Trickle-down fashions

I love how this middle-class kid in Holland is wearing the same fashionable petticoat breeches with crazy ribbon trim that kings were wearing across Europe – it really shows the international power of fashion!


These breeches had legs that were so wide that they were called “petticoat breeches” because they looked like skirts, and they featured ribbon loops across the front closures, and around the bottoms or on the sides – they could use over 200 yards of ribbons for one pair of pants! The famous English diarist Samuel Pepys mentions them in April 1661, when he mentions that a friend “told of his mistake the other day to put both his legs through one of his Knees of his breeches, and so went all day.”

Here’s the full image:


“The Feast of St Nicholas” by Jan Havicksz Steen, 1665-8. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

And here are some of the real things, from the Livrustkammaren collection that I’m working with here in Stockholm:

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Petticoat Breeches from 1654, Livrustkammaren.

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A wonderful closeup of all those ribbons! 1650, Livrustkammaren.

And a great example of somebody actually wearing them…

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“portrait of Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie with his wife Maria Euphrosyne” by Hendrick Munnichoven, 1653. Läckö Castle, Sweden.

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