Deep in the middle of doll dressing, I ponder, not just for the first time, how very difficult breeches are to make for a small doll.  All my clothing patterns are my own, worked out from numerous trips to costume museums all around the country.  There used to be both a costume museum and a doll museum here, but they have closed for various reasons.  Fortunately I paid attention while they were open.

There’s a great costume museum in Bath, where visitors in years past, going to sample the health-giving properties of the waters, found themselves in difficulties (anti-biotics not having been invented) and died;  water not being much of a cure for anything except dirt.  Their grieving relatives who had accompanied the invalids, promptly recouped some of the cost of the expensive and futile trip by selling their fashionable clothes.  There’s some great stuff including quite a few leather corsets, famous for not wearing out, therefore worn for many, many years, decades, certainly, and probably able to walk between the show cabinets on their own.

Breeches as a male garment (though females did wear them for sporting occasions at different times) are really tricky to make a pattern for, even if you have seen a lot of them.  They first began at the end of the seventeenth century when they were so massive they had to be gathered round the waist.  They continued to go in and out and up and down at the waist right through the eighteenth century and even into the nineteenth when they were still the only acceptable court dress.  They were supplanted by what we would recognise as a modern trouser by the Victorians, which was worn very un-ironed, possibly as a reaction to the extremely tight breeches of the late eighteenth century.  There is a photograph of Charles Dickens on one of his lecture tours, wearing a pair of trousers that look as if he has had a battle with them, probably through a hedge, backwards.

The late eighteenth century breeches were so tight that the fall front was a popular fashion for a long time.  These enabled the wearer to attend to the sudden call of nature, whether down the stairs at Versailles, into a receptacle kept in the side board, (so he didn’t have to stop dining for long) (maybe still with a fork in one hand) or in the alley behind the coaching inn, without having to struggle out of a skin-tight garment.  How convenient.

But the fall front, so easy for the eighteenth century wearer, is an absolute so and so to make in miniature.  And, even though I sew them up, they are still made to fall.

I set hoops for myself to jump through, I really do.

Breeches, of course are still around in numerous locations as court dress for assorted servants, lower orders and butlers.

In the history of costume we find that fashion begins with the it crowd, whoever they are at the time, and then moves down through the ranks until, many years after the garment was first fashionable, the servant classes have adopted (or been forced into) the item as uniform.  This does make one wonder if, could we jump forward two hundred years, we would be welcomed into palaces by people in torn jeans and ripped tee-shirts.  Slightly horrific but quite a gift to doll dressers.


The dolls will be going with me next weekend to the 99th Miniatura details:

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