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galluses / suspenders

galluses. Straps worn for holding up pantaloons; braces. — Webster, 1882

suspenders. Straps worn for holding up pantaloons; braces; galluses. — Webster, 1882

We are now exhibiting an endless variety suspenders, made exclusively for our Christmas trade… gents elastic web suspenders, richly embroidered. – Boston Herald, December 1880.


Suspenders – or galluses, as Laura Ingalls Wilder refers to them in Little House in the Big Woods were two straps that buttoned to the front of a man’s trousers, went over his shoulders, crossed or were joined together to form sort of a letter “H”, and then buttoned to the back of his trousers as well. They were said to have been invented in the early 19th century when men’s pants were quite high-waisted, by British designer Albert Thurston. A belt just didn’t work well with such pants. Suspenders go in and out of fashion as fashion accessories tend to do, and they were even once considered to be an undergarment that shouldn’t be seen in public. When Charles Ingalls receives a pretty embroidered pair as a Christmas gift in The Long Winter, he doesn’t want to cover them up with his coat when he went out, but he probably did. Ma and the girls were said to have spent a quarter to purchase Pa’s suspenders with embroidered flowers on them, but they must have come in all price ranges, as 1880 advertisements I found record them selling for 35 cents to $3.00 per pair.

When Harper’s Bazaar reported during the Little House years that “neither should suspenders be worn by people who respect themselves,” there was a newspaper revolt: “Let us unite with the good men who have worn and still wear suspenders, and protest against their abolition by the heartless edict of fashion. We warn the suspender makers and the manufacturers of suspender buttons against this blow which the dealers in skate straps have made at their business. We call upon all men who have to work with both hands at a time, to stand by the only article of raiment that will permit them to do this with any sort of comfort and in any degree of security.”

Next time you’re in a men’s clothing store, ask to see the selection of suspenders. I bet they have some!

The following was found in a Hard Winter era newspaper. Was Pa a rural swain?

“Fashionable suspenders are all the rage, especially if embroidered by your best girl.

“Formerly the average man was content with almost any kind of shoulder brace which would hold up his trousers securely and comfortably. That time is no more. Your trousers may not have creases in them like a cheese knife or may not have been constructed by a past master in sartorial aestheticism, but if they are not sustained at the proper poise by one of the multifarious revelations which the chappies pronounce worshipful your claim to be called a man of fashion will rest upon a foundation of sand.

“One of the very newest agonies in braces is the style known as the crochet weave. It is of pure silk and the fabric is woven to resemble the hand-crocheted pattern which every beau a few years ago received from his best girl as a New Year’s gift. The woven article is stouter and more compact than the hand-made affair…

“The crochet weave suspender, as indeed do all of the reigning favorites, comes in solid colors. Heliotrope is the favored hue, but others are of Nile green, sage, Quaker blue, tobacco brown, old rose, baby blue, or navy blue. Black is not fashionable because it has ceased to be novel…

“The embroidered suspender has not grown passe, but has been transformed and idealized. The heavy splashes of red flowers on blue are only worn by rural swains. The exquisite effects now in vogue represent sprays of hyacinths, lilies of the valley, violets, chrysanthemums and other fashionable flowers…

“Embroidery should be done by hand, and for that reason braces are suitable gifts for a young lady to make to her betrothed or to her male relatives…”


galluses (BW 9)
suspenders (TLW 18)