Underpants thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 125b

Underpants

1880-1900 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
Vests and pants were worn next to the skin, under the shirt or trousers. Throughout the 19th century drawers had been worn, made of similar materials to the vest, including stockinette, cotton and wool; but by the end of the 19th century the distinction between drawers and underpants was recognised. Pants were either ankle-length to the mid-calf, drawers were either just below or just above the knee.

Design & Designing
Some underpants were knee-length, to go under clothes for sporting wear: short pants of absorbent stockinette, for example, were worn for cycling. The loop of tape outside the waistband through which tongues of the braces were passed became general towards the end of the period. Many men preferred to have the vest and pants combined in one. These were known as combinations and became very popular in the 20th century.

Materials & Making
Underpants were made in linen, cotton and merino, but machine-knitted silk was fashionable with the wealthy and also for summer wear. Underpants of natural coloured wool or cellular cotton were also popular as these fabrics allowed the skin to breathe. Such materials were seen by dress reformers as the healthy alternative to silk, which they claimed trapped harmful chemicals close to the skin. By the late 19th century vests were available in a range of colours, including peach, flesh tint, lavender, light blue and heliotrope.

Ownership & Use
A typical gentleman probably owned several sets of vests and underpants. They were often initialled with the name of the owner so they could be recognised during the laundry process. By 1906 the vast majority of men dispensed with underwear altogether in the summer months.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Machine-knitted silk, pearl, machine-sewn
Brief Description
Underpants of machine-knitted silk, Great Britain, 1880-1900
Physical Description
Underpants of machine-knitted cream silk with pearl buttons and silk loops for braces. Machine-sewn. Ankle length with a waist band and brace loops in the front and two triple buttoned sliding tabs for size adjustment at the back.
Dimensions
  • Length: 105cm
  • Width: 57cm
  • Waist circumference: 35in
Dimensions checked: Measured; 13/05/1999 by LH
Marks and Inscriptions
'G.D.' (Knitted into the front left leg, probably the initials of the owner)
Gallery Label
British Galleries: VEST AND UNDERPANTS
Knitted silk underwear became very fashionable in the late19th century. It fitted close to the body and did not disrupt the line of a smart, well-tailored suit.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Given by B. W. Owram
Object history
Made in Britain
Summary
Object Type
Vests and pants were worn next to the skin, under the shirt or trousers. Throughout the 19th century drawers had been worn, made of similar materials to the vest, including stockinette, cotton and wool; but by the end of the 19th century the distinction between drawers and underpants was recognised. Pants were either ankle-length to the mid-calf, drawers were either just below or just above the knee.

Design & Designing
Some underpants were knee-length, to go under clothes for sporting wear: short pants of absorbent stockinette, for example, were worn for cycling. The loop of tape outside the waistband through which tongues of the braces were passed became general towards the end of the period. Many men preferred to have the vest and pants combined in one. These were known as combinations and became very popular in the 20th century.

Materials & Making
Underpants were made in linen, cotton and merino, but machine-knitted silk was fashionable with the wealthy and also for summer wear. Underpants of natural coloured wool or cellular cotton were also popular as these fabrics allowed the skin to breathe. Such materials were seen by dress reformers as the healthy alternative to silk, which they claimed trapped harmful chemicals close to the skin. By the late 19th century vests were available in a range of colours, including peach, flesh tint, lavender, light blue and heliotrope.

Ownership & Use
A typical gentleman probably owned several sets of vests and underpants. They were often initialled with the name of the owner so they could be recognised during the laundry process. By 1906 the vast majority of men dispensed with underwear altogether in the summer months.
Collection
Accession Number
T.169-1960

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMarch 27, 2003
Record URL