Are you? Is that even a question to discuss?
Apparently it is.
Who’s to say I’m wearing my underwear wrong? Or even if I’m wearing it right? This is such a personal question even for modern conversations, but how does it apply to those of us who make and dress in underwear from another time?
The question of wearing a 19th century chemise tucked or un-tucked in the drawers has been tossed around by my costuming friends for years. Just recently when I posted the information page on the new Victorian Undergarments class the question was posed again – by those simply looking at a photo of me in my underwear (see above).
Granted, I take a lot of risk putting myself out there on the interwebz in only my Victorian undies, but really, I’m a lot more covered than bikini pics on the beach last week from Saint-Tropez. But I digress…
So let’s look at what could possibly be the “right way” to wear a chemise.
I’m more of the opinion to wear it “un-tucked,” or rather, with it hanging over the top of the drawers, so that’s where I voice my opinion from.
First, if you’ve ever worn a set of undergarments with a corset for a few hours you know the challenges of using restroom facilities. It ain’t always easy even with my super, duper trick.
Yeah… There’s a reason, friends, why the Victorians left the crotch seam open on their lower undergarment. It’s to make a woman’s life easier. No need to go into detail, but one can’t simply pull down a pair of drawers when it’s tightened against the body under a firmly bound corset.
Because of this, why, Oh Why?, would one want to tuck their knee-length chemise around the legs then pull up the drawers over the top of all that fabric? They will have a mighty hard time trying to maneuver all that extra fabric to a place where doing one’s bathroom business doesn’t become as messy or risky as heck!
Even if you WERE one who wanted to tuck in the chemise because of, let’s say, modesty, and you decided to be smart and fasten the drawers OVER the corset, how is that saving any time or effort when you have to lift all those skirt layers anyway to unbutton the drawers and drop them to do your business? (Besides… the Victorian woman probably wouldn’t want any more extra layers on top of her corset because that would make the waist size a tiny bit bigger. They wouldn’t want that.) Drawers are split-crotch for a very good reason.
Also, have you considered that the chemise came first and then the drawers? The chemise was always hanging down loose around the legs. The new drawers in the 1820s didn’t change that.
I believe they were simply added UNDER the chemise which puts them under the corset as well. The corset cinched in the waist. They didn’t need the drawers to cinch the chemise down first.
Besides, it’s a whole lot easier to adjust the chemise under the corset while it’s hanging loose than when it’s tucked into a set of drawers. Yes?
I think the Edwardian postcards and “scandalous” historical photos we come across were posed with a bit of propriety with the chemises tucked into the drawers to eliminate them from becoming too “French.” That said, the Edwardian drawers were beginning to be worn *over* the corset as they helped support the flared skirt silhouette. And garter belts were now worn… but let’s not get too complicated here.
Thirdly, who’s to say they DIDN’T wear the chemise tucked or untucked. We can’t really assume until there’s documented proof like in a journal written by a woman of the era. People generally don’t write for posterity about things that are normal, or every day, or basic human stuff (i.e. here’s how you eat with your fingers and here’s how you blow your nose).
I think it comes down to personal preference. What do you feel comfortable with? How would your 19th century persona have worn your undergarments?
Why do we, today, need to bash others that they are “wearing them wrong?” Live and let live. And I’ll continue to wear my chemise untucked.
How do you wear yours?