Breeches remained the most common form of legwear for men in the seventeenth century. There were important changes to breeches in the seventeenth century that brought them closer to the trousers commonly worn today.

For the first few decades of the century breeches remained as they were in the previous century—baggy, puffy pants that were often given shape with padding known as bombast. By the 1620s, however, men began to discard the padding and wore much slimmer fitting breeches that came to the knee. The breeches were fastened at the knee with a garter, ribbon, or buttons, and at the waist with a button or drawstring. Hose or stockings covered the lower half of men's legs.

These closer-fitting breeches allowed for easy movement and gave men the tall, slim profile that became fashionable in the middle part of the century. As coats, vests, and justaucorps grew longer, however, the breeches were seldom seen. In later centuries breeches would grow longer, eventually extending all the way to the ankle and becoming modern trousers and pants.

A strange version of the breeches that became popular in the 1660s were called petticoat breeches. Baggy like the trunk hose and pumpkin breeches of an earlier era, these breeches were puffed out to look like a skirt worn with petticoats. Men quickly discarded this fashion in favor of normal breeches, which could be made of a variety of fabrics, from wool to silk.


Davis, R.I.; additional material by William-Alan Landes. Men's 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion: Patterns for Men's Costumes. Studio City, CA: Players Press, 2000.

Hart, Avril, and Susan North. Fashion in Detail: From the 17th and 18th Centuries. New York: Rizzoli, 1998.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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