February 13, 2013

Repro Chonies Complete!

Original drawers on the left, reproduction on the right.

They're finally finished!  I've been working on reproducing a pair of antique drawers in my collection as exactly as possible, both for myself and to create a pattern to share.  As you can see from my post with lots o' closeups and analysis of these original antique late Victorian open crotch drawers, they're much more complicated than we generally consider utilitarian undergarments to be.  It's taken me a while to get the pattern and the repro just right, but now the drawers are done and there's just a few tweaks left to make on the pattern.  Conveniently, these also doubled as my project for the last Historical Sew Fortnightly "Under it All" challenge.

Originals on the left, repro on the right.

@#%^&$%! pintucks

The original pair boasted tiny 1/8" pintucks and ridiculous 1/8" flat felled and french seams.  Piecing, facings and darts galore were included.  The end result is a very sturdy pair of undies that can withstand repeated washings and abuse.

Repro lookin' awkward on a dummy with no legs

This is my second attempt at making a copy, and it went much better than the first.  It still took an insanely long time to complete all the tiny pintucks and seams (really, 1/8" felled seams, WTF?!?!), but the result is so nice!

Weirdest darts ever

There were some weird surprises along the way.  For example, a while back I noticed that these darts were topstitched, which isn't too strange.  What I didn't notice until this last weekend is that the topstitching is the only stitching in the darts.  In other words, the maker did not sew the darts first, press them to the side, and then topstitch them.  Instead, the maker folded the fabric into place as though the dart was already stitched and pressed and topstitched the whole thing in place in one go.  Weird, huh?

Just to confuse you, the antique is now on the right, and the repro on the left.
I was super pleased to find a vintage eyelet that was somewhat similar in design and quality to the original.  Modern eyelet just isn't anything like the antique and vintage stuff, not by a long shot.

Original on left, reproduction on the right

Wearing split crotch drawers is still something I'm on the fence about.  My first experience with them was, um, educational.  Beware sitting; if your modesty petticoat/chemise happens to get caught when you grab the back of your hoops to shift them out of the way to sit, you might get a cold, nasty surprise when your bare @ss hits the seat.

My repro in all its split crotch glory

While you can wear your chemise over this style of drawers or tucked under them, I'd recommend going with tucking the chemise in.  Not only would it help avoid the surprise cold seat mentioned above, but you avoid the problem of the long dangling ties in back...dangling...there.  Wrapping the strings around to the front wasn't a perfect solution, as they tended to shift around when I did that.  All in all, I'm more practiced at dealing with closed drawers worn a little low on the hip, so that's probably what I'll be wearing most often.  I'm still giving these a chance though!

Proof that the pattern has evolved since you last saw it.

I'm making a few minor correction to the pattern and finishing the instructions, but I should have it up within the next few days in all its gory detail.  It'll include all the tips and tricks I figured out for dealing with the crazy tiny seams, pintucks, piecing and other mad details inherent in these undies. 

The Challenge: #3 Under it All

Fabric:  Fine white cotton

Pattern:  Taken directly from an antique pair in my possession. 

Year: Late Victorian I'm guessing.  Drawers are hard to pin a date too.

Notions:  Vintage eyelet trim and a twill tape waistband.

How historically accurate is it?  Doesn't get much more accurate than this!  While nothing is going to be 100% accurate, this is really, really close.  It's an exact copy of an antique pair.  The original was sewn by machine, so machine sewing these is correct.  The eyelet is vintage, and is the same quality as the original, although not an exact replica of the design.  Every seam, dart and detail of the original drawers was pored over for hours to duplicate it exactly.  I do need a wider bit of twill tape for the waist tie, but I'll pick that up this week.

Hours to complete:  Oiy.  Forever.  I'm really not sure.  I've been examining and patterning off the antique for ages now.  Even calculating just the sewing time from start to finish is hard, because I paused to document each step in pictures and writing!  Taking all that out, probably 6 hours?

First worn:  Not worn yet!

Total cost:  Oh, I didn't keep track at all.  Not too much!


  1. Unbelievable, L.A.!!!!! I feel your pin tucked pain, as I tried to pin tuck the front of a Victorian nightgown years ago. It was beautiful, when done, but omg was it a time-suck. The bottom of the legs, though, was that on the cross grain? PLEASE tell me it wasn't on the bias. If it was I'll have to be in awe of your skills forever,
    Auntie Nan

  2. I'm not brave enough to tackle pintucks on the bias, that would be a little too much crazy for me :)


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