to wear the breeches

From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Wear \Wear\, v. t. [imp. Wore (w[=o]r); p. p. Worn
   (w[=o]rn); p. pr. & vb. n. Wearing. Before the 15th century
   wear was a weak verb, the imp. & p. p. being Weared.] [OE.
   weren, werien, AS. werian to carry, to wear, as arms or
   clothes; akin to OHG. werien, weren, to clothe, Goth. wasjan,
   L. vestis clothing, vestire to clothe, Gr. "enny`nai, Skr.
   vas. Cf. Vest.]
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   1. To carry or bear upon the person; to bear upon one's self,
      as an article of clothing, decoration, warfare, bondage,
      etc.; to have appendant to one's body; to have on; as, to
      wear a coat; to wear a shackle.
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            What compass will you wear your farthingale? --Shak.
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            On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
            Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore. --Pope.
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   2. To have or exhibit an appearance of, as an aspect or
      manner; to bear; as, she wears a smile on her countenance.
      "He wears the rose of youth upon him." --Shak.
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            His innocent gestures wear
            A meaning half divine.                --Keble.
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   3. To use up by carrying or having upon one's self; hence, to
      consume by use; to waste; to use up; as, to wear clothes
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   4. To impair, waste, or diminish, by continual attrition,
      scraping, percussion, on the like; to consume gradually;
      to cause to lower or disappear; to spend.
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            That wicked wight his days doth wear. --Spenser.
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            The waters wear the stones.           --Job xiv. 19.
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   5. To cause or make by friction or wasting; as, to wear a
      channel; to wear a hole.
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   6. To form or shape by, or as by, attrition.
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            Trials wear us into a liking of what, possibly, in
            the first essay, displeased us.       --Locke.
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   To wear away, to consume; to impair, diminish, or destroy,
      by gradual attrition or decay.

   To wear off, to diminish or remove by attrition or slow
      decay; as, to wear off the nap of cloth.

   To wear on or To wear upon, to wear. [Obs.] "[I] weared
      upon my gay scarlet gites [gowns.]" --Chaucer.

   To wear out.
      (a) To consume, or render useless, by attrition or decay;
          as, to wear out a coat or a book.
      (b) To consume tediously. "To wear out miserable days."
      (c) To harass; to tire. "[He] shall wear out the saints of
          the Most High." --Dan vii. 25.
      (d) To waste the strength of; as, an old man worn out in
          military service.

   To wear the breeches. See under Breeches. [Colloq.]
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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Breeches \Breech"es\ (br[i^]ch"[e^]z), n. pl. [OE. brech, brek,
   AS. br[=e]k, pl. of br[=o]c breech, breeches; akin to Icel.
   br[=o]k breeches, ODan. brog, D. broek, G. bruch; cf. L.
   bracae, braccae, which is of Celtic origin. Cf. Brail.]
   1. A garment worn by men, covering the hips and thighs;
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            His jacket was red, and his breeches were blue.
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   2. Trousers; pantaloons. [Colloq.]
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   Breeches buoy, in the life-saving service, a pair of canvas
      breeches depending from an annular or beltlike life buoy
      which is usually of cork. This contrivance, inclosing the
      person to be rescued, is hung by short ropes from a block
      which runs upon the hawser stretched from the ship to the
      shore, and is drawn to land by hauling lines.

   Breeches pipe, a forked pipe forming two branches united at
      one end.

   Knee breeches, breeches coming to the knee, and buckled or
      fastened there; smallclothes.

   To wear the breeches, to usurp the authority of the
      husband; -- said of a wife. [Colloq.]
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