Rosemary Hawthorne The Knicker Lady

Actress reveals how fascination with underwear started.

FORMER Honiton woman Rosemary Hawthorne wants to show you her knickers - but, don’t panic, they are in suitcases.

The RADA trained actress is famous for her one woman show, The Knicker Lady, and recently appeared on BBC1’s The One Show.

Next week, she will be returning to East Devon to give local audiences a taste of her unique brand of comedy which she describes as “a naughty, but nice, romp”.

Ahead of the “very British” one-off performance, the Midweek Herald asked mother-of-seven Rosemary how her fascination with knickers began.

She said it all started when her husband became a clergyman in the Church of England, meaning she was suddenly a vicar’s wife.

“I started to collect clothes, because there was plenty of space in rectories,” she said.

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“I had won a costume competition while at RADA and I was brought up in London with a mother whose job involved working with models and fashion.

“There is a bit of showmanship about clothes and there is a strong connection between fashion and entertainment.”

Rosemary was pushing a pram and carrying shopping through a market one day when a friend, who had a stall, produced a pair of drawers and invited her to look at them. She ended up using some of her shopping money to buy the knickers.

As her collection of underwear grew, she concentrated on examples from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Rosemary, who lived in High Street for more than three years, said: “I can look at and handle things in my collection. You can’t always do that in a museum. I can pick things up and look at them and see how they are made.”

Eventually, Rosemary was invited to give talks about her collection and went on to write a book. “A student once asked me where the word bloomers came from,” she said. “I explained and she suggested I should write a book.

“Although I am passionate about top clothes, I became known as ‘The Knicker Lady’. When people booked me for talks, they would ask: ‘Can you show us your knickers?’ I then started to get offers to turn it into a show, because it is a fun subject. I had to write a script and was booked to go on mini tours.”

Because Rosemary’s work took her mainly to other parts of the country, she and her husband left Honiton.

On Friday, June 10, Rosemary Hawthorne The Knicker Lady will be performing a one-off show at Seaton Town Hall.

“I won’t be wearing the knickers, but they are the stars of the show,” she said. “It is a humorous social history of women’s lives - a romp. I’m never too serious. Naughty, but nice.”

The two act show, with an interval, is all about the correlation between times in history and women’s roles in society.

“The garments provide a hint to what was going on in women’s lives at the time. It is very British,” said Rosemary.

Although her work took her away from Honiton, Rosemary has never forgotten what drew her to the town.

“It was the people, the town - its architecture , bustling streets and lots of antique shops,” she said.

“I loved it and it felt like home. I made some lovely friends there.”

Tickets for the show are on sale now, priced �12. The box office can be contacted on (01297) 625699.