Rocky Mountain Outfit — American Mountain Men (AMM) party of Colorado

Review of Kannik's Korners "Man's Trousers, High Waisted, 1790 – 1810"
by Scott Walker on 12/26/2008

Front View

Front view

Front View

Back view: Note gathers that give fullness to the rear.


The goal of this project was to create a pair of settlement-made buckskin breeches to be worn with leggings. Overall it was successful and I would use this pattern again and recommend it to others.

I would give this pattern a rating of 4 out of 5. Good pattern, excellent directions, though fitting is needed on the leg seams.

How It Went

Very well. The directions were excellent. Leather is in some ways easier to work with because the edges can't ravel. I made a trial pair out of cheap canvas on which I only marked position of buttons so I could safety pin it on for fitting. The pattern worked out to have leg seams that weren't straight down the leg. I don't know if that is the pattern or my shape. The pattern directions talked about checking to make sure the leg seams ran straight and told how to fix them.

After fitting the canvas trial pair I cut the threads only on the outside leg seams and around through the crotch, so there was no inside leg seam. No inseam was common on breeches made for horsemen. I also cut the legs off just below my knee to imitate pants that had been cut down into breeches after being used in the water setting traps. I spread out the canvas as my pattern on the leather.

I used German Tan buckskin for this project after finding out that most settlement-made leather breeches/pantaloons/trousers were either that type of oil tan leather or an alum tan. According to Williamsburg, braintan wasn't typically used for tailor made breeches. If you're making field-made pants a trapper might have stitched up to replace worn out cloth pants, buckskin would be the material to use.

Check out Clay Landry's work on the Fort Hall tailor in Book of Buckskinning VIII for ideas on what a professional at a trading post might have made up. Check out Landry and Chronister's article in Book of Buckskinning VII for general information about trousers, pantaloons, breeches and the materials they were made out of.

Leather buttonholes of the period were made by taking a thinner piece of leather and cutting it in a football shape twice as big as the size of the buttonhole. Put the football on the outside of where you want the buttonhole then running stitch around where the buttonhole slit will be, staying 3/16" back from the line marking where the slit will be. The football of leather should be centered on where the buttonhole will be with the longer measurement running the same length as the buttonhole. Make the buttonhole slit in the middle of your running stitched outline through the pants leather and the football of leather. Dampen the football of leather and pull it through the hole to the back of buttonhole. Smooth out and flatten the football and whip stitch it in place on the back of the buttonhole. This isn't as bad as it sounds, but try it out on scrap leather first. Modern methods of making buttonholes in leather use two pieces of leather instead of the football shape. You'll see this two piece method on modern leather coats. As best as I can tell the two piece method wasn't used in the old days.

Buttons need to be leather covered. This basically means making a little drawstring bag to pull over a wooden "button mold" that has a waxed linen or wire shank on it. Suspender buttons, if used, can be plain bone, four or five hole.

Check out the last few pages of Gehret's Rural Pennsylvania Clothing for photos of a pair of historic leather breeches and buttonhole details. The buttons on these pants were probably leather covered when the pants were new, but they've worn down to the wooden button molds.

The Best and Worst of It

The best was the quality and clarity of the Kannik's instructions.

The worst part was trying to convert directions meant for cloth to methods that would work on leather so there was no extra bulk from unnecessary folding in any of the seams.

Is it Recommended?

Yes. This pattern would work for pants, trousers or breeches with the following note: The style is a sort of transition from the 18th century breeches to the 19th century trousers. They have the laced adjustment in the back of the waist band and the tucks for the full seat that were common in the later 1700s, along with the higher waist of the 1800s. This style is probably one that would have been fading in the 1820s in favor of pants more like the Past Pattern Small Falls in the 1830s. Still the adjustable waist is handy and might have been a detail that you would have seen on "ready made" frontier clothing sold in Westport. The bubble butt on these Kannik's trousers makes for a comfortable fit and they hang like the trousers on Bodmer's painting of a boatman stalking a grizzly bear.

Wide wale corduroy (about 5 wales per inch, according to an article in MFT Quarterly) would be a good fabric, and is pretty cheap when you find it. Plain weave, kersey twill or corded twill wool would be good. Wool/cotton blended jean cloth from Civil War suppliers might be another cloth to try. Wm. Booth Draper has Russia canvas in a couple of weaves. Blue, blue/gray, or drab (which is a gray/brown) would be good colors. Russia duck or sheeting might have been left plain off-white/light tan, or might have been dyed.

Hints and Notes

If I was making these breeches in leather again I'd include the side pockets. Williamsburg said most tailor-made leather breeches at least had a watch pocket, and most had the side pockets. I went with just a watch-type pocket and have regretted it. Williamsburg said the pocket linings, like the buttonhole linings, were made of the thin leather from the parts of the hide you usually didn't use for the main project.

I'd also make sure all of those buttonhole linings were made with as thin a leather as possible. That makes them easier to turn and stitch down.


Documentation Used