United States Knee Pants: Length

American boy button-on garments
Figure 1.-- This 1885 cabinet card portrait of an unidentified merican boy wearing ankle-length kneepants. They look more like out-grown long pants. Notice they are button-on pants. The polkadot bow is tied loosely. He is holding a hat in his right hand. He also has striped stockings and high-top shoes. The studio is Rees Gallery (Prof. Powers, Artist) in Richmond, Virginia. We might have guessed the portrait was taken earlier, but the card is backstamped 1885. The card is 3 7/8" wide x 6 3/8" tall, slightly different than a stanfard cabinet card. The boy looks to be about 9-10 years old.

Early knee pants were long, often cut at calf level. We call them knee pants only because as they became more common in the late-80s and began to be worn by older boys, thiscwas the standard length. These longish knee pants were common in the 1860s, 70s, and into the 80s. Often they look more like out-grown long pants, perhaps some were. Knee pants by the 1890s began to be cut shorter, especially by the end of the decade. We note that the Little Lord Fauntleroy suits appearing in the mid-80s were generally knee pants suit cut just below the knee, but these were mostly youngrr, pre-school boys. Only in the 1880s do we begin to see actual knee-length knee pants, but they were not common for older boys untiol the 90s. A good example is Eddie Wilson, a New York boy in 1882. We still see, however, knee pants covering the knees. This coninued in to the early-90s. A good example is an Ohio boy in 1890. Knee pants by the mid-1890s had become almost universal, at least in urban areas. The knee level length became the standard. This continued to be the case through the 1900s intil replaced by knickers.


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Created: 4:30 AM 7/25/2013
Last updated: 4:30 AM 7/25/2013