Knickers are one of those fashion terms that could potentially get a bit confusing because the word is used differently in different countries.  Also, there is an entirely different clothing item called Knickerbockers.  Some people could possibly mistake knickers as being an abbreviation for knickerbockers.


In British English knickers means underwear worn by women.  It often refers to any type of panty.  However, in some cases the term is used to describe women’s underwear that is similar in appearance to a pair of shorts.  This type of underwear maybe a fine example of granny panties. 

In some places they are referred to as “French knickers”.  In the USA, there is a similar garment called “tap pants”.

French knickers are a type of women's underwear or lingerie. The term is predominantly used in the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia to describe a style of underpant that is similar in look to a pair of shorts.  French knickers are worn from the hip, concealing some of the upper thigh and all of the buttocks. The garment features an "open leg" style (a loose fitting leg opening without elastic cuffs) that allows for a more comfortable fit and the straight-cut leg cuffs can be designed with or without trimming. The fabric is often bias cut.  Sounds rather similar to a boxer short.

Women's Knickers

French knickers are not to be confused with other underpant styles such as hipsters, briefs, bikini bottoms and boyshorts, all of which feature elasticated leg openings and fit snug to the body.

In the United States, French knickers are called tap pants.  According to the USA definition of the word, “tap pants are a form of lingerie designed for women, also known as side-cut shorts or dance shorts, and are similar to French knickers in appearance”.  As the name implies, they are a type of shorts, in that they cover the pelvic area and the upper part of the upper legs.  Tap pants look much like track shorts (running shorts), which allow freedom of movement, and can be worn as an outer garment over other types of underwear.  However, wearers may also wear them as innerwear or leisurewear with nothing underneath.

The French knicker style evolved from drawers, the baggy long-legged underwear of the Victorian era, and may have derived its name from the frilly underwear worn by Parisienne Can-Can dancers, existent from the late-1800s to the early-1900s.  During the 1920s and 1930s, French knickers were very popular, but by the 1940s and 1950s.  After that time briefs which are more fitted undergarments became more popular.  Yes, over the years underwear became tighter and used less fabric.  The word has become less modest to say the least.

The nostalgia of knickers comes in and out of style from time to time.  However, modern women typically prefer underwear such as briefs, thongs, and g-strings.  Knickers can possible found in vintage clothing stores, but do you really want to wear old & possibly used underwear?  If you really want to wear a pair of vintage knickers, you may want to consider new reproduction versions instead of true vintage or antique garments.

Similar name but not the same:

Knickerbockers are not women’s knickers.  Knickerbockers are a form of men's or boys' baggy-kneed trousers particularly popular in the early 20th century United States. Golfers' plus twos and plus fours were breeches of this type.  Before World War II, skiers often wore knickerbockers too, usually ankle-length.  Until after World War I, in many English-speaking countries, boys customarily wore short pants in summer and knickerbockers ("knickers" or "knee pants") in winter.   Baseball players wear a stylized form of knickerbockers, although the pants have become less baggy in recent decades and some modern ballplayers opt to pull the trousers close to the ankles. The white trousers worn by American football officials are knickerbockers, and while they have become less baggy, they are still worn ending shortly below the knee. In recent years, the NFL has equipped its officials with long trousers rather than knickers in cold weather.

What are undergarments?

Undergarments are generally of two types, those that are worn to cover the torso and those that are worn to cover the waist and legs, although there are also garments which cover both. Different styles of undergarments are generally worn by females and males. Undergarments commonly worn by females today include bras and panties (known in the United Kingdom as knickers), while males often wear briefs, boxer briefs or boxer shorts. Items commonly worn by both sexes include T-shirts, sleeveless shirts (also called singlets or tank tops), bikini underwear, thongs, and G-strings.

You may have interest in reading more about different styles of underwear.

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