Breeches - Definitions for the Clothing & Textile Industry

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Breeches are an item of clothing covering the body from the waist down, with separate coverings for each leg.

The terms breeches or knee-breeches specifically designate the knee-length garments worn by men from the later 16th century to the early 19th century (and into the early 20th century as part of servants' livery).

In contemporary contexts, breeches are distinguished from other forms of pants or trousers as being shorter than ankle-length and form-fitting, as riding breeches.

The spelling britches reflects a common pronunciation, and is generally used in casual speech to mean "pants". Breeks is a Scots or northern English spelling and pronunciation.

See more at Trousers, Knickers.


Like other words for similar garments (pants, knickers, shorts), the word breeches has been applied to both outer garments and underwear. The original Old English term brec or breoc (singular) indicated a cloth worn as underwear by both men and women; by the Middle Ages breeches meant "drawers" or "underpants".

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term breech-cloth or breech-clout was used to describe the apron-like loincloths worn by some Native American peoples.

In the latter 16th century, breeches began to replace hose as the general English term for men's lower garments, a usage that remained standard until knee-length breeches were replaced for everyday wear by long pantaloons or trousers.

Types of breeches

  • Petticoat breeches, very full breeches of the mid-17th century, giving the impression of a woman's petticoat.
  • Fall front breeches, breeches with a panel or flap covering the front opening and fastened up with buttons at either corner.
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The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ( ).  8/1/05
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