UPDATE: Want to make your own knickers from my pattern? You can now buy the Wonder Unders Pattern (which includes a singlet camisole & slip) through my pattern line: Scroop Patterns. Get it here!
I’ve shown a lot of photos of undergarments over the years, and even quite a few photos of me in undergarments – but they have all been historical. So this is a bit different, and kind of weird and hard for me.
Because these are my knickers:
Or, at least, knickers that are made from the same pattern that I wear, in the same way as the ones I wear. As of this photo/post, these ones haven’t been worn, and may never be – they are just test pairs!
Yep. I’ve joined the making your own knickers club.
It makes sense – it fits with my whole life and sewing philosophy. I want to wear things that are well made, well fitted, and from quality materials. I’m trying to live and shop within a community: keeping my money and interactions connected to people and businesses that give back to the community. I don’t like giving my money to faceless businesses that are focused on a profit line, not a people line. I don’t want my wardrobe to be built on sweatshops and slave labour. I’m willing to pay more to prevent that for the things I have to buy, but if I can make my own, I will. And I don’t like waste: and with every T-shirt I make, there are little bits left over.
Making my own knickers uses up the scraps, give me underwear that fit and feel right, and the bits I do need to buy come from local businesses I really want to support. While there are local companies that make awesome underwear, there are none that make underwear that are the kind of awesome I like to wear.
Knickers are also really easy, and there is nothing like being able to whip up a couple of pairs of knickers in half an hour to make you feel like an accomplished seamstress no matter how badly anything else is going! And that kind of satisfaction is priceless.
I actually started making my own knickers over a year ago, and have been so pleased with the result that I’m now teaching a (gratifyingly popular and successful) make your own knickers class. I’m so pleased that so many other people want to emancipate themselves from poorly made, poorly fitted, and (at least in NZ) really expensive undergarments.
So, the only question remaining is: underwear, panties or knickers?
I grew up saying underwear, but the popular girls always said ‘panties’ and I wanted to be from a pantie saying family, not an underwear family (that is, I was fine with my family, I just wanted them to call them panties). For one thing, underwear is so imprecise, and you know how much I love really precise textile terms.
Then I moved to NZ, and discovered the utter disdain with which the English-English speaking world regards the word ‘panties.’ Such a small, seemingly innocuous term to attract such contempt and mockery in NZ, Australia and the UK. Get people started on it and they will go on and on about what a horrible word panties is. It’s completely disproportionate to the difference it makes in the world. Panties is the Nickleback of clothing words.
The correct term, according to the pantie haters, is knickers. I use knickers because everyone around me in New Zealand does, but when I really think about it, knickers is an even worse word than panties. At least panties makes it clear what it is: panties are diminutive pants! Knickers is just a shortening of knickerbockers, which isn’t at all what underwear look like.
So, at the end of the day, my mother was right (as she often is). They are underwear.
I also like briefs (succinct and accurately descriptive) and smallclothes (historical and accurately descriptive), though briefs are used to describe a certain style, and smallclothes shares the problem with underwear in that it could refer to any of the garments you are wearing under your outers.
Perhaps I should act like the heroine of a Georgette Heyer novel and call them unmentionables?