c1820 Cotton Combination Underwear
This week's Museum Monday number is 647. Not as rare as one may think, this pair child's combinations date to the early 1820's, and measure 18.5" long from bodice top to hem.
They are entirely hand stitched in three different cloths~ a medium weight cotton bodice and straps, woven diaper trouser legs with fine cotton frills at the ankles. Unlike later button-on combinations for children that had the bodice finished separately and buttoning onto the pantaloons or trousers as they were called then, the earlier types were stitched together as one unit. To close, these have a 3 button bodice closure, with the waist buttoning once on each side of the wearer.
With the waist unbuttoned and folded down, one would think that these had a center back closure...so when the little one would have to go potty, all they need do is unbutton at the waist.....
Actually tho, they are center front closing (Ill explain in a moment), which surprised me, as most combinations I have seen are center back closing.
Center crotch gussets added for plenty of room to move. Now if you wondered how to tell a girls combinations from a boy's pair...the frill at the ankles would have nothing to do with it, as either could have frills. A little boy's combination would , however, have an opening here in the center crotch seam, referred to as a 'wee hole', for him to easily relieve himself.
Here one can appreciate the diamond weave of the diaper cloth~ its a bit thicker, and buttery soft. If you look closely at the first photo, you may or may not notice that both the knees have been patched~ both with tiny little careful stitches, in same cloth as the legs are from. There is no extra cloth anywhere on these, no pockets or large seam allowances that patches could have been cut from, which tells us these were mended in the same era they were made, and by little size, we have a crawler that wore out the knees rapidly. This can also tell us why these are front fastening, so Mamma could change little ones pilch, or diaper, easily from the front. That being said, at this small age, these could either be for a little boy, or a little girl.
A simple, yet beautiful cotton frill to dress up the ankles on our little crawler~