Saturday, June 5, 2010


Ma's out, Pa's out, Let's talk rude!
Pee, Po, Belly, Bum, Drawers.

Flanders and Swann's "naughty words" song isn't referring to an innocuous chest of drawers, but to gasp underwear. As if that weren't shocking enough, Victorian ladies often wore split drawers.

As part of my quest for authenticity, and my wish to share from the comfort of today a little of the experience of being a Victorian woman, some years ago I made a pair of 19th century-style drawers.

They're quite full in style, loose around the thighs and trimmed with generous frills. Should the unthinkable happen, and a man get a glimpse of these drawers, they would look like a petticoat, albeit an indecently short one (they barely cover the knees).

But the legs are quite separate, joined only along the waistband.

Split drawers are sometimes assumed to have been the Victorian equivalent of naughty knickers, and to have been worn only by women of ill-repute, but that's not the case at all; they were normal, everyday underwear, worn by respectable women as well as (presumably) their fallen sisters. Their design is based on simple practicality.

A woman's underwear included, in addition to drawers, a chemise, a corset, a camisole, and at least two petticoats, and all this in the days before zippers or lycra. With split drawers, relieving oneself doesn't mean struggling with hooks, buttons, or cotton tape; it's simply a matter of making a minor adjustment. When braving a gloomy outhouse, complete with a population of spiders, anything that makes the task a little easier is to be welcomed.

No comments:

Post a Comment