99.664.9, America, late 18th or early 19th century; “Buff-colored breeches; waistband with three buttons at front (original engraved brass buttons), three tape ties at back (also original); hip to hip front fall with center button hole and brass-covered bone buttons at hips; four buttons at knee; tab and button hole on cuff (for knee buckle) with rounded underlay with pinked edge, additional tab at back of knee (probably used with pin to hold up stockings)”
  • Met 1988.242.2, cotton, Britain, late 18th-early 19th century
  • Met 1988.283, cotton, America, late 18th or early 19th century

Breeches made of machine-knit silk

I wonder if this is the same sort of thing as the “One pair new black Stockins Britches” in John Harrower’s “Inventory of the Cloaths &c I brought to Belvidera with me”?

Breeches buckles (knee buckles)