Friday, July 11, 2008

Old Underwear

""Beryl invited me to the Holme Chase Hotel for a ladies' dinner and a brilliant talk by a Devon vicar's wife, Rosemary Hawthorne, entitled: A History of Underwear. [...]

Glamorous Mrs Hawthorne, ex-actress, mother-of-seven, whose husband is known as 'The Knicker Vicar' speaks with what my old mum would describe as 'a plum in her mouth'. Delving into her suitcases and delivering her talk in a Dame Judi Dench manner, she produced, with many a flourish, a hilarious assortment of antique underwear. There were split, ankle-length Victorian knickerbockers with attached braces, red flannel combinations which, as she explained 'Kept Jack Frost at bay, and every other Tom, Dick and Harry', and voluminous drawstring drawers nicknamed harvesters because, it is said, when they were fastened around the waist, 'all was safely gathered in'.

There were silk cami-knickers and, from the Second World War era, knitted knickers (very scratchy), elasticated artificial silk 'one yank and they are down', and Wrens' khaki 'passion killers'. The piece de resistance was a pair of fleecy-lined, bottle-green bloomers with a little hanky pocket. [...]

When Mrs Hawthorne held aloft a huge greyish pair of men's pure-wool underpants (circa 1949), explaining that, for a collector, they are like gold dust as very few survived being cut up for dusters, she brought the house down."

Val Hennessy, Knickerbocker Glory, in Saga Magazine, November 2003, p.24


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