From the mid-16th century until the late 19th or early 20th century, young boys in the Western world wore gowns or dresses until an age that varied between two and eight. The main reason for keeping boys in dresses was toilet training – or the lack thereof. Dresses were also easier to make with room for future growth, in an age when clothes were much more expensive than now for all classes.
When the boys had reached the age when they could easily undo the rather complicated fastenings of many early-modern breeches and trousers, there was a special occasion and celebration called “Breeching,” when a small boy was first dressed in breeches or trousers. The age at which a child was capable of proper reasoning was considered to be about seven, and breeching corresponded roughly with that age.
In the 19th century, photographs were often taken of the boy in his new trousers, typically with his father. He might also collect small gifts of money by going around the neighborhood showing off his new clothes. Friends of the mother as much as the boy might gather to see his first appearance.
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