Saturday August 26, 2006

Experts on male/female communication tell us that men hesitate to join a group of talking women for fear the conversation will be about underwear. So I give you fair warning: this is about underwear.

Specifically, about sewing underwear.

The mad sewing idea that I mentioned a while back all began with Dweezy, who linked to this article. “Even when you would like to have these underwear, you cannot get maybe,” it says wistfully. “Why not make one by your own?”

I was enchanted by the use of language — I really like bad translations, for some reason.

Then, while making a nightgown, I checked my Singer sewing book (which happens to be of 1943 vintage) and found, along with nightgown advice, the suggestion that a bra and panty set makes a welcome gift. This struck me because it seemed to imply a change since 1943 either in underwear or in friendship.

Instructions for drafting patterns for undies were included. And, while I can’t really see myself giving lingerie to The Empress or the Poster Queen in lieu of the Christmas cookie box, I did toy with the idea of making some frillies for my daughters’ stockings.

The idea stayed in the back of my mind, where Christmas gift ideas ought to be in the summer, but I did pick up some lace when Hancock’s had it on the clearance table, and some remnants of satin at Hobby Lobby. Just in case.

Some of the sewing blogs included mentions of sewing underclothes. And when you actually look for online information on the subject, you can find a lot. You will learn that you can make a pair of panties in 20 minutes. That a perfectly-fitting bra can be made for under $10. That one or two yards of silk and a couple of souvenir T-shirts will provide a week’s worth of underwear.

You will also learn that a search for “lingerie construction” leads you to ads for naughty construction worker costumes, but the internet is full of surprises like that.

Then a Frugalreader (Frugalreader is a book-swap service) listed a couple of modern books on sewing lingerie, and I requested them. It seemed providential, really.

The August SewRetro challenge is to make a vintage take on a fall wardrobe basic. Reasoning that few things are as basic as underwear, I used the 1943 instructions to draft patterns for panties and a camisole.

I was surprised to discover that panties in the 1940s were completely different from what they are today. They had plackets and buttons. Are you surprised?

There was also a bra pattern, but again this was not like a modern garment. It did not seem worth the trouble, because there is no way it is going to end up with an underwire.

I had never drafted a pattern before, and I was surprised to find that it was pretty easy — at least if you are making a set of underwear. If you can measure and draw lines, it is rather fun. I plan to do this some more in future.

Once my shopping and tidying were complete, I made the camisole and a half slip. I have the panties cut and pinned but feel no hurry about making them because, frankly, I think they will be of historical interest rather than a thing I — or any potential recipient — would really want to wear. It seems to me that panties have improved a whole lot in the past 60 years.

Elastic, for one thing.

I assume also that the ’40s underpants were an update of something else — Directoire knickers, perhaps, or a Liberty bodice and combinations or something. When folks came up with modern panties along about the 1960s or whenever, it must have been quite exciting. “Gee!” women must have said, “Something shaped sort of like a girl’s bottom! Why didn’t they think of that before?”

The modern lingerie-sewing book said to sew lace onto the raw edge of the fabric. I did not like this, even though when I checked my RTW stuff I found that it is customary.

So I cut a bias strip and bound the edge, behind the lace. This was an improvement, but still doesn’t seem like the best option. I may return to the vintage book for directions on that when I do it again.

While I was doing the handwork, I watched the current Netflix. It was finally our turn to have The Polar Express, which takes its title from a rather special Christmas picture book. The Holiday Grand Plan begins tomorrow, and the first week is for making lists — what gifts to make or buy, what meals to cook, what baking to do. So I thought it would be inspiring to watch a holiday movie while I sewed.

The Polar Express will strike you as filled with holiday spirit if hurtling toward death is one of the essential motifs of your seasonal celebrations. I am not quite sure why Santa’s elves speak Yiddish, nor why they live in a city that looks kind of like Manchester. But it did sort of provide a backdrop for the sewing.

Now I am knitting and waiting for #1 daughter and Son-in-law’s arrival. They will be going to his parents’ house tonight and coming to us tomorrow, so I am not really actively waiting. I am lolling. No bonbons.






3 responses to “Saturday August 26, 2006”

  1. lostarts Avatar

    Underwear wasn’t quite as old fashioned in 1943 as that book might lead you to believe. There was elastic. Granted, jersey wasn’t big yet, but it was in use.

    Although, I can remember what a stir pantyhose made when they came out around 1962.

    It had never occurred to me to make my own underwear, although the underwear industry has given me some good ideas to make that easier.

    Have you seen the tank tops with the shelf bras? They are SO comfortable! And they’d be easy to make.

    If you want to get in the mood for this, get “Don’t Forget Your Spacesuit, Dear” by Jody Lynn Nye and read “Space Cadet.” It’s all about Cadet Victoria Fredericks. Victoria has a secret. She likes silky scanties. It may be my all-time favorite short story.

  2. chanthaboune Avatar

    I liked your pictures, but I didn’t read past the part where you said it was about underwear.

    Maybe I am suffering from excessive testosterone. Good thing my roommate is finally here.

  3. sighkey Avatar

    One of the things we had to sew at intermediate school was a half-petticoat (same as the American half-slip I think) Although I really did not like sewing class I did find it interesting to learn how to sew a french seam. The only things I actually still remember how to do from sewing class is hoe to sew a french seam on underwear and nightgowns, and how to place and sew darts (which I also secretly thought was quite cool because they made the garment a more interesting shape.)