A-Z: General definitions: Breeches roles


Breeches were tightly fitting knee-length leg-coverings, worn by British men from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries and designed to show off an elegant leg. They were usually worn with silk stockings. Breeches roles were a popular feature of Restoration theatre; they called for an actress to appear in male clothes, perhaps playing a witty heroine disguised as a boy, either to hide her identity or to do things not normally allowed for girls. A quarter of the plays produced on the London stage between 1660 and 1700 contained breeches roles.

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