Boys and Breeches

Glos mem boys

Last week’s post on the little blind boy made me think about the practice of boys wearing dresses until a certain age when they were ‘breeched’. There are a lot of Georgian portraits which show boys in dresses so the practice was common. About 20 years ago I was on a writing course with a very old man who said he wore a dress and had long hair when a toddler, which takes us back to, maybe the 1920s,  to prevent being stolen by gypsies, which is another take on it.

Young boy

Apparently the dresses were used until they were toilet trained but then I read a journal from the mid 18th century which described how John Loveday of Caversham’s son was breeched quite late – I think he was about 8 or 9. The boy was upset by losing his freedom, which is a strange idea, as girls often complain of the lack of freedom in wearing dresses as they can’t be as active as in trousers.

So maybe the boy is talking about a different sort of freedom.

In Victorian times, public conveniences were rare, though urinals like this one were provided for men, like this one from Lincolnshire Rural Life Museum.


What did women do when they were out and about?

I once spoke to a woman who grew up in post war Germany, and one day she saw a couple of old country women in long skirts talking in the street and one of them opened her legs and urinated as she kept talking. My friend was utterly disgusted at what she thought was animal like behaviour.

I wonder, is this the freedom that young Loveday complained of losing? And also why there were no public conveniences for women?

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