The 1920s step-in chemise – also called teddy – was a popular combination garment in the roaring 20s, combining the camisole and knickers in one garment.
‘With an envelope chemise pattern to work on, you can change the design as much as you like. If it’s a step-in style that you want to copy […] it means cutting off the top and reshaping the lower edge.’ (A Complete Course In Dressmaking, 1921, p. 46)
Envelope Vs. Step-In Chemise
Teddy, step-in, Union suit, envelope chemise, combination suit – whatever you call them – are all 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, 1920s 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 Pink Satin Envelope Chemise
1920s envelope chemises had a flap with a button or snap closure, while 1920s teddies or step-in chemises had just a flap without a closure. Here you can see the flap of a 1920s silk step-in-chemise.
I used white, plain weave 100% silk fabric for my 1920s step-in chemise. Silk was a popular – but expensive – fabric for 1920s lingerie! The fabric I used has a beautiful drape but it’s very see-through!
‘Some of the lining satins make attractive slips which will last a season, and are very inexpensive.’ (Clothing For Women: Selection, Design, Construction, 1917)
Step-In Chemise Pattern
‘The step-in ‘chemise is 27 inches long and is cut perfectly straight […] The side slashes in the garment are […] 8 inches deep.’ (Easy-To-Make Underwear, 1928)
Here on page 47 is a free pattern for a 1920s step-in chemise.
Related: 1920s Tap Pants
Drawstring At The Top
‘Before hemming the top of the chemise, make and finish a quarter-inch slash at the center-front one-half inch down from the top. This affords a place for inserting the ribbon in the hem. […]
After this is done, turn a one-half inch hem at the top. […] Insert a narrow ribbon in the eye of a bodkin and run it in the hem, leaving ends long enough to tie in ta bow in the front.’ (A Complete Course In Dressmaking, 1921, p. 48ff.)
1920s lingerie often had embroidery at the top. Because the step-in is of silk, I used silk sewing thread for the embroidery.
‘The one thing to be desired in embroidery for underwear is daintiness. The work must be delicately wrought and in keeping with the fineness of the texture.
Just a tiny wreath of roses here and there is a pretty way of dressing up the best chemise or nightie.’ (A Complete Course In Dressmaking, 1921, p. 9)
I based the design of my step-in chemise on the following antique teddies: 1920s white silk and lace step-in, 1920s white cotton step-in, and 1920s photograph of a woman wearing a step-in.
You’ll find more antique 1920s slips and 1920s underwear on my pinterest board ‘1920s Lingerie’:
Bra, Girdle & Boudoir Cap
I’m wearing my 1920s silk step-in over my handmade 1920s-style bra and a true vintage girdle from my grandma. As you can see, the step-in is very sheer which is typical for 1920s lingerie!
To keep their marcel waves in place, women in the 1920s wore boudoir caps. I’m wearing my handmade crochet boudoir cap.
Related: 1920s Updo Tutorial For Long Hair