Boys' Clothing Glossary: "K"

Figure 1.--

We have begun to build a glossary of boys' clothing terms. As boys clothes until the 19th century was the sane as adult male clothing, we have included many applicable men's clothing terms. We have also included some women's terms as younger boys commonly wore dresses until the 20th century. As HBC is extensively used by non-native English speakers we plan to give considerable attention to this glossary so that words can be looked up. It will also serve as an index as we will provide links to the appropriate pages. We eventually hope to add foreign words, but that will take some time.

Khadi: Khadi is an inexpensive cotton cloth used for dhoti and lungi. Both are skirt or kilt like garments fashioned by wrapping them around the body and secured by fold and knots. Commonly worn by boys and men in Kerala and other areas of India.

Kilt: "A man in a kilt is a man and a half." It is the traditional clothing of Scotland. The present kilt contains about eight yards of material. This garment is the modern remnant of the great plaid, Originally a large blanket pleated round the waist; held by a large, broad belt. The excess free cloth was gathered and pinned to the shirt or coat with a brooch on the left shoulder. This great plaid was eminently fitted to the weather and occupations of the Scottish Highlands. It is NOT an outfit for the gentleman on horseback. Consequently, it was more the dress of the average man in the Highlands rather than the gentry. The kilt has been worn with everything from body armour to the long fancy coats of the Georgian period. A common mistake is to wear the kilt too long. The middle of the knee-cap is the longest acceptable level and up to an inch shorter is okay. Also, do not pin a kilt pin through both aprons of your kilt. It will spoil the hang of the kilt and be a bother getting it off and on. Do not mix daywear and evening wear. Tartan hose, jewelled dirk, miniature medals and evening plaid are just some of the accoutrements not suitable for daytime wear. They may look dressy, but they make you look stupid to a true Scot who knows how to wear the tartan.

Knee breeches: American men and boys in the 18th Century wore knee breeches. They evolved from the bloomer like pants men wore in the 16th Century. Boys for most of the Century began wearing knee breeches after breeching. At the time, little boys and girls both wore dresses with little or no difference. The process of buying a boy his first pair of breeches was thus called breeching. This term continued to be used in the 19th century, even after breeches were no longer being worn.

Kneepants: Boys in the late 17th and early 19th century began wearing the first specialized children clothes. Sailor suits were worn by some boys with the same bell-bottomed pantaloons that real sailors wore, but it was not the widely popular fashion that it was to become after Queen Victoria adopted it for the royal princes. One of the principal fashions for boys of the late 18th and early 19th century was the skeleton suit, worn with long pantaloons or trousers at a time with adult men when they dressed up wore knee breeches. A new style of knee-length pants appeared for boys after mid-century. This new style along with associated more modern styles of knickers and short pants were to dominate boys' fashions for the next hymdred years. They were at first worn by younger boys, but in some periods and countries were worn by older boys, even boys of high school age.

Knicker suits: Knickers may have evolved from the knee breeches worn in the 18th century. They were not al first specialized children's wear. They seemed at first to have been more worn as a kind of sporting or outdoor wear. They were often associated with Norfolk jackets. Apparently when men's fashions evolved from knee breeches to trousers in the early 19th Century, the British country gentleman disciovered that it was a bit tedious sloshing around the muck after a grouse or two. They found that it was a lot easier and less expensive to clean a pair of socks than muddy trouser legs. Thus knickers became the establish costume of the country gentleman. This style continues to this day as a kind of anachronistic country gentleman's outfit.

Knickers: Boys by the 1920s were dressing more casually. Suits were increasingly reserved for formal occaions. Increasingly boys, especially American boys, would wear knickers and a simple shirt, perhaps with a sweater during the colder months. This would be the common atire of American boys in the years before jeans. (Actually blue jeans were invented in the 1850s, one of the aftermaths of the California gold rush, but they were not commonly worn by urban boys until the late 1940s.)

Knits: Knitting is the formation of fabric, such as jersey cloth or hose, by interlacing loops of yarn with hand needles or commercially with powered machienery. Knitwear has become increasingly popular for the modern casual life style. Children have always worn knitwear more than adults.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: April 24, 1998
Last updated: July 9, 2001