Knickers (was: They're as self-centered as we are!)

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Thu Nov 5 15:52:01 UTC 2009

On Nov 4, 2009, at 9:03 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Knickers (was: They're as self-centered as we are!)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> FWIW, an outer garment based upon knickerbockers - very similar to
> them, but not quite the same - called "knickers," was the standard
> form of below-the-waist outerwear for pre-adolescent boys in Saint
> Louis the year around. "Big" boys wore "(long) pants," made of cotton,
> during the week and long, woolen "trousers" to Mass on Sunday.
> "Little" boys wore "short pants." Girls and women wore dresses and
> skirts (depending upon one's point of view) these dresses and skirts,
> of a style called the "New Look," were surprisingly long or the
> micro-minis of today are astonishingly short) and very short short
> pants called "(short-)shorts."
> OT anecdote. Once, back in 1961, in a GI-bar / Ami-Bar in Germany, I
> saw a beer delivery man literally fall off a barstool onto the floor
> as he was trying to sneak-peek about two inches of the underside of a
> B-girl's thigh. The skirt that she was wearing, reaching just below
> the knee, was *quite* short, for those days. Had the poor guy known
> the future, he could have saved himself a lot of embarrassment.
> -Wilson
My older brother, born '28, wore knickers of corduroy all through
grade school (1-6) (often accompanied by high lace-up boots with a
jackknife pocket on the side), changing to long pants, IIRC, for
junior high.
The "New Look" only came in after the war, in '47.  It was a dramatic
change from the knee-length  austere wartime fashions, bringing skirts
to near-ankle length.
Some of these were very full, using yards of material, but some were
pencil-thin, creating a horror called the "hobble skirt." ( One
wondered whether this was supposed to remind women that they had no
business in the working world, but should go home & make way for the
returning men.)
The New Look brought with it the Gibson Girl style of the 1890's. high
necks & huge puffed sleeves.  All this was supposed to show off how
released we were from the austerity of the wartime economy.  If you
weren't sold on the New Look, it was a great time to pick up
drastically marked-down goods that were left over from the now-
unfashionable past.

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