Sewing A Continuous Bound Placket

Sewing a continuous bound placket on 1940s French knickers.

By now it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that I’m a purist when it comes to historical authenticity. I’m constantly striving for “zero-Farb” in everything I do. That extends beyond just the clothing that others can see and to my underwear as well. Along with a brassier, girdle, slip and stockings, I wear proper 1940s style underwear. Call them bloomers, call them drawers, call them tap pants if you must. I prefer calling them French Knickers. It makes them sound both old lady-like & risque at the same time. Just don’t call them granny panties, they are much too pretty for that!

I've made more than my fair share of these things over the past decade. My first pair turned out to big, a fact I only discovered after wearing them to an event! Mid afternoon the true meaning of getting your "knickers in a twist" was clear. As I was walking across a field full of Allied reenactors, I felt the left leg of my knickers slowly getting tighter & tighter. I attempted to counter this twisting by swishing my hips more to the right.

The more the knickers twisted, the more I countered with my hips. Twist, swish, twist swish, all the way across the grass. By the time I had cleared the field I looked like I was spinning an invisible hula hoop yet my knickers were still cattywampus. I made an immediate bee-line for my friends tent, quickly apologized to her husband for the unlady-like thing I was about to do, yanked up my skirt & untwisted my knickers.
Underneath this stone doth lie, as much beauty as could die.
The key to preventing this twisting, I later learned, is making sure your knickers are the right size in the waist. The legs & crotch should be nice & full, but any extra ease in the waist & they will have a mind of their own. Just look at any pin-up painting by Art Frahm. Knickers are prone to twisting, falling & many other catastrophes at the worst possible moment. Like when surrounded by a field full of cute men.

While French knickers are quick and easy to sew, there is one part that is often confusing for seamstresses new to vintage techniques. The side opening, usually called a continuous bound placket, is actually very simple, if you know a few of the hidden tricks. Before you know it, you will be whipping out knickers to wear with every outfit. Just don’t go “whipping them out” in untoward ways!

Materials needed:

Partially constructed Tap Pants from your favorite pattern. Mine happens to be Reconstructing History 1337. Multiple sizes in one pattern means I can make knickers for all my friends, or for myself after too many pieces of pie!
Double fold bias tape.
Sewing machine, tread etc.
Bottle of wine (optional, but sewing is always better with a little wine)

Leave 7" open on the left hand side of your seam. This is where you placket will go.

Snip the seam allowance perpendicular to the stitching at the bottom of this opening. This will allow you to have flat felled or french seams without interfering with your bound placket.

Lay the seam open, right side up, so that the seam forms a straight line. Don't stress over a few wrinkles where the sides join. You can work these out while sewing.

Flat fell or French seam the side at this point. I usually just do flat felled seams. I have a terrible habit of sewing things inside out when trying to make French seams.

Lay a strip of double fold bias binding right side to right side with one unfolded edge meeting the edge of the open seam. Alternately you could use self fabric for the binding, but I'm both lazy & own a huge collection of random bias fold tape. Since I'm not planning on anyone closely inspecting my knickers, this is the perfect time to use up some of those scraps.

Stitch carefully in the crease of the bias tape.

Fold the bias tape from the right side, to the wrong side. Press as needed to make the seams lay neatly.

Stitch the bias tape on the inside. I like a small zigzag so that I don't miss any part of the tape.

Here is the trick that makes a continuous placket "work". Fold your seam & match the bindings edge to edge. Stitch a small angle at the bottom where the 2 sides of the binding meet. This little stitch will make the binding overlap front to back.

Over lap the finished bindings on their proper sides & finish your French knickers!

What's your worst knickers catastrophe?

Title quote:
"Underneath this stone doth lie, as much beauty as could die." Epitaph on Elizabeth L. H., Ben Johnson, 1572-1637.

Title image:
DuBarry Sewing Pattern #5720.