Friday, 18 October 2013

Victorian Underwear

While on the subject of underwear, one interesting example from the Victorian era in the Brain-Watkins collection, is a pair of “Drawers’. These were the modern equivalent of bloomers. Though not worn as standard in the early part of the eighteenth century, they became an essential item when crinolines were introduced. They were worn next to the skin, and were necessary for both warmth and modesty in the case of an embarrassing moment.

Early drawers came well below the knee, each leg finished separately and joined together with a waistband, leaving the crotch open for easy toileting. During the 1860’s, drawers shortened to just below the knee level, which were sometimes gathered into knee bands, while the waistband had a yoke to reduce fullness. These became known as ‘knickerbockers’, from where we get the abbreviated word “knickers”.

The item in the Brain Watkins collection dates from the late 1800’s; it has openings at two sides with plackets, which are fastened with buttons. The crotch seam is closed, and the legs are straight, decorated at the bottom with a panel of broderie Anglaise, and finished with a frill of the main fabric bordered with a narrow strip of commercial lace.

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