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Hose and Breeches

Hose and Breeches

Men in the sixteenth century had a number of choices about what to wear on their lower body, almost all involving some combination of breeches, or baggy pants, and hose. The basic combination of hose for the lower legs and breeches for the waist and upper legs had been in use since about 1200.

The simplest part of the hose and breeches combination was the hose, a precursor to knit stockings. Hose were made from a loosely woven fabric and they were cut on the bias, or diagonally, which allowed them to fit the legs snugly. It was very fashionable to show off the shape of the legs, and upper-class men sought out tailors skilled in making tight-fitting hose. Late in the century knitting began to be used to make hose, which made for a stretchy, formfitting look, but did not become common until the seventeenth century. If worn with longer breeches, hose might reach just to the knee and be held in place by a garter. By the fifteenth century, however, tailors had developed the ability to join what were once two separate leg hose into one garment, joined at the crotch. This allowed for full-length hose and shorter breeches, allowing more of the leg to be shown. Hose might be made in a variety of colors, though off-white seems to have been the most common.

Breeches, a form of pants, came in a wide variety of styles. The most common form of breech was called the trunk hose. Trunk hose were attached to the bottom of the doublet, a padded overshirt, with points, or small ties, and bagged outward before fastening on the upper leg. They looked almost like a puffy short skirt. Trunk hose were often worn with canions, a loose-fitting hose for the upper leg. An exaggerated form of trunk hose was known as pumpkin breeches. Made with contrasting vertical panels of fabric, these breeches ballooned outward, making it look as if the wearer had a large pumpkin about his waist. Venetians were a form of breeches that reached to the knee; they were padded at the waist and upper thigh and grew slimmer as they reached the knee. Pluderhose were baggy all the way from the waist to the knee, and the baggy fabric hung down to hide the fastening at the knee. The longest breeches, known as slops, reached all the way to the calf.

Breeches could be made from a variety of fabrics, including wool, cotton, silk, and velvet, and could be among the most intricate of men's garments. In many cases breeches were made in panels of alternating fabric, and they might be trimmed out with lace strips of fur. Very often breeches were padded with bombast, a form of stuffing, to give them a particular shape. Although padded breeches were most common among upper-class men, simple hose and breeches were worn by men of all classes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.

Cassin-Scott, Jack. Costume and Fashion in Colour, 15501760. Introduction by Ruth M. Green. Dorset, England: Blandford Press, 1975.

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

[See also Volume 2, Europe in the Middle Ages: Hose and Breeches ; Volume 3, Sixteenth Century: Bombast ]

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"Hose and Breeches." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Hose and Breeches." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hose-and-breeches-0

Hose and Breeches

Hose and Breeches

The Middle Ages (c. 500c. 1500) are best known for the long, flowing tunics, mantles (types of overgarment), cotehardies (short robes), and other garments that covered not only the upper body but much of the legs as well. While women's garments remained long, over the course of time men's tunics and overcoats grew shorter, allowing them to display more and more of their legs. Men generally wore two different garments on their legs, hose and breeches, and the length and fit of these garments changed a great deal between around 1000 and 1400 c.e.

Since the early Middle Ages, European men had worn breeches, loose-fitting trousers that were held at the waist with a belt or a draw-string. These might have a stirrup to secure the hem of the breeches inside a shoe, or they could be loose at the ankle. Like most clothes of the time, these breeches were usually made out of wool. Many men bound these breeches close to their legs with leg bands. As the hemlines of outer garments rose, men sought more attractive ways to display their legs. They followed the emerging fashion of the day in wanting to display the form of the body, and not cloak it in loose fabric. They thus began to wear close-fitting hose that reached to the upper calf or even above the knee. These hose, made from a clingy, bias-cut wool (cut diagonally to the grain of the fabric), were as skin-tight as the fabric would allow and were held in place by a garter, or small belt. Slowly, hose extended further and further up the leg, and breeches diminished in size. By the thirteenth century some breeches were no more than baggy short pants, and hose had been joined together at the waist to form what we think of today as tights.

This transformation in men's legwear, with hose chasing breeches up the leg, was complete by the end of the thirteenth century. Hose were now common and many were made with feet sewn on. In some cases it appears that the foot sections of the hose had leather heels sewn on to the bottom so that shoes were not required. Most hose were made of wool, though very wealthy men might have hose made of silk or velvet.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Hartley, Dorothy. Mediaeval Costume and Life. London, England: B. T. Batsford, 1931.

Hatt, Christine. Clothes of the Medieval World. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 2001.

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

Ruby, Jennifer. Medieval Times. London, England: B. T. Batsford, 1989.

[See also Volume 2, Europe in the Middle Ages: Leg Bands ; Volume 3, Sixteenth Century: Hose and Breeches ]

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"Hose and Breeches." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hose and Breeches." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hose-and-breeches

"Hose and Breeches." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hose-and-breeches