Make Drawers for Women
For a printable PDF of this project, click Make Drawers for Women.
Drawers are an optional garment for your pioneer or emigrant wardrobe 1840 to 1865, as not all women of the mid-19th century wore them. (If you use a cage or hoop, wear drawers; the handcart era is pre-hoop.)
Mid-century women’s (and teen girl’s) drawers have an open crutch seam to facilitate bathroom use; however, there is significant overlap and generous fabric around the hips; this is a very modest garment as a result. Wearing drawers over the modern temple garment is optional, as they serve a similar purpose: they make long walking a lot more comfortable!
With a few basic measurements, and a few period sewing techniques, you can make your own pattern, without going to the expense of purchasing a pattern that you’d still have to alter! Techniques used for drawers construction are: straight or running stitch, flat-felled seam, gathering, stitching a band, narrow hemming, and tucks (optional).
Take all measurements over smooth-fitting modern undergarments or temple garments, and do not fudge, fiddle, or otherwise lie in any way about your numbers. Have a trusted friend take the measurements for the greatest accuracy. Remember, you are creating a piece of clothing that fits your shape; there is no such thing as size, only fit.
The drafting diagram and instructions are found inside the printable PDF, Make Drawers for Women. Please click to open your copy.
Lay the pattern on your fabric, aligning A with the straight lengthwise grain, and cut two shapes for each pair of drawers. For the waistband, tear or cut two bands of fabric equal to your finished waist measurement, plus an amount for overlap at the closure. If your drawers will close in the front, add 4″ (for a 1½” overlap at the closure, with a ½” seam allowance). If they will close in the back, add 12″ (for a 5½” overlap at the closure, to ensure proper modesty in back!). I suggest a front closure, as this is easiest to manage when dressing alone. The bands should be 2″ wide. This allows for a 1″ finished band with ½” seam allowances.
Hem the Crutch
Narrowly hem the edges of the opening, with the hem turned to the outside of the drawers. This leaves a perfectly smooth fabric against the skin, and prevents irritation.
Stitch the leg inseams with a flat felled seam, or a regular straight stitch seam with the seam allowances hand whipstitched together to prevent fraying. (French seams create bulk that chafes during wearing, and are not seen in period drawers.)
At the calf, stitch the tucks. One easy way to do this is to turn the drawer leg inside out, then fold back the lower leg to the fold line of the first tuck. Press the fold, then stitch the tuck. Press the tuck toward the hem, then reposition the drawers leg for the second tuck, and so on. These tucks will be functional; that is, they could be let down if needed, as opposed to tucks that are stitched into the seam.
Work a simple hem turned hem at the calf. Tatting, or a bit of Swiss embroidered edging (100% cotton) could be added if further embellishment is wanted. A little hand featherstitching is lovely between the tucks.
Drawing Up the Waist
Mark the center point of the waistline edge on the drawers. Run in two rows of gathering stitches, ¼” and ½” from the edge. It is not necessary to gather the drawers in the overlap portions, unless you are particularly full figured in those areas.
Stitch the top edge of the waistband and band facing together with a ½” seam allowance. Press, trim, and understitch the seam allowances to the band facing (stitch through both layers of the seam allowance, and the facing, very close to the original stitching line. This keeps the facing from rolling with prolonged wear.)
Mark the band at the center point, and the side points. If your drawers will open in the back, overlap the front drawer sections slightly (2″) on the center band mark, and match the side marks of the band with the center marks of the drawers. Pin the free edge of the drawers to the band, extending the band 1” beyond the crotch edge. Back-opening drawers are very common to the period.
If your drawers will open in the front, overlap the back sections 6″ (make a mark 6″ from each back edge, then match them on the center point of the band). Match the side marks on the band with the center marks of the drawers. Pin the free edge of the drawers to the band, extending the band ½” beyond the crotch edge. Front-opening drawers are shown below.
Draw up the gathering threads to fit. Stitch the seam, press, and stitch again, very close to the first line, to further stabilize the seam. Trim as needed, and press seam allowances up toward the band. Figure 2 shows the inside view of a nearly completed pair of front opening drawers.
Press the short ends of the waistband to the inside 1/4”. Fold the band into place, covering all seam allowances. Close the band with running stitches close to the folds, all the way around.
Mark the positions for buttons, and work buttonholes in the band. With the front opening, only one button is necessary. With a back opening, one button position at each end of the overlap is helpful to prevent sagging. Stitch on the buttons. Finish by adding a laundry marking if needed.