wear the pants

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wear the pants

To be in charge in or control of a relationship or family. The phrase is typically applied to a woman, contrasting the fact that pants were historically only worn by men, who were traditionally the decision makers within a household. Often followed by "in the family" or "in the house." I think it's pretty obvious who wears the pants in that family—Grandma Helene. Actually, in our relationship, we both wear the pants—we make decisions together.
See also: pant, wear
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

wear the pants

Exercise controlling authority in a household, as in Grandma wears the pants at our house. This idiom, generally applied to women and dating from the mid-1500s, a time when they wore only skirts, equates pants with an authoritative and properly masculine role. Originally put as wear the breeches, it remains in use despite current fashions.
See also: pant, wear
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

wear the pants

verb
See also: pant, wear
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

wear the

pants/trousers Informal
To exercise controlling authority in a household.
See also: wear
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

wear the pants, to

To be boss. This term was long applied to women, particularly wives, who assumed the domineering household role that was believed to belong to the husband. It dates from a time when only men wore pants or breeches and women wore skirts exclusively, at least in the Western world. Times have changed since the sixteenth century, yet although women’s apparel has included both short and long pants for many decades, the phrase still means to assume authority that is properly masculine. It reflects, of course, an indelibly sexist attitude.
See also: wear
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Lambie said that Mr Abbott cannot even invite her over a cup of coffee because he was not the one who is wearing the pants in the office.
#3 You must never say the "phat" while wearing the Pants. You must also never think "I am fat" while wearing the Pants.
You must never say the woird "phat" while wearing the Pants. You must also never think "I am fat" while wearing the Pants.
A police spokesman said: ``He entered the shop wearing the pants on his head but they slipped down at a crucial moment.''
If the Republicans are having a hard time making a good impression on women, Republican women who are used to "wearing the pants"--well-educated, pro-choice professionals--are having an equally hard time relating to their party.
When she assumed a major policy role and sought to continue being the high-powered professional that she is, pundits blasted her for wearing the pants in the family and being an unelected, shadow President.