Monday, May 27, 2013


Okay, they're tight, but they're supposed to be.  Overalls or gaiter-trousers are a unique late 18th century military garment.

Previously, breeches were worn with stockings and separate leggings or gaiters. Around 1777, both American and British troops switched to hemp or linen varieties for Summer and Redcoats often got brown wool in Winter.  

Stylish as well as practical, the British wool overalls had horn buttons at the waist and fall. Unlike breeches, small horn buttons stretch from calf to ankle, toes cover the shoes, and stirrups hold everything down.

The back is gathered and laced, as with breeches. Overcast stitches cover the eyelets and linen tape makes adjusting the waistband easy. A small pie-shaped insert fills the gap.

The seat is just baggy enough to allow the wearer to sit, since the legs are "snug without constraint."

The fall is lined with linen for comfort, and one vertical button hole attaches to the lowest button on the waistband. The waistband is also lined with linen.

The front looks pretty ridiculous, but these are the only large horn buttons I have at the moment. The whole thing gets covered by the waistcoat anyway (ideally.)

When working on overalls, fit the top first. Get the waistband, fall, and crotch squared away. Leave plenty of material to fit the legs. My knees actually point outward, so the outside seam on these twist around toward the back. The leg seam should stay centered all the way down.

Next, the toe is attached and lined with linen. The outside seam has a half inch of overlap for six buttons and buttonholes, marked at right, with linen strips as re-enforcement.  Start the opening at the widest part of the calf to allow room for the feet.

Don't forget to wear shoes to fit the bottom. The last step is to sew a small button inside the inseam of the foot, and cut a strip of leather to pull everything down over the shoes. Punch a hole at each end of the leather, and cut a small slit from it to fit over the lowest buttons.

These leather stirrups should last years. Overalls feel weird the first time you wear them, but the joy of not picking up stones in your shoes more than makes up for the hassle of construction.


  1. i do so love men in gaiter-trousers! ;-) great fit!

  2. Thanks! Nice to meet you, electronically speaking. I keep bumping into Mike at nearly the same spot at Fort Fred Market Faire every year.

  3. Great job fitting these! And FINALLY, an explanation of "why gaiters??" in the first place? We tend to forget those rocky, stony, pebbly paths and roads! Now, just from a practical costuming pint of view, what do you do if you have someone allergic to wool?
    Thanks for this great and patient post"
    Nancy N

  4. I feel your pain. Much wool clothing in the period was fully-lined. My broadcloth breeches are all lined with soft linen. The brown kersey for the overalls project is surprisingly soft.

    1. Wonderful, thanks. I love the beautiful job you did on the various closures. And the silhouette looks like so many of those woodcut illustrations!
      Nancy N

  5. Nice work. Wish more people could see this so that overalls stop looking like zouave pantaloons!