40s style French Knickers and a Top

by Kristin on June 26, 2013 · 13 comments

in 1930s,1940s,Lingerie

As part of the Show Off Your Skivvies Challenge, I made a pair of French knickers and a matching pajama top. I got both patterns from Vera Venus, but I mixed genres somewhat. The knickers are based on 1940s patterns and the top is from the 1930s.

I love the patterns but I cut them a bit too small and had to improvise with the lace to make inserts and also make it a bit stretchier. The top is still a bit too tight, but the knickers are perfect!

Also, I had no idea that knickers were once considered a form of undies – I thought they were mostly lounge clothes!

If you’re interested, you can read more on my blog.

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– who has written 10 posts on WeSewRetro.com.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

LilliansEnsembles June 26, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I wear nothing but french knickers and a camisole underwear with all my dresses and loose trousers, love them very comfortable. Love the color.


Jia June 27, 2013 at 4:29 am

I’d be mortified if somebody caught me in the lounge in my knickers! Definitely not outerwear in my opinion. French knickers are very comfy under skirts and loose trousers. Not so much jeans though as they won’t stay put.

Your set is very pretty and the lace inserts were a creative solution to the size problem.


LittleBlackCar June 27, 2013 at 8:53 am

I think “knickers” is still slang for underwear, at least if what I hear on the BBC isn’t just pandering to American prejudices (I’m American; I’m sure our British WSR members will correct me here). I’ve never heard of them as loungewear. I guess the nearest thing I can think of to knickers as non-underpants would be the bloomers that cheerleaders wear under their skirts (if they still call them bloomers; that’s what the cheerleaders at my high school called them in the 1990′s), but then I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the cheerleader-pants called “knickers”, either.


Kristin June 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Haha, thanks everyone – I had no idea I’d be learning so much about underthings and what they’re called when I first started this project. I definitely think these would be perfect to wear under dresses, especially my fuller 50s style dresses – especially because it solves my current problems of constantly grabbing the lower half whenever the wind blows!


LilliansEnsembles June 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Knickers are officially knee length are the full name is knickerbockers. FRENCH knickers are these silk, lace or satin loose knickers. They are called knickers for short and are ALWAYS worn as underwear.


Kristin June 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Thanks for clarifying – we Americans (or at least I do!) get all the terms confused!


Jamie "ChatterBlossom" June 27, 2013 at 8:07 pm

May I say, Yowza! And well done on a lovely bit of lingerie!


Kristin June 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Thank you, thank you!


EmSewCrazy June 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Lovely! It’s great to learn all this terminology too!


mariebayarea June 30, 2013 at 6:14 am



Rhonda July 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

There is a great deal of confusion in the correct terminology for women’s underthings. Actually, the term “knickers” is the British equivalent for what are called “panties” in America. Although, the term may have had its origin in the term “knickerbockers,” it was applied in a generic sense to all styles of panties, not specifically to knee-length drawers. Specifically, however, French knickers are panties with loose legs that sit at the natural waist and generally extend to about mid-thigh, or less. In America, these were called “step-ins” or simply “panties.” Long leg panties that extended further down the leg, almost to the knee, are called pettipants. Bloomers are a form of pantie that similarly sits at the natural waist but, generally speaking, extends almost to the knee and are gathered with elastic or a banded cuff, although some modern incarnations are much shorter than that. The term ‘tap pants” or “tap panties” to describe what are called “French knickers” in Great Britain, or the continent, is, in reality a modern term that originated in 1970s. You will find no references to “tap pants” in advertisements or catalog descriptions dating from the 1920s to 1950s or 60s. They were generally called panties or “step-ins, as indicated above. However, just to confuse things, the term “step-ins” was also applied to what the Brits call camiknickers, meaning a combination camisole and French knickers. Some fashion writers have attempted out ignorance to attribute the term to the earlier era, but they are mistaken. They have taken a modern term and attempted to suggest that it was used in an earlier era, which was not the case. I trust allays some of the confusion regarding women’s underthings.


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