Thursday, April 24, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: U is for Underwear

A weighty matter for today's discussion. Let us draw a veil over the matter of men with their long-johns and woollen combinations, confining ourselves to ladies and their not-quite-unmentionables.

Throughout the Victorian era ladies wore layer upon layer of undergarments. The precise items varied somewhat with changing fashions over the decades, but the quantity and complexity of what was considered necessary for decency did not change until the 1920s brought such a startling loosening-up of female garments.

The crinoline had gone by the time of the period my books cover, thank goodness. Women were busy enough with what remained. Typically they would wear:
- drawers
- stockings (with garters)
- a chemise
- a corset
- a camisole
- several petticoats, including a flannel one in winter

How they could move at all, let alone run a busy household, takes some imagining.

Most women were limited to fairly utilitarian white cotton, but lingerie could be quite lovely, especially that belonging to wealthier women who might even run to silk (and have someone else to launder it for them), with lace and ribbons and frills.

Vintage underwear pattern,

As for those drawers mentioned earlier: with heavy and complicated outer garments, a visit to a gloomy outhouse, probably well-populated with spiders, was enough of a challenge without having to struggle with hooks, buttons and tapes to lower one's drawers. For much of this period, drawers consisted of two separate leg sections, joined only at the waistband, with no crotch seam. It must have made life just a little simpler.

In my quest for authenticity, I made a pair of my own:

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).


  1. Ick! Way to many layers. I have no idea how they managed to wear so many clothes in the heat and run a household. Yeah they look pretty but I would melt with that many pieces of clothing. So glad times have changed.

    1. Oh, me too. Just the heat would have me retiring to the chaise longue. :)