Wednesday, April 9, 2014

History's Runway: Victorian Underpants, 1890-1900

Britain, 1890-1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In Britain, in the Nineteenth Century, the word “vests” referred to an under-shirt while the term “pants” was used for underwear.  Both were worn next to the skin, either under the shirt or trousers. Many men preferred to have the vest and pants combined in one garment.  Some underpants were knee-length, but others were shorter and preferable for cycling.

Underpants were made in linen, cotton and merino, but machine-knitted silk was fashionable for wealthy men, especially for summer wear. Underpants were usually a natural white color, but by the late Nineteenth Century, vests were available in a range of colors, including peach, flesh tint, lavender, light blue and heliotrope.

Usually, a gentleman owned several sets of vests and underpants. By the Twentieth Century, most men wore combined vests and pants.
   By 1906, the vast majority of men dispensed with underwear altogether in the summer months.  Scandalous!

This set of underwear from 1880-1900 consists of pants and a vest.  They are initialed, as many were to make sure that during the laundry process, the right underwear was returned to the right man.  These are monogrammed “G.D.” They are luxurious machine-knitted silk, with pearl buttons and silk loops for braces, and are machine-sewn.  They fitted close to the body so as not to disrupt the line of a smart, well-tailored suit.

No comments: