As it is well known, women in Britain didn’t wear any underwear (i.e. drawers or knickers) until the beginning of the 19th century when the very revealing neo-classical dresses made them adopt male-style pantaloons to protect their modesty. However, they were not very popular and were considered too masculine and unhygienic. By the 1830s these pantaloons were already in general use. But what many people don’t know is that those pantaloons were effectively two separate legs connected only at waist and they stayed so until the end of the 19th century! Pantaloons were supposed to be as long as possible (usually mid-calf length) but they were not supposed to be seen.
So, to keep up with authenticity I’ve made Jane’s pantaloons in a similar way. Here is an image of female underwear dated from 1834 from the collection of Victoria and Albert Museum on which I based the underwear I am making for my Jane Eyre.
I have made Jane’s pantaloons from a very thin cotton fabric in order to avoid the bulk (though they were often made from heavier fabrics). The pantaloons are 100% hand-sewn.
I used a very basic pattern and needed only two details.
I started with sewing the bottom hem of each leg. Then I did 2 tucks on each one of them.
The next step was to sew the sides of the legs together and to close in the hem.
Then I tried both legs on the doll and worked out the waist level (I intentionally made the pantaloons to sit on the hips rather than a waist in order to reduce bulk – there will be a chemise, a corset and a few petticoats there later – and the dress on top of all that!!). I sewed the two legs together only at the front for the “belt”. And closed the edge along the crotch area.
The last step was to finish up the “belt” with a string.
And that’s how the pantaloons look on Jane.