Thursday, April 7, 2011

BVDs


In hot weather, all tight fitting underwear 
is sticky and disagreeable.

--BVD ad, 1906

1906 ad--click to embiggen
I'm not looking forward to summer in the Midwest and having to give up my woolly socks. Last week on a Turner Classic Movies flick, there was mention of BVDs, referring to men's underwear, which sparked a conversation about the origins of the term.

After a trip down Google lane, I found BVD stands for the New York firm, Bradley, Voorhees & Day that initially manufactured underwear for both men and women beginning in 1876. The term "BVDs" has become, over time, a genericized trademark in reference to underwear of any brand.

Wondering about skivvies?  It's 1932, nautical slang, meaning underwear, of unknown origin. An earlier skivvy/skivey was London slang for "female domestic servant", 1902.

When we were raising a family, girls were in the minority at the manor, outnumbered by guys three to two, so men's underwear dominated the laundry. Somewhere along the line, in the late 80s, the boys switched from their G.I. Joe print "whitey tighties" to boxers. The youngest, still in college, has a truck load of boxers, enough to last six to eight weeks, until he comes home for a weekend and the manor is transformed into a Chinese laundry.
vintage corset and my 1950s mod vase
Speaking of tight fitting, BVD was the first to manufacture bustles for women. Dom mentioned yesterday that my mod vase looked like a feminine waistline in a 1950s basque or corset. Lovely?  Yes, but also a bit sticky and disagreeable. Thank goodness girdles and pantyhose are also things of the past. What are your undies of choice? Tighties? Thongs?

48 comments:

  1. I like how they're called drawers in the vintage ad. Does anyone still call them that?

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  2. When my three boys were young, they (along with their dad) all had their own brand of underwear to make sorting easier. Hubby's was BVD. To this day, I think they're one of the best quality brands.

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  3. I want to go back to how you feel about the loss of the wooly socks because I'm so glad I'm not alone in this.
    I really do not prefer summer. The older I get, the worse it becomes and if finances warranted it, I would live in Maine through the hot, sticky months. Not that it doesn't get hot there. Oh, hell. They don't know what hot is.

    I love winter. I'm not ready for it to be too warm too soon. And I'm so glad I'm not the only one.

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  4. Maine? Let's go! I feel exactly the same way. I love the change of seasons, but the older I get, I find it harder to tolerate the Midwest summer heat. Gah.

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  5. We say drawers here, for the boxers. BVD’s is known, but not used as much.
    Even though it’s still cold here, I’ve stopped wearing the socks. I’ll put them on again, if it snows.

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  6. I went barefoot in bed last night for the first time since November. I hate having cold feet, and love it when I can go commando, on my feet that is. Interesting photo's, love that vase.

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  7. I recently went to a small, non-descript shop in Paris where the first bra was made. They didn't make matching underwear back then.

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  8. Such an interesting post; brimming with mentions of "unmentionables." Ah, the world turns.

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  9. Yesterday it was 27C here.... Wonderful. I spent the day in just shorts (with my boxers underneath)!

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  10. I could be wrong and probably am! But having Nordic roots in the family I'm fairly sure that Skivvy comes from Skiver,which is to cut from the whole..or a big piece.And considering that shirts and sails would've been cut from the same clothe it makes sense to my nautical mind.Burly women doing the hard yards at the loom!..Cheers!

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  11. My grandmother always wore a corest - even she washed the floors. I think I'd just want to die from the moment it got cinched up. I know my bra goes flying across the room as soon as i step in from work.

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  12. Sorry, my dear, but your dates on Marilyn's corset must be wrong........1850 maybe, but certainly not 1950.....in 1950 I wore a light stretchy girdle but a boned corset like that?.....no way.

    Love the info on BVd's tho.

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  13. You want drawers? Here, go go click on these drawers …. Ruth Brown singing “Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On”.

    Yes, some people still call them drawers. I remember hearing a radio interview with jazz sax player Kenny Garrett, recalling how he started working with Miles Davis. The story goes like this, in Garrett’s own words (as told on an interview at http://www.allaboutjazz.com/):

    "I was playing with Art Blakey, and I was auditioning for this French movie. A tenor player by the name of Gary Thomas came in and told me that Miles was looking for an alto player, and he asked if I was interested. I said, "Of course I'm interested. That's Miles Davis." So he gave me the number, and I called Miles. He wasn't in—his assistant told me he'd call back. When Miles called me back, I heard the voice and though it was Mulgrew Miller, who used to always imitate Miles. About 5 minutes into the conversation, I thought, "Man, this really is Miles." He told me to send him some music. At that time, I had some stuff with Art Blakey, OTB, and some more funky stuff I'd been working on, so I sent that to him. He called me back and said, "Kenny, it sounds like you're wearing Sonny Stitt's dirty drawers."

    The highest praise. Needless, to say, he got the gig. Of course, one would have to know Sonny Stitt’s blues blowing to fully appreciate this …

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  14. Mine are Fruit of the Loom. Until summer, then I switch to "Boxers" sold at wherever the price is cheapest. Boxers don't contribute to sweat and sticking, but are open with air drafts down both leg holes. It doesn't matter if they are made in Pakistan, China, or India, the fit and feel are universal.

    Where I live is called, "The Miami Valley" and is notorious for humidity, insects, and allergy problems. It then takes to "hard frosts" to get past the allergies in the fall.

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  15. tess - of course the undies decision depends entirely on mood and circumstances!!! when i'm cycling it's straight into chamois-lined shorts . . . a special comfort to be sure!!! with winter almost gone here, the sock issue is simplified from two pairs to one and as i was explaining to a couple of my intrigued students yesterday, they length of the sock moves from top calf to anklet...... steven

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  16. I guess this is mainly a male question but I will say for myself a) am still wearing my long underwear which I think might also be called BVDs? b) I havent worn a bra since the 60's feminist rebellions. c) I was most relieved never to have to wear a girdle like my mom did at one time and lordy my gram's pink corset with all kinds of strings to tie and criss-cross, glad I missed that too.

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  17. Bear, I like your etymology of "skivvy"; it certainly makes sense. Thanks for the input!

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  18. I launder a LOT of undies these days mostly male...they tend to be the ole boxer-briefs! Undies have come a LONG way baby!


    SO FUNNY!

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  19. Abe, we have the same summer here in Central Ohio. My allergy symptoms have started in full bloom and I'm already looking forward to this coming fall's frost!

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  20. Suki, I think I might knock someone out if I happened to turn quickly without a bra. It's a must on this body.

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  21. Lo, I'm sure Marilyn is wearing the old style corset for pure sexiness.

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  22. Ive always found underwear to be a bit to constraining, much I guess like womens corsets...thats why I choose to be comando :) TMI Im sure...lol

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  23. I think Spanks (Spanx?) is the newest version of girdles. I read about the woman who invented them somewhere or another.

    Very sad, eh?

    Everything about summer is sticky and disagreeable. Like you, I don't look forward to it. Fortunately it has been a very cold spring, so it's hard to even imagine hot weather.

    I like the Britishism "knickers." It's so cute.

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  24. Unders are good. Not something one thinks about, alot. Until someone very special starts talking about BVD's. Comfortable is important.

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  25. The questions you are asking! *giggles*

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  26. Btw, I love Viennese summers,
    low humidity, blue skies,
    Grüner Veltliner Spritzers in the shade.

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  27. Knickers. So charming. Reya, I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned by one of our British friends.

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  28. When I was a kid our Sunday evening class was called BTU - Baptist Training Union. For some reason I kept calling it BVD, which amused my dad no end.

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  29. Bug, I remember BTU. And WMU. I love that you called it BVD. That's hysterical!

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  30. Do I get a vote? In Florida, anything underneath is, well, optional. The airier the better. Boxers for boys, umm, t-backs for girls. Not that any woman I know would ever wear 'em by choice. Like stilettoes, I guess thongs are an acquiring taste -- designed to seal deals. After that, its bloomers, bloomers, bloomers. - Brendan

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  31. Haha, yes, I do believe thongs are designed to seal deals. Thank god I'm well into the bloomer stage.

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  32. I've already removed my woolly socks, and am now in flip-flops. Once the temperature rises above zero (celsius) I feel too stifled by anything enclosing my feet. And, I can't wait for the warm weather, though it doesn't ever get what you'd call hot here in Scotland.

    As for drawers, we call them knickers or, for amusement, smalls, and I like those cotton bikini style ones from the Gap best. I tried thongs for a while but yikes!

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  33. Ah, the charming knickers, I knew someone from across the pond would mention them. "Smalls" is so cute. I've never heard them referred to as smalls. Love it.

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  34. Where do I begin?

    The vase DOES look like a corset...sexy!

    Dang. Marilyn rocks a corset!

    I don't like the sticky summer, either...Maine (as Vincent knew) is the BEST place to spend summer in!

    I love to read about the origin of words...skivvy? omg.

    You gave me quite a few good chuckles today, Tess...thank you!

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  35. That corset on MM must have really 'cinched' her waist up nice and tight- she is either smiling or trying to gasp for breath :-)

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  36. My grandmother always said "drawers". When I was young, it embarrassed me. One phrase (of many, I;m sure) I use that makes my kids cringe is "that's queer". My kids say I wear "big" underwear - and compared to theirs, I suppose it is. My son Will has a similar BOX of underwear at school. :)

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  37. ...not a box of my "big underwear" but a box of many that need washing. (Just wanted to make that clear)

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  38. There are not many Bloggers who could get their dedicated Followers to discuss their underwear preferences so openly dear Tess. You are one of them. Perez Hilton is the other.
    Millie x

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  39. Tess, This is getting silly. See :
    http://newsfromnowhere1948.blogspot.com/2007/09/take-for-example-my-bvds.html

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  40. Tess, though I would love to report that I have made Teacher of the Year, the real truth is that I am basically known for the temperture kept in my classroom during hot weather..."The Meat Locker"...I hate hot as Hades weather. Once, I found the cutest student drawn cartoon left on my desk: a roughly drawn globe identifying all continents, with our school in west GA, my home across the river in AL Xed out, and a bold red arrow pointing to Antarctica and labeled Miss Marnie's Home Away from Home!!
    Though I am something of a tomboy, I have always love beautiful underthings...mostly I am a big fan of the Barely There line! Comfort rules!

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  41. What dingy walls and electrical cord?

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  42. Bill, just pry your eyes off Marilyn for a moment and look to the left of her legs!

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  43. I still say 'knickers' but my husband says 'panties'. I almost died the first time he said it!

    At school we wore nasty, compulsory green coloured knickers which were made of a soft material that bubbled! Bloomers no less and green because that was the colour of our winter uniform. The bottom of each leg was elasticated. That's where we put our hankies and our cigarettes! We called them 'passion killers' - like convent girls of that age would know what killed passion!! Against school rules, we wore dainty undies underneath them!

    Yes 'smalls' is another term that is used but not in this house. What about teddies and camisoles?
    Have you tried getting into one of those body shapers?? Sheesh!

    In the 60s we wore pantie girdles which we probably didn't need anyway. And when tights (pantie hose) came in along with the mini, there was the departure of the suspender! I still have pretty lacy suspenders - ok TMI!!

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)