The envelope chemise was a popular combination garment in the 1920s: It combined the camisole and knickers in one garment. It was a favorite among 1920s flappers who preferred to wear only the bare necessities under their dresses!
1920s Pink Satin Envelope Chemise
Step-In Vs. Envelope Chemise
Teddy, step-in, Union suit, envelope chemise, combination suit – whatever you call them – all are 1920s undergarments. Basically, they are like a romper or onesie. In the 1920s, they were usually worn next to the skin or over a bra.
Today, the words teddy, step-in chemise, combination suit and envelope chemise are used interchangeably. However, they are not the same! While all these 1920s lingerie pieces are combination suits – combining the camisole or vest and knickers in one garment – there’s a difference between the envelope and step-in chemise.
Related: 1920s Tap Pants
1920s envelope chemises had a flap with a button or snap closure, while step-in chemises had just a flap without a closure.
‘As the name implies, the word combination is used to designate those undergarments so planned that they may be said to be a combination of vest and drawers. […] The manner in which a combination is cut makes it possible to obtain a very slender effect through the upper portion with a flare or fulness below it. This undergarment is therefore a wise choice for the woman inclined to stoutness.’ (Underwear And Lingerie, 1925)
I used pink polyester fabric for my 1920s envelope chemise – so it’s not historically accurate. I usually prefer historically accurate and natural fibers for my historical costumes. But this time I used polyester satin because it’s cheap – unlike silk satin – opaque and doesn’t require ironing. I hate ironing! 😉
This style of envelope chemise was called side-dart chemise in the 1920s: ‘a wise choice for the large-hip woman […] The cut of the garment allows of a smooth, close-fitting effect, but plenty of ease is introduced through the lower portion by means of darts at the sides.’ (Underwear And Lingerie, 1925)
I used the same pattern that I used for my 1920s slips but the envelope chemise is much shorter than the slips! Here on page 35 is a free pattern for a 1920s envelope chemise.
Related: My 1920s Slips
Inspirations for my 1920s envelope chemise were antique 1920s envelope chemises like this 1920s pink silk teddy chemise, this 1920s white cotton combination underwear and this 1920s peach silk teddy. I pinned more of my inspirations to my pinterest board ‘1920s Lingerie’:
‘To determine how long to make the strap, pass a cord from the base of the neck in the back on the person being measured between the legs to the base of the neck in the front. Let it hang sufficiently loose so that the person can bend over and sit down comfortably. […]
Before finishing the lower edge, stitch an oblong facing to the lower portion of the chemise at the center front. […] This is the place where the tab buttons when the garment is finished. ‘ (A Complete Course In Dressmaking, 1921, p. 37/ 44)
Unless you wore rolled stockings, a girdle was necessary to hold up the stockings. Women in the 1920s usually wore the girdle over the envelope chemise like on this photograph. In the picture I’m wearing a true vintage girdle from my grandma. Click on the link below for a free pattern of one of my grandma’s girdles!