Trousers - Encyclopedia

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TROUSERS, the name given to the article of dress worn by men, covering each leg separately and reaching from the waist to the foot. The word in its earlier forms is always found without the second r, e.g. trouses, trouzes, trooze, cf. the Lowland Scots word "trews," and is an adaptation of the French trousses, trunk-hose, breeches, the plural of trousse, a bundle, pack, truss, from trousser, to pack, bundle up, tuck, tie up, girth, of which the origin is doubtful. In English the word "trousers," when it first appears, was used of the leg-garments of the Irish, who wore their breeches or trunk-hose and stockings in one piece, a custom to which there are many allusions in 17th-century literature. Knee-breeches and top-boots for out-of-door wear or stockings for indoor use lasted till the beginning of the 19th century as the regular costume for men. Pantaloons, loose trousers reaching to above the ankle, were worn in Venice by the poorer classes in the 17th century (for the origin of the name see Pantaloon). The characters of the Italian comedy made the style of garment familiar in France, but it was only seen in the fantastic costumes of the ballet. During the reign of Louis XVI. loose pantaloons became fashionable for the morning deshabille of men. Their adoption by the supporters of the Revolution was the origin of the name of sans-culottes applied to the revolutionaries. Beau Brummel, in England, was probably the first to make the "pantaloon" popular. A striking feature of his dress were the tight-fitting black trousers reaching to the ankle, where they were buttoned. From this developed the true trousers, cut over the boot at the instep, at first open at the bottom and fastened by loops, later strapped tight under the boot. It is said that the duke of Wellington introduced this latter form after the Peninsular War. They were not recognized as correct for evening wear, and strong opposition was taken against them by the clergy and at the universities (see Costume).

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