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

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 6 23:33:32 UTC 2009

My goodness, Alison! To be reminded of the "whiff-whiff" of corduroy
knickers! You felt that you were attracting the attention of the
entire world, despite the fact that no one cared, except your mom, who
thought you were just so cute! Oh, and, if the weather was cold
enough, we wore the lace-up boots with the jackknife pocket, over
knee-high socks, too. If the weather wasn't cold enough for boots, the
socks were supposed to be held up by the elastic cuffs of the
knickers. Needless to say, the socks were down around your ankles by
the time that you stepped off the front stoop,

Do you remember the calf-revealing and, therefore,
male-eyes-attracting, "kick-slits" of those narrow, pencil-skirts?
And, of course, their tightness revealed the panty-line, made
(in)famous by Woody Allen. There was the essentially ankle-length
"ballet-skirt," worn over an infinity of petticoats? In Germany, a
girl so dressed, when sitting down, lifted the petticoats so that they
fitted over the back of the chair, instead of squeezing them together
and sitting on them, as was usual in the States. This was mind-blowing
for GI's, despite the fact that the petticoats were worn over a
half-slip, an undergarment sufficiently modest that today, it might be
worn to an audience with the Pope or even with the President of the
Mormon Church without turning a single head.

BTW, the mini-skirt predated Mary Quant by about seven or eight years.
Such short(er), above-the-knee skirts were worn - on paydays only - by
B-girls in GI-bars in Germany, and, probably, all over the world, at
least as early as 1960.

FWIW, I learned the word, "B-girl," from reading newspaper articles
about a scandal in a town adjoining a military base in Alabama, some
time in the '50's.


On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 10:52 AM, Alison Murie <sagehen7470 at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Alison Murie <sagehen7470 at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Knickers (was: They're as self-centered as we are!)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> AM
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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