19th Century, Sewing

A pair of ‘crap, these probably aren’t right at all’ drawers for Nana (and bonus stockings)

Other than finishing the corset, the last piece of my Nana ensemble to assemble was the drawers. The drawers are now done, only well, they are slightly problematic.  How so?  Well, look at them:

1870s-80s drawers thedreamstress.com

And the back view:

1880s drawers (and Felicity the Cat) thedreamstress.com So.  Ummm, yeah.

Sexy they are not.

Now, the whole colossal  camel toe +  super saggy bottom thing is just kinda how most mid-19th century drawers fit, but this pair is taking it a little to the extreme.   The problem is the cut.  1870s closed drawers were just open drawers with the centre seam sewn up, and so they have this weird quarter-circle shape with lots of extra fabric in the crotch area.

1870s-80s drawers thedreamstress.com

Looking at Manet’s Nana, the line of her chemise is quite smooth over her front and hips.  With such bulky drawers, that simply won’t happen.

Manet's Nana, 1877

So how to achieve Nana’s look?

Well, one possibility is that she isn’t wearing drawers (I mean, she is Nana!).  However, the way the lace is falling at her hem makes me think she definitely is.

The other possibility is that she’s wearing divided drawers, which would be a bit less bulky.  I’ve gone back and forth on the divided drawers for Nana issue.  Divided drawers sound terribly risque  to us, but in the 1870s only naughty girls wore closed ones, and Nana was terribly naughty.

I suppose the simplest option is that she is wearing a pair of more elegantly cut drawers, which is what I’ll be attempting next!

Just in case you want you own pair of extra saggy bottomed drawers, I used the free 1889s drawers pattern at Tudorlinks  as the basis for these ones.  They are designed for the Victorian ideal of tiny waist, very full bottom and hips, so next time I’ll adapt the pattern for my significantly straighter shape!

The Challenge:  #12  —  Under $10

Fabric:  The remainder of the 2m of cotton lawn that I used for Nana’s chemise, and a few extra scraps of cotton from my scrap bag for the waist.

Pattern:  The  1889s drawers pattern at Tudorlinks  (pretty much exactly, with no alterations)

Year:  1875-1890

Notions:  Cotton thread,  vintage cotton lingerie buttons, vintage lace from Fabric-a-Brac

How historically accurate is it?    Reasonably.  It’s a period pattern, period construction, period accurate fabric, but the lace is a bit modern.  85%

Hours to complete:  4

First worn:  On Friday, to the great amusement of my sewing students who I modeled it for!

Total Cost: $2 for the fabric, $1 for the lace, $1 for buttons and thread = $4

1870s-80s drawers thedreamstress.com

But wait, there’s more!

1880s drawers (and Felicity the Cat) thedreamstress.com

Notice the stockings I’m wearing with the drawers?  Oh yes, mine own!

Merino knit stockings thedreamstress.com

I’m fine tuning the pattern as I write up the tutorial and turn the pattern into something you can download from the blog and print at home, so I made another pair to test it.

Merino knit stockings thedreamstress.com

These are made from a merino-nylon blend I found at an op-shop.  It’s definitely seconds fabric – there are some weird colour variations (I think it was washed in hot water with bleach), but it doesn’t show as stockings.

The Challenge:  #12  —  Under $10

Inspiration: Manet’s  Nana, 1877

Fabric: 60cm of merino-nylon blend knit  (found at an op-shop).

Pattern:  My own!

Year:  1877

Notions:  thread.

How historically accurate is it?    Not really. 19th century stockings would be specifically knit as stockings, either by hand or machine, not cut from flat cloth and sewn.  The effect is pretty good though.

Hours to complete:  20 min (well, if you don’t count the 5+ hours I spent on patterning and tutorial writing)

First worn:  For  today’s photoshoot (courtesy of the lovely Emily of EverSoScrumptious, who stopped by for a visit and happily photographed me for an hour!)

Total cost:  Under $2


  1. Daya Dika says

    Hi! Manet Nana looks similar to half Afghani Harem pants except the Afghani half pants have bit of cuff around the knee rather than lace . Lots of pleats in front of drawer and elastic waist band or tie around rope thread around waist.But Your drawer looks fabulous

  2. I knew most bloomers were crotchless, but had no idea that having a sew up crotch meant you were naughty.
    I’m sure the crotchless ones would lay better, but I’m not sure I could ever be comfortable like that.
    They’re still beautiful, though.

    • Elise says

      Why would the closed ones be considered naughty?

      I was thinking that if Nana were indeed a very ‘interesting’ lady, maybe she would have had bloomers made that accentuated her bum and thighs, and that those would lie closer to her body in order to facilitate the drape of the petticoat over top. Maybe even modeled after men’s trousers?

  3. I do not think we should underestimate the artist’s ability to paint the drawers any way he felt like, and I suspect he sort of ‘paint shopped’ them into an idealised shape.
    Surely that never happens? 😉

  4. Lynne says

    All that good work! Rats. Nana deserves better fitting drawers – so do you! If you are making another pair, maybe they could be a bit wider in the leg? So there’s a bit more frou-frou round the knee. And a lot less in the seat!

    Might it depend a bit on the fabric, too? Fine, well-washed, unstarched cotton – hanging limply would be a real plus here, and the softer the more comfortable.

    • Lynne says

      You could run your puffy ones through the washing machine several times. Wash on Heavy with a pair of old sandshoes to pummel the stuffing out of them. As an alternative to taking them down to the river and belting them with rocks, you understand. 🙂

  5. Becky Millinger says

    You are such a talent and inspiration!! I love your blog!

  6. I really like those stockings, but the drawers are much too big for you in the backside. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with in terms of a more shapely cut.

  7. Grace Darling says

    Queen Victoria’s Secret

    Somewhere there’s a ship missing its mainsail….you’re a brave

  8. mom says

    Leimomi, I bought a pair of “open crotch” undies at a fleamarket. They are very baggy indeed and feel very…draughty. And naughty, too.
    Do you know until when this type of undies was worn? As far as the 1st World War? The ones I bought don’t look that old, definitely machine-sewn and trimmed with store-bought lace.

  9. I always thought that we were seeing just the drawers in that painting rather than a chemise over the drawers. It’s the little bit of right-side hem peeking out that gives me that impression.

    • If you look, there are two layers of hem at the bottom of the painting, which is what makes me think there is definitely a chemise over the drawers – not to mention that’s the way that undergarments were always worn.

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