Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Elizabethan Breeches

Queen Elizabeth Ist

"Queen Elizabeth Ist"

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.

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:
    • Satin
    • Taffeta
    • Silk
    • Velvet
    • Damask
Elizabethan Clothing
Elizabethan Era Index

Privacy Statement

Cookie Policy

2017 Siteseen Ltd