Hot! Project Ideas: Combating Monkey Butt with…Reenactor Underwear?

Okay folks, just a warning: this post will probably be a bit TMI.  Don’t whine that I didn’t warn you.

One of the things that reenactors frequently contend with are various issues related to dampness/friction/general uncleanliness in the general crotch/groin/underwear area.  If you’re a reenactor, you know what I’m talking about.  I’ve heard it called “reenactor butt”, “monkey butt”, and various other names that I can’t currently recall.  When heat, humidity, and wearing the same underwear for a couple days in a row combine…bad things happen. We all know this. In fact, I can see you all unconsciously nodding in agreement as you read this.

In some ways, women suffer from this more than men.  Men can wear boxers or go commando, which helps with air flow.  Women are pretty much stuck with normal, tight-fitting underwear which can be incredibly uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time, especially in hot, humid weather.

I have quite a lot of cotton muslin left over from this week’s mostly-successful attempt to draft out an 18th century shift pattern from myself, and I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell I want to do with it.  In looking at it, I think I probably have enough to make at least two pair of what I’m now dubbing “reenacting shorts”.  I’ve been drawing up some ideas in my sewing notebook, and I have come up with something somewhere between a longish pair of what are typically known as “tap pants” in the world of women’s lingerie and late 18th century men’s drawers.

I’ve had some luck in the past with wearing mens boxers while reenacting, but the short legs tend to slowly hike their way up inside my pants, resulting in some rather uncomfortable bunching.  So, my idea is to basically make a longer (almost knee-length) pair of boxers, cut for a woman’s figure and slightly less full-legged, so that they are more comfortable and less likely to ride up. Sure, they will add an extra layer, but when made out of lightweight fabrics such as lawn cotton or something similar, the wicking effects should really make me feel cooler rather than warmer.

I will try to scan in a copy of my notes later, and if I go ahead and make these, I’ll definitely document the process, but the two images below are two examples that best exemplify what I’m considering making:


So…thoughts?  Good idea? Bad idea? Should I just throw in the towel and learn to love baby powder?


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  1. For 18th Century, and anything where you have a shift and skirt or petticoat combo, I might suggest simply going commando unless it’s that time of the month, better airflow, and makes going to the bathroom in any circumstance easier.

    I am curious about how the tap pants work for other eras, however.

    • I’ve considered going commando for 18C stuff, but I am also really unused to wearing skirts (I never wear them in my modern life) and tend to be rather un-ladylike in them, which means there’s a high likelihood that I’d end up flashing someone.

  2. I wear bloomers when it’s hot and sticky, keeps me from the dreaded chafing and I make them in fun (non period) fabrics just so I can offer to show the guys my bloomers. 😉 But then, I do re-enact an Italian courtesan…..

  3. Totally late on this one, but…yes. My nemesis is “swigh” (for sweaty thighs…there’s also swack and swoobs and lots of other unpleasant things). Wearing boxers definitely helps, and I’ve heard people swear by bike shorts. Those seem a touch constricting and hot for my taste, though. Bloomers or tap pants would work, too, and be a little more ladylike and fun than just swiping my husband’s boxers!

  4. I just bring lots of pairs of underwear with me… Most of the time it’s just too hot and sticky and I run around in tall grass to often with skirts that makes me terrified of little crawly things (ie TICKS) grabbing onto places they shouldn’t.

    So modern underwear it is since I like it fitting. When it’s too gross, I just hop in the tent and swap out to a nice clean, non-sweat soggy pair. Also, I put all the ‘spent’ ones in a ziplock bag.

  5. It takes some getting used to…but 18th century ladies didn’t wear panties. You wore a shift. I discovered that airflow is a good thing in the lady-parts.

    • I agree, however there are two things at play, at least for me:

      1. I’m overweight, so there isn’t much “air flow”, which creates hygiene problems if you don’t have anything to absorb dampness.

      2. My unit does not use tents and we generally sleep on the bare ground in the woods. As T pointed out, that is something of a recipe for disaster, as bugs tend to like warm environments!

  6. I would love to see a pattern for that style of underware…right now I wear long legged Old navy cotton PJ’s to stop the chafting with regular underware. I would love to have something that would do the job of both and a bit lighter and more girly! Keep us posted!

  7. I often wear just-below-the-knee length knit yoga/pajama pants. They have to be cotton knit, not too baggy (otherwise I might as well go commando) but not skintight and they have to have elastic at the waist so that I can use the privs without having to worry about tying and untying anything under my skirts since I can’t really see what’s going on. 🙂

  8. I find that the longest Underarmour (or your fave) underwear work well: they don’t move, so there’s no bunching up your butt so to speak, and the waistband is flat so it doesn’t dig in to your waist if you are less than svelte, such as myself.

    • The problem isn’t so much that it bunches up, the problem is that sweat and bodily fluids tend to build up on body-hugging underwear after you wear them for a couple days in a row. Thus, something that is less body-hugging is what I’m aiming for.

  9. Lol, remind me to show you the patterning math for the female-bodied version of 12-13th C braes with a crotch gusset. I can’t wear skirts or dresses without them, and they’re comfy enough to wear under jeans. I use the same pattern in multiple fun (heat-reducing moisture-wicking) linen colors for everywhen from 9th century ’til last week. 😀