Men's underpants made from tram destination roll fabric

Contributed by: The Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles

'Wrong' side of fabric Repair on hem Hand stitched repair Men's 1940s underwear pattern
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Object information

Significance statement

Historic significance: The garment was produced during a time of austerity and frugality. World War II had brought about rationing on a national level on all commodities, from soap to building materials. Ration books and coupon books were the only way to purchase goods and materials, including fabrics for dressmaking, so women looked to other clever ways of making up for the shortfalls in their household requirements. This woman and possibly the other wives of the men working at the tram depot took advantage of the decommissioned tram destination roll to produce a variety of garments and other domestic items.

This is an amazing piece of Sydney Tram History, as it tells the story of a tram route that was decommissioned during war time. We are able to put a date to the decision by the transport authority. Miller's Point, Glebe Point, Petersham and Railway, perhaps Central Railway Station?

Aesthetic significance: She has used a widely available paper pattern in the production of the garment. The garment therefore reflects the fashion trend for men's underpants of the era.

Social significance: The spirit of 'Make do and mend' is also evident in this garment, as the maker has continued to mend and mend this garment instead of buying new ones as their household prosperity increased in the postwar years. The construction techniques that have been used reflect society's health concerns of the era, the garment is sewn with flat and felled seams, instead of simple closed (french) seams. This may be due to inadequate laundering, as it was felt that lice could hide in simple folded seams.

Its rarity and connectedness to a particular time in Australia's history makes this item significant.

Author: Justine Malinowski - President AMCAT, 31st May 2010.

Description

Men's underwear shorts made from tram destination roll fabric, using an Australian military public issue underwear shorts pattern from WWI. The garment features a fitted curved front waistband with two button holes. There is one remaining metal and fabric covered button in poor condition.There are two darts on each side at the front for fitting. It has a self placket centre front fly opening. The back design features a 'saddle' which is a panel that begins at the waistband over the bottom and joins at the inside leg seam. It has two side back panels. The pants were made with run and fell seams as required during WWI, because lice could hide in French seams. Item has been heavily washed, used and mended.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Tom Ridley, a 'free spirit' as people remember him, was born in 1901 at Greenwich Point, at the same address. He married Pat Hugill when he was 37 and went to live at Annandale. While there he made lenses, which were used in the making of the film "The Overlanders". Some time later he bought 10 acres of land at Kincumber, where he built a house partly of adobe and partly of timber, and they moved there. Tom ran a small farm and also worked at a Gosford Timber Mill and as a strapper for a racing horse owner. While living there, Pat wrote in a letter (still extant) to Olive Vile, Tom's sister, "When, oh when, will Tom's underpants fade!?".After Pat left him in the 1960s, he went back to live with his sister and brother-in-law, Olive and Gordon at Hillsborough, Maitland. Tom remained at Hillsborough till he went to live at a nursing home in his early 90s and died there in 1993.The underpants were among the clothing taken there with him. They ended up in the Olive's rag-bag and were rescued some time later by her daughter Pat Barden,who donated them to AMCAT.

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Mary Ridley was born in 1900 and died in 2006, aged 106. She was the wife of Roy Ridley and lived at 'The Retreat', Victoria St, Greenwich Point, Sydney. Tom Ridley, a 'free spirit' as people remember him, was born in 1901 at Greenwich Point, at the same address and died in 1993. He was apprenticed to Esdale, Sydney, the only apprentice the firm took on for 17 years, where he learnt to become a maker of fine instruments such as theodolites. He was put off during the Great Depression and moved to live with his sister, Olive Vile, at Hillsborough, Maitland, and for three years was an 'odd job man'. During World War II he moved back with his brother, Roy, and family at 'The Retreat', Victoria St, Greenwich Point, where he enjoyed building rowing boats and canoes. It was here that the 'tram destination' underpants were made for him by his sister-in-law, Mary. Mary made the underpants out of an old Sydney Tramway sign roll during WWII, from an old WWI pattern. The pants were made with run and fell seams as required during WWI, because lice could hide in French seams. The material was purchased ration coupon-free at a time when material was scarce and also because people of that time were still frugal in their habits, having gone through the Great Depression of late 1920s, early 1930s .

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This garment is a perfect example of 'Make do and mend", of wartime mentality of rationing and using what you have on hand. It combines the skills of everyday women to use that they could lay their hands on to get by.

According to Internet information, www.railpage.org.au/tram/sydhist.html, on Sydney tram closure this process started in 1930 with the Manly system. The last Pitt St, Castlereagh St tram ran in 1957 on a Saturday night at 1am.

Fabric rationing http://john.curtin.edu.au/1940s/mend/index.html - talks about the ration book system.

Where did this information come from?

The above story was compiled by Nell Pyle nee Vile of Bolwarra Heights, NSW. Nell Pyle is the founding member of The Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles.

This garment has been exhibited

The Underpants featured in the first exhibition of The Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles, Maitland in 2009. The title of the exhibition was "In Our Area" and it featured a collection of clothing and personal accessories of local identites from Maitland and the Hunter.

  1. Place of origin:

    Greenwich Point, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Cost:

    Not aware of the actual cost, but the fabric was purchased without ration coupons.

  3. Owned by:

    Pat Barden

  4. Worn by:

    Tom Ridley of "The Retreat", Victoria Street, Greenwich Point NSW. Home of brother Roy and Mary Ridley.

  5. Occasion(s):

    Everyday wear.

  6. Place:

    Greenwich Point.

  7. Designed by:

    Garment pattern is WWI underpants pattern available to the public.

  8. Made by:

    Mary Ridley, wife of Roy Ridley, Sister- in- Law to Tom Ridley.

  9. Made for:

    Tom Ridley

Fibre / Weave

Garment is made from a screen printed, plain weave cotton.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Construction is by machine, numerous repairs by hand.

Alterations

A number of repairs have been carried out on rips and splits.

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

The wrong side of the fabric has been used as the outside, due to the print design.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

One remaining fabric covered metal button, the type in use with washing mangles. poor condition.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Measurements

underpants
Girth
Waist 457 mm
Hem circumference 624 mm
Vertical
Front waist to hem 430 mm
Back waist to hem 515 mm
Inside leg 120 mm
Outside leg 410 mm
Convert to inches

Condition

Continued on from History and Provenance - He married Pat Hugill when he was 37 and went to live at Annandale. While there he made lenses, which were used in the making of the film "The Overlanders". Some time later he bought 10 acres of land at Kincumber, where he built a house partly of adobe and partly of timber, and they moved there. Tom ran a small farm and also worked at a Gosford Timber Mill and as a strapper for a racing horse owner. While living there, Pat wrote in a letter (still existant) to Olive Vile, Tom's sister,"When, oh when, will Tom's underpants fade!"After Pat left him in the 1960s, he went back to live with his sister and brother-in-law, Olive and Gordon at Hillsborough, Maitland. Tom remained at Hillsborough till he went to live at a nursing home in his early 90s and died there in 1993. The underpants were among the clothing taken there with him. They ended up in the Olive's "rag-bag" and were rescued some time later by her daughter Pat Barden, who donated them to AMCAT. By Nell Pyle, founding Member of AMCAT.

Evidence of repairs

A number of repairs have been carried out of rips and worn areas.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Fading
  2. Frayed
  3. Holes
  4. Parts missing
  5. Worn

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