Actually, I've been wanting to make tap pants (also known as French knickers) since I found out that such things existed. I can't remember the last time I wore a skirt without a slip underneath, but sometimes even a slip feels inadequate in the modesty-making department--like when you're biking in a shortish, very lightweight, half-circle skirt, which is exactly what the dress I just made has. I wound up wearing an existing pair of bloomers with it, and they got the job done, but weren't quite right. So I figured what better reason to go ahead and make some tap pants?
And I actually got right to it. Over the weekend, I made not just one but two pair.
So I started with a pattern from Vera Venus, for 1930s-style circular French knickers. (It comes as a free PDF, with instructions for drafting to your own size.) The pattern is, essentially, a circle skirt with a gusset for the crotch. Even though I somehow made the waist several inches too big, and (predictably) did a terrible job with the gusset, I really like the pattern. I think that if I'd done things properly and used a less stiff fabric, these would be really nice. As is is, I actually think I used the wrong fabric in both cases (albeit for different reasons). With these, I think that even if my gusset insertion were perfect and smooth, the fabric is too stiff to drape nicely.
|This was also the only way I could get them to photograph at all nicely. Just imagine there's no drape.|
The taffeta--for ease of description let's just assume it really is that--does not drape well, even on the bias. I mean, it drapes kind of, but not the way other things drape. With the taffeta, it's more like it folds and it falls. With the combination of its stiffness and the fullness of the design, this version of tap pants could almost be worn as a mini petticoat. Really.
Ultimately, I decided that I could deal with the stiffness, the lousy gusset, and the too-big waist, but that these would still not work for my purpose. Because of the legs. Oh, god, the legs. Don't get me wrong, I really like the design, and I still might try making this pattern again, but my intent here was to create an extra buffer between the outside world and my underpants, should the wind rise, and these, um, won't do that. You'll remember I said that the pattern is essentially the same as that of a full circle skirt? Yes, and that means that the leg openings at the hems, which are only an inch or two below the crotch, are about four feet wide. Yeah, not happening.
After some thought, I decided to try a different pattern, also from the 1930s--a Haslam pattern for "step-ins," via Frilly Bits. This also has a flat waist, but the leg openings are much narrower; the pattern looks a lot more like what you'd expect for traditional shorts.
These were cut in four pieces, so sewing took a lot longer, but--there's no gusset!--it was all pretty straightforward (there are no instructions provided for sewing, just how to draft the pattern, but I just followed the steps for sewing a normal pair of shorts--worked fine). It would've been even more straightforward if I hadn't somehow managed to draft these several inches too small; I had to add two strips of fabric down the edge of each leg and put a placket/opening thing on either side (the pattern calls for just one) to make them fit. But they do fit now, and a lot better than the circular pair. The leg openings are also of a size that they'll keep me feeling covered whilst on my bike.
Of the two, the second, smaller, pair are the ones I'll most likely be wearing more. But if I were to make a third pair...
Assuming I could widen the pattern to accommodate my huge hips without making the waist way too big (normal waist-to-hip slopes never work for me, which I always forget until I have nearly finished sewing something), the Frilly Bits/Haslam pattern seems a lot more functional. But, I was also thinking, if the circular Vera Venus pattern could be adapted to a half-circle, that might be good, too.
Should you be debating which of the two patterns to work up yourself--and, I suppose, to help my own theoretical decision--I have prepared a pros/cons list for each pattern.
Vera Venus' 1930s-Style Circular French Knickers
- They're prettier, and have a more vintage look
- Very quick and (aside from the gusset) easy to cut and sew
- Very thorough instructions
- They seem to take a bit more fabric than the other pair (although the others probably waste more around the edges, so unless you have some way of using scraps, it probably evens out)
- You have to sew a damned gusset
- They will be utterly useless in terms of protecting your modesty; you're basically wearing a very short, wide skirt with a small scrap of fabric attaching the front and back pieces between your legs
- They are easier to sew--no gusset
- Without being skintight, they will actually contribute something to modesty when worn under a skirt as intended
- They seem to require a bit less fabric (although, as mentioned above, they probably waste more in scrap, so it likely evens out)
- The drafting instructions are somewhat fiddly/incomplete, and there are no construction instructions at all
- There are more pieces = more seams = more time to cut and sew together
- They're kind of unattractive. Sorry.
I still have more than a yard of that blue taffeta left, too. No more tap pants from it, I don't think, but maybe there's enough for another slip (that'd be another new venture for me). I do love that one...
Here are the condensed project details, too:
Fabric: Less than 1/2 yard each of 60" blue taffeta from SCRAP, ~$0.75 each; blue and white striped cotton scraps for bias tape
Pattern: Set one: Vera Venus' 1930s-Style Circular French Knickers; set two: Frilly Bits' 1930s Haslam Step-Ins
Year: Set one: contemporary (1930s-inspired); set two: 1930s; fabric: thrifted, no idea of age
Notions: Four buttons (two each), $0.40 per set; one pack bias tape for set two, $0.75
Time to complete: ~3.5 hours each
Sewing soundtrack: Adam & the Amethysts
First worn: Not yet
Wear again: Set one: not sure; set two: yes
Total cost: Set one: $1.15; set two: $1.90 = Not too bad, I think.