Sexy lingerie…

This is not. I assume adding a corset will make it better, but I am currently unconvinced. No wonder Victorians were so sexually unenthused (although they did invent the vibrator…)

So, here, only a few weeks late, are some final finished photos of my drawers. I had been holding off, hoping to get comparison shots with an actual pair in my mother’s collection, but I had a few free moments this morning while Osiris was still in bed (and so not around to laugh at me) so I figured I’d better seize them and get some photos. However, my cameria is AWOL (actually, probably somewhere in the bedroom with Osiris, and if I bang around in there I’ll wake him up and lose my opportunity), so you still get iPhone photos. Sorry. 😦


Front View

The drawers fit, for a given level of “fit”. The length is about right, or maybe it’s a bit too long. Apparently they should be just below the knee—anything longer is slovenly. And the saggy-baggy-puffy-crotch thing seems to be part of the charm. Or, y’know, something.

Speaking of which, my main source of instruction have been threefold: “The Home Course in Dressmaking and Ladies Tailoring” (copyright 1908), which I actually have in paper copy, whence came the actual draft for these drawers, an ebook, “The Home Needle,” from 1882, by Ella Rodman Church, and the pair of antique drawers in my mom’s collection (hereafter referred to as “the extant pair.”). I love the 1882 book because a) it’s just about my time period (mid 1880s), b), it’s mercifully brief, and c) it’s delightfully opinionated. Mrs. Church starts right in by excoriating the sewing-machine (by the time of my 1908 book, the sewing machine was much more accepted and there is much less emphasis on hand sewing of things like basic seams.), and the state of sewing generally, and she’s full of important tips like the one above about the appropriate length of drawers. Whenever I find myself lacking, seamstresslywise, I remind myself that I keep company with all the half-ass, slipshod Victorian girls just plugging away making shoddy, poorly sewn items purely to annoy mavens of excellence like Mrs. Church. And if she finds my drawers slovenly… well, she’ll never have to see them. πŸ˜‰


Side view. Note puffy butt and tapering waist-band.

Although I based the draft for my drawers on the later Home Course, I did take a couple of details for them from Mrs. Church.

Drawers draft from The Home Needle (1882)

Mrs. Church’s drawers draft has a curved front crotch, and no rear crotch curve at all. This is actually the same as the drawers in Simplicity 9769. I assume this creates an extra-puffy bum, which would be desirable in the bustle era. (I wonder if the front curve has to do with the pattern being designed to have the crotch closed in the front.)

Drawers draft

Drawers draft from Home Course In Dressmaking (1908)

The 1908 draft I used, by contrast, has no curve at either front or back, but both lines angle back in pants-fashion, rather than one angling and one not. Β And I departed from both drafts on one thing—when I compared my pattern with my mother’s extant pair (which, of course, I don’t know the precise dating of), I found the leg of the extant pair to be WAY, WAY narrower than my draft. So I narrowed that. Actualy, a lot of the details I wound up picking—the tucks, the lace, the ruffle, even the band finishing the crotch edges—kind of go back to that original pair.


Rear view. The “chemise” is a slip left over from a 90s sheer-floral-rayon dress (you remember the ones). It actually kinda works, although the neckline is all wrong.

Although I initially drafted a curved waist-band pattern based on on the 1908 book, by the time I got around to this part of the sewing I had misplaced it and figured I would go with Mrs. Church’s instructions, which are more my proper period, anyway. Β She says that although most people make a straight waistband, about an inch folded over, it’s better to make one wider at the back, that tapers to the front, and closes with two buttons rather than one. So I did. It would probably sit better at my actual waist, but despite all the fussing and futzing it turned out a bit large. I could, of course, move my buttons over, but I’m thinking the less bulk at my waist the better, once all the layers start coming together.


Phew. OK, let’s stick with hanger shots.

I added a few more small tucks around my rather-ugly lace. I’m more or less okay with it now, although of course I’ve since found several laces in stash that would’ve been better. I did not remove the fabric behind the lace—there’s top-stitched lace exactly like this on the extant pair of drawers. I suppose see-through panels on your drawers might not be quite the thing, or maybe that seamstress was just a bit lazy. Either way, I have precedent.


I added a few more small tucks around the wider lace. I like it better now.

I finished my inseam with a French seam, as per the 1908 instructions, contra Mrs. Church and the extant pair, both of which use a felled seam here. I can see why—the fell would be flatter and less likely to, ah, chafe delicate parts, since the low crotch sits pretty much right between your thighs. Since I don’t plan to be wearing these for days on end, well, I’ll live.


Inseam, finished with a French seam.

I also finished the crotch with a straight band, as per the 1908 book and the extant pair, contra Mrs. Church, who advises some kind of a shaped facing, wider at the crotch point and narrowing toward the waistband—I couldn’t really make heads or tails of what she was describing, frankly. Which is the downside of the Victorian sewing books, but anyway.


Two medium buttons

A few weeks ago my mother handed me two baggies of mixed buttons she had picked up at a garage sale. Ah, the joy. Anyway, I went through these looking for the perfect buttons, and found quite a few plain, smooth white glass buttons that seem just perfect. Medium size buttons, not small, in accordance with Mrs. Church’s instructions.


Unbuttoned to show my terrible-ass buttonhole.

I remain impressively terrible at making hand-worked buttonholes (especially when I compare myself to actual examples). For something different this time I used a darning yarn that was in the sewing stuff I recently got with my Grandmother’s machine. I used it doubled and single would’ve been better, and it turns out after the fact that I was using a blanket stitch rather than a buttonhole stitch (they’re much the same except for the directly of the needle), which explains why my knots never end up in the right place. However, they are sturdy. Mrs. Church is rolling over in her grave as we speak.


Now you can REALLY see the difference between the front and back waistband width.

These were pretty fun to make, although I must say finishing something and not being able (or even inclined) to immediately wear it out and about is pretty frustrating (and why I have resisted the siren-song of historical costuming in general, the last few years). Next in line: chemise, corset, petticoats, bustle. Not necessarily in that order. At my current rate that should only take, oh, another two years?



Filed under Sewing

29 responses to “Sexy lingerie…

  1. Woo hoo, sexy! LOL Or at least sexy ankles. Or something. Wow, poor frustrated Victorians. I love how you finished the hems with rows of pleating and lace – it does look good, if not exactly up to modern standards of sex appeal.

  2. hehe, I find your narration in this post very amusing. =)

    Love the rows of tucks you put on the bottom of the drawers! A very nice pair of Victorian undies – I’m so glad we have moved beyond clothes like this!

  3. Sufiya

    Lacy coloured underwear was for courtesans. The implication of colour and lace implied the underwear was meant to be SEEN! I remember reading about the fin-de-siecle couture house House of Lucile coming up with lacy sheer coloured underwear for ladies and apparently a lot of it was returned by irate husbands! Even buttons were considered excessively suggestive; to have your buttons right out there for all to see made a woman look “accessible” (horrors!) So either blouses buttoned up the back, or they made use of button plackets, or hooks were used. That bulgy crotch on those draws wouldn’t matter a scrap because they would be worn under all those crinolines and bustles and things, and so a mere unederwear bulge wouldn’t have mattered a scrap! In fact, underwear was a fairly new innovation because it was as awkward as hell to attend to “nature’s calls” with all that gear on as it was, without having to wrassle with underwear! Is the crotch on those things split from stem to stern? They should be…it made it easier to “go” without having to fight to untie the waistband!

    • You know, I wonder how much this varied within the era. Lots of the extant corsets I’ve seen pictures of are fancy-coloured—but then a lot of those are not every-day pieces either, but would’ve been fine couture garments. That’s interesting about the buttons—as far as I can tell for “my” period (1880s) button-fronts were quite common for bodices, at least for every-day dresses.

      Maybe I wasn’t clear, but these have an open crotch. The books I’ve been reading seem to suggest it’s up to the preference of the wearer, though—the draft in the 1882 book is described as being for a pair closed in front but open in the back. It also says that children’s drawers are usually made with a closed crotch, and open with buttons at the sides. πŸ™‚

  4. Sufiya

    Sorry for the somewhat incoherent post;; wish there was an ‘edit” feature!

  5. Sufiya

    Hmm, I should have said :”Back in Victorian times, lacy coloured underwear was for courtesans…”

  6. In the immortal words of my Grandmother, “Ooo-la-la!”

  7. Bernadette

    0kay, so I missed it- why make bloomers when you can make thongs?

    • *shudder*… haven’t voluntarily worn a thong in about a decade, here. πŸ™‚

      • Sufiya

        Ha ha, remember what I told you about thongs, g-strings and the affliction peculiar to those who wear g-strings as ‘work wear”? πŸ˜‰

        The Victorians did NOT approve of coloured underwear, but the taboo started to lift in the very late 1800s/early 1900s. It is possible that those coloured corsets did originally belong to courtesans, and were preserved because they were so pretty and colourful, as opposed to the strictly “utilitarian” white ones, which would have been ubiquitous. Also, no doubt there were some regular women who were “daring”, and felt sexy knowing their underwear was coloured!

  8. LOL! I love your half-hearted attempts to satisfy the long-dead Mrs. Church…the drawers look lovely, though, and I’m totally with you on the frustration of 1) trying to get pictures of historic clothing w/o snarky husband comments, and 2) not getting to wear it out right away.

  9. wow those are pretty awesome!! i have to admit i have a strange affection for Victorian undergarments even if i don’t necessarily want to wear them… maybe it’s the challenge? this corded corset is on my list of things i want to make, just because it’s prettttttttttttttty! i can’t wait to see what you cook up next πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, I love the look of the corded corsets. And I’ve been stalking the Dreamstress’s blog like crazy since I started down this weird historical costuming path. She does such beautiful stuff. πŸ˜€

  10. Looks like you’ve been having a lot of fun with this project! All the details are great…love that fullness at the back!

  11. Sexually unenthused??? I think they were just repressed beyond help. And looking at the size of Queen Victoria’s family, you gotta wonder…
    Anyhoo – let’s not think too far into that – love the drawers! they are really quite sweet!

  12. molly

    there is a lovely passage in one of emily carr’s books describing a conversation she had with an english (upper-class) friend about machine vs. hand sewing…apparently, machine sewing was (barely) acceptable for outer garments, but never, NEVER, for one’s undergarments…!

  13. OK maybe it’s the English heritage talking but I think these manage to be both cute AND sexy – nice job!! πŸ™‚

  14. LinB

    Is the crotch split? Because that would make your life far easier to take care of excretion, when fully dressed in bloomers, multiple petticoats, bustle, skirt and/or overskirt. Folkwear has an excellent Edwardian underthings pattern — I believe that the waistband on the drawers is a shaped band … memory does not serve me. Let me google it … well, the front band is shaped, at least.

    • Yeah, it’s split. I agree, anything else sounds like a bad idea under all those layers. My mom made herself the Folkwear Edwardian Walking Skirt at one point…

      • LinB

        I’ve made the Walking Skirt many, many times — for me and for my dear Ma. (It suits a figure with a low, full bottom. I don’t know where she got hers from, but I inherited mine directly from her.) It’s nice in a knee length, as well as in the ankle length and floor sweeper illustrated on the envelope. Plus: no zipper! A one-button closure! Full at hem, slim over hips, narrow-as-you-need-it at waist!

        My main experience with the Edwardian Underthings was to make a bright red set of bloomers and corset cover, down to which to strip as I sang “Santa Baby” at a community Christmas gathering.

  15. Much to The Dreamstress’ chagrin I’m sure I have no knowledge of historical costuming but I think you’ve done a great job and the pleated and lace trim is lovely!

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