German Boys' Clothes: Breeching

Figure 1.--This image is unidentified, except that it was German. The portrait was taken in Paderborn. I'm not sure where that was in Germany. The portrait was undated, but looks to have been taken in the 1870s. The boy here does not look like he is 2 years old yet, buthas already been breached. Image courtesy of the BP collection.

We know that young German boys wore dresses in the 19th century as was common in Europe and America. The photographic record clearly shows this. We suspect that breaching continued to occur earlier in Germany than several other countries. Here we are just beginning to acquire German 19th century photographic portraits, so our assessment is just beginning. We note, however, that there are many images of very young German children wearing trousers or kneepants, even in the 1860s and 70s. The undated here is an example. We notice a somewhat older boy, Fritzle, who is alsp already breeched in 1879. This suggests to us that German boys may havde been breached at an earlier age than boys in many other European countries (England, France, and Italy) and America. This observation is tentative as we still have realtively few older German images. Also we do not know if this was true for the early 19th century or if this was a common pattern throughout the various German states (Landen). We have no written information from Germany on breeching at this time. An additional question arrises of course, if it is true that the conventions in Germany differed from the rest of Europe, why was this the case. We also notice families that breeched their sons at a later age. An example here is an unidentified Thorn family, we believe in the 1890s.


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Created: July 4, 2003
Last updated: 6:15 PM 12/1/2005