Knickers older than Canada on display

'Unmentionables' finally get some respect. Undergarments dating back to the 1800s are on display at the Welcome Centre in Alberton,P.E.I.

'Unmentionables' hanging on a clothesline display at Alberton Welcome Centre

Isabel Delaney (left) and Dena McHugh from the Alberton Welcome Centre try on some of the undergarments on display. (Pat Martel/CBC)

What were once considered "unmentionables" are now on display for all to see at the Welcome Centre in Alberton, P.E.I.

Bloomers on display: Take a peek at knickers from the past 0:58

The old undergarments — from the 1800s and 1900s — had been stored for years at the Alberton Museum, before being aired out and strung wall-to-wall for the exhibit.

Dena McHugh (left) and Isabel Delaney hold up some of the undergarments on display at the Alberton Welcome Centre. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"A lot of stuff that we know about undergarments are from diaries and secret writings," said Isabel Delaney, who works at the Welcome Centre in Alberton and helped set up the display in the former church.

"Now pretty much everything is mentionable so why not bring them out."

The collection of underwear is from the 1800s and 1900s. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Still causes some to blush

But even still, talking about underwear has made some visitors turn red.

"A couple of men were a little embarrassed when I asked them if they'd like to see our undergarments," said Delaney.

These split-bottom knickers would have been worn under layer upon layer of clothing. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"You have to be careful how you word that. They blushed and said, 'I'll tell my wife.'"

The drawers are also a draw. Delaney said people are popping in to see the exhibit.

"Usually family and friends because we're telling them, 'You can't believe what ladies wore back then," she said.

Delaney says wealthier people would wear linen or silk undergarments.

'Layers upon layers of clothes'

18-year-old Dena McHugh works with Delaney at the Welcome Centre. She helped research the old undergarments and helped set up the display.

"This is pretty interesting to see all of the things that they used to wear in the 1800s, all the layers upon layers of clothes they had to fit under this tiny little dress," said Dena McHugh who also works at the Welcome Centre.

"It's no wonder they would have maids and what not to help them get dressed every morning."

Delaney says underwear back then was flimsy and offered little support. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Most of the undergarments worn by ordinary folks were made of cotton because they were easy to clean.

"The wealthier people would wear linen or silk," said Delaney. "And the wealthier people would have colour in their clothes, so it kind of was like a status."

The unmentionables exhibit will be on public display for another few weeks. After that, they will be returned to the museum.

About the Author

Pat Martel

Pat Martel has worked with CBC P.E.I. for three decades, mostly with Island Morning — from a writer-broadcaster to a producer. This year, Pat joined the web team with an eye to create great video. Pat also runs an adult coed soccer league in Stratford. He always welcomes great story ideas that are visually appealing.