Just in time for the holiday of hearts and warm feelings, I’ll reluctantly post about four versions of some super easy 1950’s style full coverage under panties. These knickers were so easy, so fun, and a practical indulgence…how can I not gush!
FABRICS: All four are stretchy knits, just with varying fiber contents – 100% cotton, cotton and spandex blend, 100% rayon, and a polyester lace.
NOTIONS: In order to make these panties sensible and practical I used all of what was on hand, including dis-assembling another unwanted pair of underpants.
PATTERN: The pattern was free from the blog “Sew Vera Venus” (scroll down and look for the title “50’s Style Under Pants”)
THE INSIDES: Each pannie has a French seam for the center back, with all other seams covered by the crouch lining and the edging.
TOTAL COST: Nothing! Free, free, free!
With the pattern being a free download, the quickness of its construction, and the simplicity of its design lending itself to being made solely from scraps, these underpants are the best thing ever in my book. I actually could just keep going and make plenty more – one from every knit or pretty stretchy fabric that I have leftover…perhaps I’ll do that. I really don’t mean to sound like a cheap freak, or stingy, but this pattern really does make underpants that are the most comfortable I’ve ever had. There is one exposed seam, making it easy and comfy on the skin. As is, they are full coverage, and come to a real waist height (they’re only hip huggers unless you adapt the pattern). Ready to wear doesn’t offer enough which falls at a normal waist height so I really appreciate finding these.
The only real trick to making your own underpants seems to be acquiring the knack for understanding how to figure the right measuring of the elastic. You have to take out a few inches (more or less depending on the fit you want) and when it gets sewn on it gets stretched out further, so it’s like a silly balancing act. Each kind of elastic acts differently as well. I had to spend the extra time to do some sort of unpicking on almost every pair of pannies to get the elastic just right for my liking. That’s just the critical perfectionist in me…*sigh*.
My first pair of under pannies is pretty just being basic, in my opinion, but I did use some fabric markers to draw my own decoration. This one was made out of 100% knit left over from my Doris Day “Romance on the High Seas” movie look-alike blouse. For the finishing, I went with the seemingly “traditional” lingerie elastic. Mine came from an old 1980’s packaged “kit” which I’d been holding on to in my stash – it has a lightly wider length for the waist and two slightly less wide lengths for the leg bands, both with decorative looping. I’m unimpressed with this kind of elastic. The decorative looping unraveled off after only the second washing…pooh, pooh. Otherwise, they’re still great.
My second pair of knickers is my ultimate favorite. They are made from 100% rayon knit, leftover from making my 1946 high draped neck yellow blouse. The waist of these is cut slightly below the natural waist. As I mentioned in the “notions” part of “THE FACTS”, a ‘like new but never worn’ pair of panties provided me with the leg elastic which went on my newly made pair. Hubby was extremely generous to do the unpicking apart of the old panties and elastic for me. He also unpicked the raw fabric off of some matching stretch elastic in my stash (something I’ve been holding on to for maybe 10 years which came off of the bottom of a tank top). He says he likes unpicking, but I’m thinking he wanted to see me finish my pair of undies, the sweetie! We find it interesting how both re-used elastic pieces match so exactly. Perhaps it’s because they came from the same store (Target), but there is a 5 years difference between the dates of purchase.
Whatever the reason for a happenstance of matching, I love the finished product. The fancy lace and the light sheer knit makes this pair the prettiest in my opinion. Having a rayon knit against the skin is the most enjoyable and luxurious feeling ever – it’s so soft, yet stable, that it’s a treat to wear. Whenever I feel them on me, it makes it smile ‘cause it’s a happy sensation (like a warm bubble bath) but most of the time they’re so lightweight I don’t feel them. Rayon knit undies are a very fine, indeed. If you have any of this fabric, use it to make some underwear for yourself and you’ll feel like your fabric’s giving you a really nice hug. Now, I have an early 40’s nightgown I want to make out of more rayon knit in a lavender color.
My third pair is also made from leftovers to the last mention project, my 1946 yellow blouse, except this was the basic white, part spandex lining. It is jazzed up with some fun color courtesy of the trim. I used a pack of vintage nylon stretch lace (with a copyright of 1971) in a bright lime green for the leg opening. I have another pack of this same 1971 stretch lace in a bright magenta color…can’t wait to use this on another pair of panties…maybe made of pink knit? Anyway, the waistband is a light yellow modern elastic in a “fold-in-half” style. It has a sort of indentation running through the middle of the length and a soft satin finish, both making this easy and comfy option. This pair is my most full coverage due to the ultra-stretchiness of the fabric.
My fourth panties, but probably not the last, are fun and playful, but my least favorite. They are made with polyester stretch lace leftover from my 1979 T-shirt knit dress. The lace had some weird stretch that didn’t lend itself well to stretching one it was stitched, even with the proper sewing methods of pulling the fabric as sewing and using a “lightening” zig-zag stitch. Due to lack of any more stretch lace, I made binding strips from the same self-fabric for the legs and the waist. However the only way I could get the panties to stretch enough to go on me was to sew the waist binding only part way around the sides and back leaving a raw, turned under patch in the center front for a few inches. I used the cotton crouch from a ‘like new but never worn’ pair of panties (the same ones the elastic came from for panties #2) to go into my lace undies, but the lace is still slightly itchy on my skin.
The pattern is one size, but with limited seams it should be cinch to grade up. Simply add in some length through the center front and center back, extend the buttock coverage as needed, and heighten or shorten the waist as desired and I would think that would do it!
“Grannie Pannies” is not the most complimentary name for these underpants, I know, and the shape might not appear as the hottest little number. However, vintage styling does things right so many times and these 50’s underpants with a 50’s flair are no exception. Even if you don’t want full coverage, the pattern is free and can be made from scraps in about 2 hours, so adapt it…what’s the risk?!
In stores, underwear can become quite pricey, so now that I’ve made my own and know how easily they can be sewn, where’s high cost coming from? I’ve noticed in the last 6 or so months a striking increase in people making their own lingerie and underwear, so I’m happy to see the sewing world taking matters into its own hands and discovering the joy of making your own intimate wear.
My foray into the world of making intimate underwear wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be (I’ve already made vintage underpinnings with my #1 and #2 tap pants and my tango knickers). As you can see, I enjoyed myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have made multiples of panties! Comfort and practicality never was so satisfying. Now I think I have the gumption to try more complex lingerie. I’m thinking maybe brassieres and a garter belt will be fighting to be next!