How to make colonial breeches
Time to complete: 25 minutes
Old pair of boy’s shorts or long pants
Ribbon or Buttons: 1/2 yard of string or ribbon, or 6 buttons In the 18th century, a working man’s buttons would have been made of horn, bone, wood, or pewter. Choose buttons about 5/8″ wide in brown, off-white, or white metal. Eighteenth Century buttons usually had 2 holes, not four, or were metal with a loop on the back.
Fabric glue or fusible web, a sewing machine, or a needle and thread.
This is the look you’re aiming for
In the 18th Century, men wore breeches or trousers. At the top, all of these garments usually opened with a “broad” or “fall front.” The legs, however, were different lengths and widths. Most fashionable men wore breeches. These were knee-length, close fitting pants. They were worn with stockings, long socks that came up above the knee. The breeches buttoned over the top of the stockings. Breeches were made of wool, linen, cotton, or even silk. Working men also wore breeches of leather. Farmers, sailors, and other people who did hard labor sometimes wore looser, more comfortable clothing. They might wear baggy trousers that ended somewhere between the knee and the ankle. Sailors wore baggy, open bottomed trousers that ended at mid-calf. The pants we know are the descendants of 18th century trousers. They came into fashion after the French Revolution, when it was no longer considered “in” to look like aristocracy.
1. Cut the pants legs off at about calf level. They will be hemmed up to below the knee.
2. Make the leg fit snugly below the knee. To do this, cut a triangle from the bottom of each pants leg to a point about 5 inches up the outside seam, or the outside of the leg if you are using knit pants. If the pants are already snug, do not cut out the triangles. Instead, cut 5 inches straight up the outside seam, or outside of the leg.
3. Turn up the bottom edges of the pants legs so that the hem will end below the knee, and glue or sew the hem down.
4. In the 18th Century, the side opening in the breeches above the knee was fastened with buttons, and the band below the knee was buttoned or buckled. Our pretend breeches lace closed. Snip eight small holes equidistant from each other. There should be a little hole about every 1/2 inch. They should be about 1/2 inch in from the edge of the cut you made on the outside of the pants leg. These are the holes for lacing.
5. Lace the string down through the holes as you would a shoe lace. Tie the lace at the hemline.
6. Instead of lacing the breeches, you can hold them tight below the knee with a piece of tape, ribbon or elastic.
The fabric which has been cut from the pants is in this photograph to give a rough guide as to how much has been removed – and from where.
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