20th Century

Tap pants, french knickers, cami-knickers or lingerie shorts

Whatever you call them, I think they are the best thing ever.  Especially if you do a lot of dancing and want to wear fun swirly skirts and still stay modest, or live in a city like Wellington, where every gust of wind puts your dignity at risk unless you wear trousers every single day.

Don’t wear skirts?  Still the best thing ever – wear them as comfortable but sexy pajamas.

I just love tap pants and wear them all the time.  That’s why one of my very first classes at Made Marion is a tap pants class – every lady needs her own super cute, super easy, super everything tap pants!

I’ll be teaching students to make two types of tap pants – a very easy post-1940s version with an elastic waist, and an earlier 1920s onwards version with a side placket.  Silk, ribbons and lace insets optional.

Here are a few of my favourite historical tap pants, and tomorrow I’ll show you what my versions look like.

First off, my very favourite set ever.  They come in yellow.  Of course I’m in love.

Lingerie set with tap pants, 1920-25, French, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Almost as good as yellow:  peach satin with lots and lots of lace and little rosebuds.  And a rather naughty lace inset!

Tap pants & Brassiere by Boue Soeurs, French, 1920's via Vintage Textiles

The colour combination in this set is so striking, and the detailing is amazing:

Lingerie set by Franklin Simon & Co. , 1920s, American, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

For more crazy elaborate detailing, check out the vandyke details on this set:

Petticoat & knickers, France, 1925-1929, V&A

I also love these sweet and basic utility undergarments  at the V&A.  It’s nice to see luxury combine with rationing!


  1. Lynne says

    Love these things! I hate grabby knickers. They work with trousers, too, as long as there isn’t too much going on at the sides.

    Unfortunately, I can’t come to your class, but might I buy the pattern when you have it ready?

    ‘Cami-knickers’, the V&A call their ones. I often wondered exactly what these were like. Did they button onto a camisole, or something? I always thought they were all-in-ones, like a teddy.

    • They usually are all in ones, because they are a cami, and knickers. But sometimes the name is used for just the shorts. Because people are dumb and contrary like that!

      • Lynne says

        I like the slightly longer french knickers – like your favourite yellow ones. And in my state of preservation, I avoid hot-air gratings, jazz dancing, and icy paths! 🙂

  2. I remember my first look at tap pants was in the Buffy musical episode years ago when Anya and Xander did a 40s inspired song and all I could think was- those are so cool and I need a pair. I swear they are the comfiest thing ever! Lovely examples here 😀

    • I do like peach too, but not as much as I like yellow! And peach seems to have been one of the most common colours for tap pants, so it looses on novelty factor.

  3. I’d like some tap pants…at the moment I use cycleshorts when I wear swirly skirts. Is there a pattern available?

    • Folkwear does a pattern – Intimacies 219. It’s reasonable, but I had to tweak the tap pants so much I ended up developing my own pattern. Theirs is made for someone with a completely flat bottom, and mine is not! I’ve also found a number of 1940s/50s/60s and even early 70s slip and tap pant patterns in op shops over the years.

  4. Oh those ones with the ombre effect frills are so gorgeous! Such things of beauty, all of them. It’s such a good idea for a class too and I have crazy visions of the participants all tap dancing around the shop in true 42nd St style in their creations! But please don’t let the thought of that expectation deter registering either heehee!

  5. I am in love with that 1920s pair! Tap pants are something I know I need, but they keep being pushed lower and lower in the sewing queu because they don’t seem very fun. Your examples, though, might change that.

    • Oh, they are super fun (lace inserts!) and super easy, which makes them even more fun. You can whip a perfectly finished pair up in less than 2 hours.

  6. Oooh! I just love that second last set – how gorgeous! Now there are more things-to-sew in my queue!

  7. I loooove the yellow set! I want the same!
    On the practical side of things: what if you wear tights? Would you wear the tap pants under the tights or over them? Maybe this is too much information 🙂 but I would really like to know how to fit these in my day-to-day life, and here in northern France we need to wear tights with skirts nearly half the year.
    I’m really interested in these tap pants, I will try to track down a pattern.

  8. Norma says

    I love tap panties. So feminine, yet demeure. They are a beautiful throwback to a more romantic era that needs to be revived, particularly when paired with a period style bandeau or camisole. I think they are far more flattering to the figure than the various forms of micro briefs, or the dreaded thong. It’s fun to make them with little pearl side buttons that held them up before the use of elastic. Madge Bellamy looks so sweet in her wedding tap panties.

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