Prior to the 19th century, women would wear no underwear at all. With the onset of the cage crinoline in the 1850s, it became necess to wear drawers, for warmth and to avoid embarrassing accidents. In the days before elastic fabrics and waistbands were invented, drawers were often equipped with an opening for toilet use. This was called "open style".
Open drawers were somewhat baggy, usually white, and covered the thigh for some length. The leg length was longer in the mid-19th century (over the knee, as in knickerbockers), and gradually became shorter. At 1900, women's drawers went down to just above the knee, where they were usually flared and finished with decorative lace. After 1910/1920, drawers became shorter still, revealing more of the thighs.
The undergarment was usually fastened with bands or a button in the rear, at the center of the non-elastic waistband. For urination or defecation, it was not necessary to undo this fastening because of the vertical slit that extended from the buttocks to the crotch.
There were also "closed style" drawers closed with ties or buttons at the side, but these were often considered less practical.
Open drawers and spanking
In those days, bare bottom spankings to females were often given without taking the underwear down, as the girl's or woman's bottom could be more easily bared by simply throwing their skirt up and pulling this rear slit wide open, as the illustrations below show.
M/F spanking illustration by Pierre Guénolé (c. 1905).
- Drawing of split drawers from 1859
- Open-crotch underpants (photo)
- Ads for open- and closed-seat drawers (1922)
- Open-crotch drawers (underpants) and menstruation (with several drawings)
- Underwear for Children (1900s), Germany (in German, with photos)