Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Butterick 4147 - Knickers for Ladies, Misses, and Girls

Probably the first half of the 1920s.

There is an enormous amount of information embedded in this pattern.  Let's start with terminology.  I wouldn't call these knickers, I'd call them breeches.

By way of contrast, here is a nice pair of ladies' knickers illustrated on page 61 of the Charles Williams Stores catalog for Spring/Summer, 1926.  This illustration appears in the ladies clothing section of the catalog dedicated to rugged, unfussy skirts and suits classified as "sport apparel."  It's one of two models of knickers offered.

Charles Williams Stores also carried ladies breeches, but you need to turn to page 284, in the men's section of the catalog, to find them:

This is the only model offered for ladies' breeches in this particular catalog.  By contrast, there were four different models offered for men.  Historically in the world of bespoke clothing, ladies' riding apparel was generally made by tailors (who were men) rather than dressmakers (who were women.)  It may still be for all I know; that's not a world to which I have much visibility.

In 1926 Charles Williams didn't seem to offer any other trouser-type garments for ladies.  Knickers and gym bloomers were offered for girls.

The most obvious difference between the two garments is the enormous amount of ease through the seat of the breeches, necessary if one intends to wear them for riding, but really very practical as well for skating, strenuous hiking, etc.  Taking a rough measurement of the pattern pieces, I estimate that this pattern with a stated hip measure of 38 inches will be about 54 inches through the hips.  Note that modern riding breeches aren't anywhere near as full-seated, so even in utilitarian garments, styles change.

Returning to the Butterick pattern, the description states that these "knickers" were
Suitable for General Sports Wear, Riding, Motoring, Hiking, etc.
This is not a trivial garment to make at home.  Here are the instruction sheets.

On top of the fairly complicated construction, the idea of making these in a napped fabric makes me a little light-headed.  Also, by my count, at least 22 (hand-worked) button holes are required.  It could be more. The illustration seems to show that in view B, the breeches legs are laced up the back; the instructions are entirely silent on the details of this view.

Further research will be required to determine if Butterick offered patterns for both breeches and knickers, or if this was their only offering of trousers for women.  Fashionable slacks for women won't show up until the 1930's.  It would be fascinating to know how many women simply opted for wearing men's trousers for sport or work wear.


Shay said...

I have an mid-to-late 1920's pattern (2 patterns, actually) for a riding outfit, jodhpurs and jacket. The jodhpurs are very like these breeches except they are full length and strap under the ankle.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

That's interesting. I checked my catalogs for both Charles Williams Stores and Montgomery Ward and neither of them carried jodhpurs. (MW didn't even carry women's breeches.)

I probably ought to hunt down a National Bellas Hess catalog to see what they offered.

Shay said...

I don't have an original catalog, but in "Everyday Fashions of the 1920's" which shows typical Sears, Roebuck catalog pages, there are two riding outfits shown, one with jodphurs.

pen said...

maybe it's 'knickers' as in 'knickerbockers'
love the patterns and love what you are doing!
you've got a great collection!

Little Black Car said...

I used to have my grandmother's jodhpurs (probably circa mid- to late-1930's, as she was born in 1916, but very similar to those on the girl in the picture). Hers were upper-calf-length, too.

Thank goodness we have Lycra and other stretchy fabrics nowadays, and aren't so squeamish about the visible female figure. I confess I'd rather wear jeans to ride any day than those jodhpurs (but then I ride Western, where you definitely don't want short pants).

Lady explorer Isabella Bird wore a short [for the time] skirt with bloomers and men's boots in the Rocky Mountains in the 1870's. I think that was what passed as "sportswear" pretty much until the 1920's.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

I think what makes this conversation so interesting is all the different terms that have come up; knickers (and Pen is right; the term started out as knickerbockers) breeches, bloomers, jodhpurs. And knickers and bloomers can refer to either outer or undergarments, depending on the time and place.

Unknown said...

Hi i am a BFA Candidate at the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I am in the fashion department (Most recent Maria Pinto went to our school among many others). Currently I am doing a research project on the 1920s and we have to find actual patterns from the time. I am actually focused on ladies Knickers, Oxfords (shirts) and ties. Your blog has been the only place I have see an authentic pattern and I have been to every library in Chicago. Please Please Please PLease email me at marariane@yahoo.com I do not want to take your pattern I completely understand its vaule to you, I am asking if you could photocopy the pattern and email to me. thank you so much

twbd said...

I found reference Butterick pattern 4147 in Commerical Pattern Archives http://www.uri.edu/library/special_collections/COPA/ when they had free use week earlier this year. I also found reference to 1930 Butterick 5647 Jodhpurs for Women, Misses and Girls- 1930 Butterick 3091 Riding Habit for Women, Misses and Girls as well as a Taylor and Cutter pattern for men. Last I fould 1909 Butterick 3313 Ladies ridging breeches w/calf extentions on etsy -but someone beat me to that pattern.

I wrote to Butterick but they suggest that I troll the internet ant ebay for the patterns.

Thanks so much for the copies of the instructions. No if I can just get a hold to a projector.

If anyone is willing to trace a copy of the pattern please contact me at wilhelminathomas@hotmail.com

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

twbd - thanks so much for the references to other ladies' riding clothes patterns.

I have a suspicion that the pattern companies themselves don't have particularly good archives. Partly this is due to the overhead of maintaining space and cataloging resources, but I also suspect that during both World Wars there were paper drives for the war effort.

And then the patterns themselves are pretty ephemeral. My local Goodwill shop uses sewing patterns for wrapping glassware, as my mother used to do when we would move house.

twbd said...

there also was a Folkwear pattern that featured a jacket, vest and breeches. I cannot find a reference to anywere on the internet.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

twbd - the Folkwear pattern is number 506, and it's called Equestriennes. It appears to be discontinued - a few online vendors appear to have it in stock, and it may still be in some bricks-and-mortar store stock, so it may be worth calling around to Folkwear pattern vendors in your area.