When a Panty Isn’t a Panty

Tap pants can be confusing to many lingerie shoppers.

Since the leg openings are not drawn to the skin with elastic, they look like shorts and from a distance they can be mistaken for a short slip.

Tap pants allow for a greater freedom of movement, which makes sense because they were originally worn by tap dancers over their panties and hose when practicing their dance routines.

They were quite popular in the 20s and 30s. Here Clara Bow wears tap pants. (You may now recall seeing rows of women in tap pants in Busby Berkeley films, or recall the Rockettes.)

Tap pants can be worn as outer garments and then are are often sold as Cocktail Shorts, French Knickers, Side-cut Shorts, and Dance Shorts.

When worn under clothing, as lingerie, they present similar problems as vintage full-cut panties. The wider leg opening can be quite difficult to manage under the fashions of today, however…

The 80s saw a huge resurgence of tap pants as women in power suits found them to be a comfortable and feminine touch to such manly attire. They were paired with camisoles and worn under half slips; sometimes the pairing was worn instead of a full slip.

I remember the exclusive stores being full of silk and satin tap pants then — and even teddies were given the fuller leg opening, much like the teddies of old.

But as leaner times hit in the 90s many women opted for more practical lingerie which could also be worn under pants. The boy short seems to be a modern update of the tap pant. But it’s nowhere near as pretty.

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