Friday, April 7, 2017

, , , , ,

Sewing Vintage Lingerie - Am I Crazy?

French knickers, 1920s, The Met 1986.532.2a-c
There comes a time in the fashion evolution of every vintage gal where the mind turns to vintage undies. This may happen early on or it may happen later, depending on the styles and decades you love.

In my case, it's closer to the tail end of my retro metamorphosis. I've had a rather casual and long conversion to vintage style. I've always been interested in vintage style undies but I've never had good luck with them, so my day-to-day underpinnings remain modern.

I'm not *bothered* by modern underwear under retro clothing, but I am *interested* in "the real deal." I've always been interested in historical experience - it's why I'm into historic costuming of all centuries - so I would like to try 1920s, 30s, and 40s from the skin out.

Vintage lingerie isn't easy to find. Repro brands tend to focus on 1940s and 50s (What Katie Did, Secrets in Lace) and I've had bad luck with fit; small brands with 1920s and 30s offerings are out of my price range. Originals are a no-no for me. So......the natural inclination of a crafty girl.....let's make it ourselves.

A reproduction 1920s slip by TheDecoHaus on Etsy

I have a fear of sewing with fine fabrics like charmeuse, but I'm also interested in lace insertion and finishing tricks, and how rough lingerie can sometimes be on the inside. It's both fine and functional sewing.

The good news is that there are lots of vintage lingerie patterns available, whether original patterns, pattern diagrams, or PDF print-at-homes:

1930s brassiere and tap pants from LadyMarlowePatterns on Etsy
An e-book for making your own 1920s step-in, from MrsDepew on Etsy
1930s Simplicity S605 teddy pattern from LadyMarlowPatterns on Etsy

So I think I'll give it a try. Off to the fabric store!

Have you ever sewn your own vintage lingerie? Do you have any tips or tricks? Warning?


  1. Please please please post results of this experiment! I'm in the same boat as you, working towards period appropriate underpinnings, but without the funds (and honestly, way outside the size ranges) I feel trapped in frustration.
    Thankfully I've been developing skill in sewing. But the last leap to underwear is a daunting one!

    1. It is daunting! Maybe it's easier than we think? (I hope so). I'll be sure to share the results.

  2. I've made quite a few slips, brassieres, and some knickers. I've had the best luck with silk charmeuse or crepe for breathing. I flatlined the (late 30s) bras with stabilized tricot, though I found that I had to sandwich in the bust seam rather than using narrow bias for sensitivity. Quite a few lingerie makers mention using a temporary adhesive for the fiddly bits like lace.

    1. Noted - yes, Abby said I should talk to you. Bras scare me. I tried one pattern once but I had no idea how to fit it and never finished it. That was years ago, so time to try again. I don't really have any more options, though, if I want a vintage brassier - I'm 3 for 3 on repro brand fails :-(

  3. For charmeuse: baste that sh*t! ;) i think once you get some experience sewing it you'll be fine. Finer, sharp pins and needles are a great help. If your machine doesn't do auto presser foot tension, you may need to adjust it so the foot doesn't pull the top layer along with it so bad AND the needle doesn't suck both layers down into the needleplate. (You can also hold the thread tail for the first inch you sew to avoid that problem.)
    If you can find the heavier charmeuses without Lycra/spandex content, those are great to start with. Easier to sew than the super light and extra stretchy charmeuse that seems common today, like silkbaron's and moodfabrics'.

    I love delicate fabrics and use them lots so I'm happy to answer questions anytime ^^ I'm excited to see the finished project!

    1. I shall baste! We use a ton of basting in 18th century sewing too and now I feel kindof "lost" without doing it.

      I'll have a hunt through our local mill end shop for a non-stretch charmeuse. I've gotten good lingerie-weight fabric there before so hopefully I'll get lucky.

  4. Oooh, I'm excited to see how you do making these!! I have a Mrs. Depew pattern for a bra and tap pants, and even have the tap pants cut out(!!!), but haven't actually made them yet. I can't wait to do so though!
    Have fun!! :)

  5. Once you've made and worn a pair of real silk tap pants, you'll never go back...!

  6. Thanks! Hopefully it goes well. I got fabric and lace last weekend. I kindof feel totally lost on this, so I guess the best thing to do is just to start. :-)

  7. If you are interested in ready-to-wear, What Katie Did have some good 1940s and 50s options including CC09 French Knickers and Cone Bra (based on CC41 items) and fully fashioned nylon stockings (and a range of suspenders and girdles to hold them up of course)