Clothing and Fashion - Elizabethan Breeches The passing of time and changes in language causes some confusion with this item of clothing! The terms breeches or knee-breeches were the terms adopted in the late 16th century for the knee-length garments worn by men. The confusion regarding the terminology arises because the word breeches was previously applied to both outer garments and underwear. During the early Medieval period breeches meant "drawers", "hose" or "underpants". By the 16th century hose, or hosen, had separated into two garments: upper hose or breeches and nether hose or stockings.
Materials and Fabrics used for Elizabethan Breeches Breeches were worn by both the Upper and Lower classes and therefore came in a variety of fabrics from the most expensive to the very cheapest. The expensive materials that breeches were made of were - silk, satin, velvet, taffeta, leather and sarcenet (sarcenet was a delicate silk fabric). Many of these sumptuous materials and the dyes to produce their rich colors were imported, at great expense, from the continent. The cheaper materials used for breeches were wool and leather. Stockings were pulled up over the breeches or tucked under but usually gartered above, or below, the knee. Stockings were first made of fabric, and later they were knit.
The Elizabethan Fashion of Breeches - Slashing, Padding, Panes. Points, Guards & Cannions The limitations of Elizabethan dress and clothing led to a new fashion being created. People began to slash their clothes. The vertical slash or cut in the outer surfaces of garments, which included breeches, exposed the contrasting color of the linings beneath. The linings would be pulled through the slash and puffed out to further emphasize the contrast of colors, fabrics and materials. These linings were called 'Pullings out ' or 'Drawings out'. Padding and quilting was also used for breeches. Some breeches were 'Paned' or 'Pansied' - strips of fabric (panes) covered a full inner layer or lining. Many styles of breeches were worn over Canions, or cannions which were tight fitting, full length, hose. Silk attachment cords called points were also added - Points were lacings with metal ends which were used instead of buttons or hooks for fastening together such clothes as doublets and hose. At the bottom of the garment wide, highly decorative bands of material (called guardes) were also added often as a tied, fringed sash.
Elizabethan Breeches also called Nether Hose Elizabethan breeches - just as today, an essential item of clothing for the Elizabethan man! Breeches came in a variety of styles and fashions during the Elizabethan era. Early hose were fitted to the leg footed similar to modern tights but open at the crotch. Codpieces were added to cover the front opening. The different styles of Elizabethan breeches are described as follows.
Trunk Hose - Very Short Breeches These breeches were very short, covering just the trunk of the body. A tight fitting, full length hose was worn beneath them. Often paned (or pansied) with strips of fabric (panes) and padding over a full inner layer or lining. Popular in the second half of the 1500's.
Slops - Breeches Loose, very full, hose reaching just below the knee, very large and wide and ending with wide, highly decorative bands of material (called guardes)
Galligaskin - Gally-hose Breeches Originated in Gascony and introduced to England in the 1575 as a gift to the Court Fool. Loose, very full, hose reaching just below the knee, very large and wide and ending with wide, highly decorative bands of material (called guardes). were recorded in the Egerton Manuscript as having "pocketts, poyntes & a peire of netherstockes".
Common French Hose - Breeches Common French Hose - very round, long, broad and wide worn by the Lower Classes
French Hose - Breeches Semi-fitted breeches reaching beneath the knees. Paned and decorated with costly ornaments and canions and worn by nobility and the Upper Class men
Pluderhosen Breeches A form of paned or pansied slops with a very full inner layer pulled out between the panes and hanging below the knee which originated in Germany
Venetian Hose - Breeches Originating in Venice, Italy. Semi-fitted and reaching beneath the knee and tied with silk attachment cords ( points). Decorated with guards or rows of lace. Pockets were introduced into the seams.
Elizabethan Breeches - a comment dating back to 1583! During the Elizabethan era pamphlets were printed and distributed commenting on life in Elizabethan England. A writer of one such pamphlet was a well travelled Londoner called Philip Stubbes. He was believed to have been born c1555 and died c1610. He was well educated and attended both Oxford and Cambridge University. He was also a strict Elizabethan Puritan and held firm views on any social practices which, in his view were, unfitting true Christians. He named his work " The Anatomie of Abuses " in which he strongly criticised many of the fashions and clothing worn during the Elizabethan era. It was entered in the Stationers' Register on 1 March 1583. This pamphlet includes his view and some valuable information about Elizabethan Breeches
"Then have they Hosen, which as they be of divers fashions, so are they of sundry names. Some be called french-hose, some gally-hose, and some Venitians. The french-hose are of two divers makings, for the common french-hose (as they listto call them) containeth length, breadth, and widnes sufficient, and is made very rounde. The other contayneth neither length, breadth nor widenes (beeing not past a a quarter of a yard wide) wherof some be paned, cut and drawne out with costly ornaments, with canions adjoined reaching down beneath their knees. The Gally-hosen are made very large and wide, reaching downe to their knees onely, with three or foure guardes a peece laid down along either hose. And the Venetian-hosen, they reach beneath the knee to the gartering place to the Leg, where they are tyed finely with silk points, or some such like, and laied on also with rewes of laces, or gardes as the other before. And yet notwithstanding all this is not sufficient, except they be made of silk, velvet, saten, damask, and other such precious things beside: yea, every one, Serving man and other inferiour to them, in every condition, wil not stick to flaunte it out in these kinde of hosen, withall other their apparel sutable therunto. In times past, Kings would not disdaine to weare a paire of hosen of a Noble, tenne Shillinges, or a Marke price, with all the rest of their apparel after the same rate; but now it is a small matter to bestowe twentie nobles, ten pound, twentiepound, fortie pound, yea, a hundred pound on one paire of Breeches."
Interesting Facts and Information about Elizabethan Breeches Some interesting facts and confirmation of information about Elizabethan breeches or hose can be obtained from the words of Philip Stubbes. A first hand impression of the fashions of the Elizabethan era are invaluable - but the Elizabethan style of writing can be hard going! The following information has therefore been taken from the points he made on Elizabethan breeches (hose):
There were several types of breeches
Two types of French hose
Common French Hose - very round with length, breadth and width
French hose - contained neither breadth or width but reaching beneath the knees. Paned and decorated with costly ornaments and canions
Paned - Strips of fabric (panes) over a full inner layer or lining
Canions, or cannions - tight fitting full length hose
Gally Hose - very large and wide - reaching to the knees and ending with wide, highly decorative bands of material (called guardes)
Venetian Hose - Reaching beneath the knee and tied with silk attachment cords ( points). Decorated with guards or rows of lace
The price of breeches could be extremely expensive ranging from 10 shillings to £10, £20, £40 and even up to an exorbitant £100
The materials that breeches were made of:
Terminology The different terminology applied to this man's garment continues today. In the US these garments are referred to as 'pants' whereas in England pants are men's underwear. The following terms are not exhaustive but show the number of words and references used, some of which are applied to both outer garments and under garments