Breeching Age: Actual Ages: 6 Year Olds

Figure 1.--Portraits of single individuals do not tell us when a boy was breeched, although it can help set the parameters. Family portraits like this can be more helpful. The boy wearing the dress looks to be about 5 years old. His older brother looks about 6 years old. Thus in this family probably during the 1880s, the age of breaching looks to be 6 years of age. The older child looks like a boy, but surely must be a girl.

Most boys seem to have been breeched by the time they began attending school at about age 6. The photographic record shows a lot fewer boys wearing dresses or other skirted garments than 5 year olds. This can be determined by looking at the HBC school section. Not all boys, however, attended school, especially in the 19th century. Children from wealthy families might be educated at home. The school photographs, thus do not assess clothing patterns with these families. We definitely notice boys of 6 and even older still wearing dresses. We also notice them wearing kilt suits. And the clothing catalogs of the day clearly indivate kilt suits being made in size 6s. We assume that the boys involved were boys from affluent families still being educated at home. The number of these boys were a small percentage, but the photographic record suggests that it certainly was not rare. Another question we have is if boys photographed in dresses or kilt suits had wardrobes consisting of other than skirted garments. While we notice 6 year olds wearing dresses and kilt suits through the 1880s, this seems to become much less common by the 1890s. We think a primary factor here was the growing importance of public education. Rarely do we see unbreeched boys at school.


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Created: 9:38 PM 8/6/2007
Last updated: 9:38 PM 8/6/2007