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  • - So you are a woman in the mid-18th century.

  • You're getting dressed, and in order to do that,

  • you put on your shift, your petticoat, your hoops,

  • because you feel like being ~a bit posh~,

  • your second petticoat, your stays, your pocket,

  • your gown, your cap, fichu, ruffles, et cetera,

  • or perhaps you are a woman of the mid-19th century,

  • in which case, you've got your chemise,

  • your corset, crinoline, petticoat, skirt,

  • bodice, shoes, shawls, and bonnet,

  • or maybe you're an Elizabethan, where instead you are opting

  • for smock, partlet, pair of bodies, bum roll, farthingale,

  • underskirt, overskirt, bodice, cap, and ruff.

  • The question looms eternally:

  • With all those layers interconnecting and overlapping,

  • especially around the waist area,

  • how did anyone get anything off efficiently

  • to pee multiple times per day?

  • You will perhaps notice that the one garment not included

  • in your daily dressing throughout any of these periods is,

  • in fact, what we today would think of as "underwear",

  • for a simple logical reason that, for the most part,

  • women just didn't wear them.

  • For the sake of this video, by the way,

  • I'm going to be referring to this particular garment

  • as "underwear", and not meaning the general concept

  • of garments worn underneath other clothing,

  • since yes, they did indeed wear many more things

  • under their other things than we do today,

  • but the word "pants" confuses the Americans,

  • and "panties" confuses the British,

  • and any more obscure reference to said small clothes

  • is just generally unnecessarily unfair

  • to our multilingual friends,

  • so underwear, it shall be.

  • I say women "for the most part" didn't wear underwear,

  • because as is the precarious way of history,

  • we're all just interpreting the selected evidence

  • that happens to survive to us, however many centuries later,

  • and that subsequently there is no such thing

  • as a straightforward fact, when speaking

  • about things that we have no firsthand experience in.

  • And while this no underwear thing is

  • where the evidence points us at present,

  • there will undoubtedly be uncovered,

  • at some point in future, some evidence to suggest

  • that one woman somewhere was, in fact,

  • regularly wearing what we might call underwear today.

  • There is, for example, the textile finds uncovered

  • in Lengberg Castle in Austria, including this pair

  • of what distinctly looks to be underwear,

  • and although confirmably similar in style

  • to the undergarments worn by men

  • in the circa-15th century period attributed

  • as the date of origin, it was found

  • amongst fragments of a distinctly women's undergarment.

  • So anything is possible, but for the most part, evidence,

  • or the comparative lack of surviving evidence thereof,

  • and not just surviving garments,

  • but lack of written indications in journals, inventories,

  • dictionaries, and wills, indicates that,

  • for the most part, these garments were not a prevalent part

  • of the average woman's wardrobe

  • until about the 19th century.

  • But we'll get to that.

  • When you think about it, it kind of makes sense.

  • When you've already got layers

  • of shifts and petticoats and skirts going

  • on with the lower half of your outfit, who would have said,

  • "Hey, you know what would be a really great idea?

  • An additional little garment

  • that we have to surgically extract from under our skirts

  • and stays every time we have to pee."

  • It is far easier not to have to extract anything at all,

  • but rather to just lift up your skirts,

  • position your chamber pot accordingly, and go. "But wait!",

  • I hear you ask.

  • "What was one supposed to do at that time of moon

  • when one might actually prefer

  • to have something a bit tighter going on,

  • despite the additional inconvenience?"

  • References to 18th century menstrual management are rare,

  • save for the implication of an apron being used.

  • Abby Cox has experimented

  • with a theory of using an apron made

  • of absorbent diaper woven cloth on her channel,

  • if you care to investigate

  • in greater detail on this subject.

  • There are copious references and advertisements

  • by the latter part of the 19th century for reusable,

  • and later disposable, towels that could be clipped

  • to sanitary belts, and sanitary belts,

  • as well as absorbent aprons worn to protect the back

  • of the skirts, were prevalent in advertisements

  • by the early 20th century.

  • (music from the ball scene in a Regency period drama)

  • The transition from no drawers to yes drawers

  • is not one that happens overnight,

  • but is one that occurs gradually sometime

  • around the 19th century,

  • such that the Workwoman's Guide states by 1838

  • that drawers are, quote, "worn by men, women,

  • and children of all classes, and almost all ages."

  • I should note that Queen Victoria ascended

  • the English throne only one year before in 1837,

  • and drawers have already apparently

  • become a ubiquitous necessity

  • according to the reference from 1838,

  • so we can't necessarily blame delicate Victorian

  • sensibilities for their adoption.

  • Visual representations of fashionable dress continue

  • to depict commando ladies all the way

  • up until at least 1811,

  • but this image, dated a mere seven years later,

  • to 1818, is already showing a woman wearing drawers

  • as part of her usual dressing routine.

  • Much like a change from the term stays to corset,

  • the adoption of drawers wasn't a transition

  • that happened overnight,

  • but rather more likely over the course of a generation.

  • Nevertheless, despite the adoption of drawers under dresses

  • in the 19th century, these still didn't pose any impediment

  • to peeing, as in the vast majority of surviving examples,

  • the crotch seam of 19th-century drawers,

  • and later combinations, was generally left open.

  • I say generally,

  • because there are examples of sewn drawers that,

  • if museum dating can be trusted,

  • would have existed towards the mid

  • to early later part of the 19th century,

  • well before sewn drawers became widespread,

  • but the circumstances in which these were worn,

  • whether by a staunchly anti-corset lady, an invalid,

  • or just someone particularly committed

  • to completely undressing in order to pee is unknown.

  • And of course, it is also unconfirmable

  • as to whether or not these garments even were worn,

  • considering that the ones that survive seem

  • to be... surprisingly pristine...?

  • It is around the very end of the 19th century,

  • and into the Edwardian era,

  • that we begin to see this seam being closed,

  • first with buttons in some surviving examples,

  • so that the seam could still be opened easily

  • without the entire garment needing to be extracted

  • from under the corset,

  • and finally sewn up completely, as we approach the 1920s.

  • (that vaguely '20s-sounding vlogger music)

  • The simplification and shortening of skirts,

  • and the adoption of the brassiere in place of the corset,

  • are likely significant factors in this evolution,

  • since fewer foundational layers simultaneously

  • meant less layers of protection and concealment,

  • but also easier potential for extraction

  • of a pair of closed-seam underwear at necessary moments.

  • The term "pair of underwear", by the way,

  • comes from their ancestral pair of drawers,

  • and the two individual legs from which they were comprised.

  • The prevalent adoption of underwear

  • is thus a surprisingly recent event.

  • There is evidence of men's underpants occurring

  • throughout periods of history,

  • from the linen briefs of the medieval periods,

  • to the occasional evidence of linen drawers

  • in the 18th century, despite most visual evidence suggesting

  • that drawers were likewise uncommon

  • in menswear by this time as well.

  • But this isn't wholly irrelevant to the dilemma of peeing,

  • since men's styles of dress were, if not less layered,

  • at least constructed so that they were easily dismantlable

  • for peeing purposes with codpieces,

  • fall fronts, and button flies.

  • So that was me sufficiently taking six whole minutes longer

  • than it should have to answer