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The Allure of Victorian Underthings

Narrelle Harris Valentine's Day Victoriana

Men's Edwardian underwearI don’t know who first said "A well-tailored suit is to women what lingerie is to men," but a lot of truth resides in that aphorism.

On the other hand, don’t ever think that lingerie is not also to women what it is to men. Alluring and erotic. Delicious and sexy. Something flimsy, sheer and sleek to hide/display curves and hollows, to conceal and reveal delicate skin, growing heat. Sensuous fabrics to tease arousal and make pulse-racing promises of pleasure to come.

Oh hell yeah, for a lot of people, lingerie is sexy as, on men as well as women.

The sexiness of underwear isn’t all about the lacy, satiny frillies either. Modern men’s underwear, snugly fitting or loose, super brief or designed with little chains and leather fastenings, have just as much allure. Just ask Xdress, HommeMystere or Johnnies Closet.  

Do you know what is also good and sexy and worthy of lustful exploration?

Victorian men’s undergarments.

Google “Victorian undergarments” and mostly you get women’s clothing. Corsets and chemises, pantaloons and petticoats. Frothy, titillating and reputedly causing all that swooning we read about from too-tight stays, most of us have a fairly clear (even if not absolutely accurate) vision of what a Victorian lady wore under her frock.

When writing The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, however, I found my idea of men’s underthings of the period much hazier. Did they wear longjohns, known in the US as Union Suits? Was that more an American than a British thing? Ties or buttons? Wool or cotton? One piece or two pieces? How long in the leg and the arm?

Basically, when John and Sherlock finally got around to undressing each other, I wanted to get the details right. What did the well-dressed man of 1893 wear under his trousers and frock coat?

With the aid of How to be a Victorian, I was finally able to note with some accuracy that male undergarments consisted generally of long cotton or wool drawers, a long undershirt with long sleeves and if not an undershirt for bed, then a long nightshirt for the purpose.

And in thinking about how our Victorian lovers might then disrobe each other, I found that the principle of sexy underwear holds true even for ankle length drawers and a long shirt.

Taking off all the outer layers of the three piece suit (or a gentleman’s city attire and tophat) is a delicious kind of strip tease just for starters. Whether undressing on their own or with a lover’s help, it’s a sensuous act to slowly reveal more and more of the one we love and desire, until there they stand in the intimacy of undergarments, with the hint of further intimacy to be unveiled.

Imagine.

Hands reaching for the ties or buttons. Perhaps trembling, perhaps confident, pulling slowly free the knot (or slipping buttons made of bone through buttonholes). Fabric, warm from proximity to cherished skin, soft against fingertips.

Kneeling to slide drawers down over hips and thighs and knees, past firm calves and steady feet, lifted one by one to leave a man standing in a shirt that falls over bare legs; that conceals (but only just) the curve of shapely buttocks and the swelling heat and desire of his prick.

Perhaps one man will slowly lift his lover’s shirt, sweeping upward with splayed hands over cloth, revealing all that secret skin (in Victorian times, so hidden, almost all the time).

Perhaps he will stand and kiss his love, while he reaches down to caress what he can’t yet see.

Perhaps he’ll kneel again and kiss from knee to thigh, himself concealed under the fall of a linen shirt while he mouths at his darling boy (moustache tickling).

One man may play coquette, lifting hems only so far, offering sultry glimpses, more desirable for being teasingly hidden.

Or maybe impatience will get the better of one, who pushes his beloved onto the bed, and shoves garments out of the way so he can explore (and kiss and maybe bite) to his and his love’s excitable content, until they finally are naked and panting and grinning and satisfied.  

(Or maybe they didn’t bother to disrobe completely; there’s a delicious joy in wanting each other so much, right now, that they don’t, can’t wait long enough to be fully bare.)

John Watson in Chapter Four of The Adventure of the Colonial Boy certainly appreciates the possibilities of exploring a man still in his underthings.

        That night, Watson dreamed of Holmes’s hands, and of being touched by them: holding his own at first, but then roaming all over his still-clothed body. Then of long, clever fingers insinuating themselves between the gaps, under vests and his drawers, brushing warm against his skin. Watson climaxed in his sleep, and woke at once, face damp with… with perspiration, he told himself. Not tears. Naught but perspiration.

So yeah. Men in Victorian underthings.

Frankly, I can’t wait to be writing more about Victorian-era John and Sherlock enjoying the captivating charms of divesting each other of their linen.

Featured image: Vintage BVD ad

Get Narrelle M Harris' The Adventure of the Colonial Boy in paperback or ebook. Narrelle also writes Sherlockian stories as 221b_hound. P.S. This and tons of other content can be found in our first newsletter. Subscribe to Spark!



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