The last couple years at TITP I've heard the word pantaloon for the mid-calf pant-things the little girls wear under their dresses. This year, they're using the word pantalette. So are those the same as bloomers? Wait, but what about drawers, or even trousers? How are all these things the same and how are they all different?
I've been dying to put up a post about this (geeky, I know), but just haven't had the time to figure it out for myself. In fact, I really shouldn't be blogging right now, but it's nice to escape reality for a moment and delve into my compartmentalized Internet life.
Anyway, with the help of Elizabeth Clark (seriously, she will reply to your e-mails), her book The Dressmaker's Guide, and some other sources, I think I've kind of got it figured out. (Now if I'm mistaken, you tell me so I can fix it!)
Pantaloons: According to Liz (and I'm sure sources she's researched), "pantaloons are actually men's clothing"! They were "an earlier style of roomy men's trousers, no longer worn in the mid-19th century"! In fact, "it's a very old word -- 'pantaloons' shows up in literature and other primary sources as early as the 1620s! Those pictures of people like Sir Francis Drake, or Henry the 8th, in their bloomy short pants? Those are pantaloons. So are the skin-tight knee-length trousers worn by dandies like Beau Brummel in the very early 1800s -- so even as a man's garment term, the meaning evolves over time. They are not a woman's undergarment, though the terms gets used in modern circles because it sounds old-fashioned." Ha, ha -- maybe because it sounds like saloon! Wow, I've totally been using pantaloons incorrectly.
Pantalettes: We are right in that pantalettes are female clothing, "but they are a much earlier term for underdrawers (1800-1830-ish)" according to Liz. (I'm telling you, she e-mailed me a more detialed definition of pantalettes than even what is in her book!) Also, that "style of drawers is rather different that we'd recognize for the mid-century. Pantalettes are longer (as long as the ankle in some cases), and are two tubes, no crutch [crotch?] at all (they look rather like linen chaps, actually!). They stay up with a drawstring run through the upper, outer hip section of the leg tube, tied around the waist. They were worn by some adult women in the early Jacksonian era (roughly the Regency time-span), and then evolved into mainly a little girl's garment in the 1815 to 1835 range." OK, so that's not what we're talking, either.
Bloomers: "Bloomers are radically different [as] the term refers to a style of 'reform' dress worn by Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, rather than to undergarments. The Bloomer Costume consists of a short (knee to mid-calf) length dress, worn over corded or quilted stays and some petticoats, with long trousers of the same fabric beneath them. The trousers might be gathered to a band at the ankle (Turkish trousers), or might be straight-legged. Sometimes, if the dress is silk, the trousers will be wool. I've not yet seen any reference to a Bloomer costume being done in a cotton print, only silks or wools. A woman would still wear cotton or linen drawers under her trousers."
"In the late 19th century, and early 20th century, 'bloomers' come to mean underdrawers that have a generous leg, gathered to a comfortably fitted band near the knee. However, that terminology change happens a good 50 years after the mid-century, so I don't recommend the term when discussing mid-19th century clothing."
Drawers: Sorry to say it, but, yes, the most boring-sounding term seems to be the most accurate one for our time period. Liz says,"drawers are the term used at mid-century to describe a cotton or linen bifurcated undergarment for men, women, or children. It's by far my favorite term for that portion of undergarments, because it shows up so often in period sources, including in clothing diagrams and wardrobe notes from period magazines and workbooks, as well as in private letters and diaries, and advertisements. The frequency of the term 'drawers' leads me to believe it is the most common term at mid-century, and therefore, the one I feel living history people ought to use, for greater clarity in communication."
Liz also mentions knickers as a related term in The Dressmaker's Guide. This was a shorter, fuller, French garment "of the later 1800's" and "not appropriate for wear in the mid-century."
One last less-common, but related term I ran across was trowsers in The Workwoman's Guide. On page 50 and corresponding with Plate 7, The Workwoman says, "These are worn by men, women, and children of all classes, and almost all ages, under the different names of trowsers and drawers. They are made in a great variety of ways. Those mentioned here are the kinds most generally approved. Drawers for ladies and children are usually made of calico, twill, and cambric muslin. Those ladies who are invalids, or who ride much, frequently wear flannel or wash-leather drawers, with or without white calico leglets. For men, drawers are composed of very strong twill, calico, linen, flannel, and stockinet."
In this case, trousers or trowsers is referring to undergarments, not men's pants. All the drawings on Plate 7 are undergarments, NOT outerwear.
If you want to make drawers, you can find everything you need in The Dressmaker's Guide by Elizabeth Stewart Clark. She also has a FREE pattern for split drawers on her site.
Another free, online pattern is Vera's Quick and Dandy Drawers.
Well, this post ended up a lot longer than I'd planned, but I think it answers most of my questions. Huge thanks to Liz!