Breeching Boys: A 1860s Boy

Figure 1.--This unfortunately poor quality 1860s pgotograph shows a boy in a dress wearing some kind of dark blooner oants or skirt underneath. He wears ringlet curls.

This photograph which appears to have been taking in the 1860s shows a boy which was probably breeched. The first photograph shows him still in a dress while the second in a boys' Zouave suit.


Two images show the ame boy photographed, probably in the 1860s. The photograph is undated but the clothing style strongly suggests the 1860s. Also notice the stand behind the boy. This shows that a very slow emulsion was being used and that the stand was needed to help the boy stand still. Emulsions speeds had increased to the point in the 1870s that this was not as necessary.


One photograph shows him in a dress, another in a long pants suit. Presumably he has just been breeched. I'm not sire about his age. He looks to be about 5 years old. There does not appear to have been much difference in time between the two photographs. They were not, however, takeb on the same day as the background and furniture is different.

What is not fully known about the breeching process was whether it was done at one time or whether a boy for a shoirt period wore both dresses and pants for different occasiions.


The boys hair appears to have two parts with hair built up in the middle at the front. The boys still has long hair which appears to have been curled. This shows that American mothers by the 1860s were dressing their boys' hair in ringlet curls. Ringlets became even more common in the 1870s. This boys mother clearly though that a boy should be breeched before his long hair was cut.

An HBC contributor comments, "The hair style I think is a very boyish touch. I have never seen a girl with that kind of part."


He appears to have been photographed with a hoop stick--a hoop and stick were a popular toy of the day. Early photiographs were very formal affaies with few props. By the 1860s, however, the conventiioned had developed tomphotograph boys and girls with their favorite toys or other props.

Figure 2.--The same boy pictured above is seen here in a keepants suit. The photograph appears to have been taken within a short time of the first photograph, The similarity of the hair style (identical to that in the first photograph) suggests that he was just breeched.

Clothing Styles

Both these outfits show Zouave styling. His mother appears to have liked the Zouave styling. The dress has a Zouave-type small jacket. An HBC contributor suggests the dress was "like a girls' dress, i.e., high waist at bust line and a little jacket just covering the bust." I'm not sure what the boy is wearing under his skirt--it looks like some kind of bloomer pants

The suit is styled in the Zouave fashion that was popular in America during the Civil War era. While the suit was a full Zouave style suit--although the pants did not baloon out as much as some suits did. Note that the boys' syits is an early version of kneepants. The pants are lobgish, but cut well above the ankles at mid-calf level. Zouave suits were some of the first boys' suits to be made with a shiortened pants style. This boy wears them with white stockings.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: May 28, 2000
Last updated: May 28, 2000