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Drawers were not universally worn by women until well into the nineteenth century, and the earliest pair which survives in the Gallery's collections, dated at 1820, is believed to have belonged to the Duchess of Kent, the mother of the future Queen Victoria. Before this date many women wore nothing on the lower half below the several layers of petticoats, and indeed, most of the early drawers were "open" meaning that they comprised two tubular leg sections mounted only on a waistband. By 1900, "closed drawers" like this pair were more usual, reaching below the knee and trimmed with machine lace, ribbons and sometimes openwork embroidery.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, fine cotton or linen lawn drawers were worn by most women of the upper and middling ranks of society, and writers on health began to recommend their use on grounds of decency and to prevent draughts and illness which could thereby be contracted. Pairs were could be bought ready-made, either plain or trimmed, and for instance in 1851, "longcloth drawers" were advertised at 2 shillings (10p) for plain, or 3/6 (17p), "richly trimmed".

Full item descriptions:

"drawers & knickers" [1945.250]

Related Themes:

Drawers, Knickers & Combinations