Saturday, March 31, 2018

Knickerbockers to big pants: Brief outline

Knickerbockers, later shortened to "knickers" were popular casual wear for the well-dressed gentleman at the turn of the twentieth century. Variations of knickers included plus-fours, plus-sixes, plus-eights and plus-tens. The "plus" referred to how many inches below the knee they hung. In 1925 when Oxford undergraduates were prevented from wearing their knickers in the classroom the wags wore baggy pants or Oxford bags.

Knickers, as in undies for ladies really only date as far back as 200 years ago. Even then, only high society ladies had the luxury of daily underwear changes. Although makeshift briefs were worn by Sumerian women in the form of a strategically knotted cloth these probably served as athletic briefs.

Bloomers come from Amelia Bloomer in the 19th century. She was an emancipated young lady who was simply fanatical about cycling. She loved her bike and chose to wear modern clothes that gave her freedom to move. Her bloomers were blousy ending in the ankles with a buckle closure.

Can-can girls in Paris were the reason bloomers got shorter and the shorter bloomers were stitched up and these were known as French knickers (camisole knickers). Ladies undies were also called pantaloons and drawers.

Drawers became fashionable about 1806. At first they were replicas of men’s long johns and considered rather risqué. These were worn by little girls and called pantalettes. During Regency Period underwear was sold to improve the line of clothing but later in 1905 lady’s undies were made from black silk, edged with ecru lace and a baby pink ribbon.

Cruchless panties are not new, by any stretch of lyrca, and were worn as a novelty up until the Thirties. Flappers commonly loosened their undergarments to dance.

Rigby & Peller are considered the most famous lingerie firm in Britain and even the Queen is a customer. R&B undies featured in the Bridget Jones films. According to a spokesperson for Marks & Spencer, since the first Bridget Jones film, sales of big pants soared.

Reviewed 15/02/2016

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