Roomy, Bloomy, and Historically Awesome
I got an email from a living history enthusiast struggling with one of the most common historic clothing woes: what to do about the spectacular wedgies that can happen with historic split drawers?
Because every figure is different, every individual’s underdrawers need to be suited to their own figure, not some generic ideal. The Split Drawers project in the Compendium here at the Sewing Academy is excerpted from The Dressmaker’s Guide as a free resource precisely because we want everyone to experience roomy, bloomy, and awesome!
Women who have more “junk in the trunk” (or, a fully-realized backside with plenty of flesh) need more length (and sometimes a lot more length) to reach from the centerpoint of the crutch to the back waistband. If there’s not enough length, Wedgies Happen. They happen when walking. They happen when sitting. They definitely happen when bending over to pick something up, or crouching. They are Not Fun.
On the big diagram in the free split drawers project, line F is the back crutch edge. You’ll notice that period drawers shapes are very, very different from what we expect in modern pants shapes. Rather than handle the need for extra fabric by use of a curved edge, period drawers have a tall, straight line that provides loads of extra fabric to comfortably cover a curvy backside.
It’s important to test out the length you need. Grab a long piece of narrow elastic and tie it around your waist. Now thread a sewing tape measure fore and aft, and move around. Squat, bend, sit… let the tape expand as needed so you can actually see your needed crutch depths. Do not lie about these lengths and depths. Seriously. Don’t lie. You need that extra fabric for wearing ease, and without it, you are asking for Big Historic Wedgie Issues.
If you have a pair of drawers that are, as my littlest puts it, “Just all FULL of wedgies!” you can retrofit them by taking off the waistband, piecing in extra length along the waist edge using a run-and-fell seam (either as a strip of rectangular fabric, or as a slightly wedge-shaped piece, should you need extra length only in the front or back), and re-setting the waistband.
For comfortable drawers, you need Roomy (horizontal width in significant excess of your actual body circumferences) and Bloomy (extra vertical length to allow some bagginess in the buns, so you can bend at the hip!), and that gets you to Awesome.
Oh, the things we talk about when working on a well-considered historic wardrobe!