Underpinning Twenties Fashions: Girdles and Corsets

Frances Clyne dress, Gossard elastic Step-in girdle, original photo by Steichen

Frances Clyne dress, Gossard elastic Step-in girdle, original photo by Steichen

Flat in Front, Flat in Back

Bien Jolie Flexible Corsette ad, July 1924

Bien Jolie Flexible Corsette ad, July 1924

In our breast-obsessed culture — the culture of push-up bras, cleavage, silicone, and breast augmentation surgery – we are bewildered by the early 1920s fashion ideal, which emphasized a curve-free, flat-chested silhouette.

Most people have heard that women “bound their breasts” to achieve a boyish figure.  (I always pictured Ace bandages used like mummy wrappings, but I now know better. I’ll be showing some 1920s brassieres in a later post.)

This ad for a corsette or corselet, as they were sometimes called, shows a lightly boned combination brassiere and girdle creating the ideal silhouette of the early 20s.

What we forget is that the ideal twenties figure was as flat in back as it was in front.

Warner's Wrap-Around Corset Ad, 1925

Warner’s Wrap-Around Corset Ad, 1925

Even slender women required some help in achieving an unnaturally flattened bottom.

500 1925 april p 69 bon ton corset photo

Illustration of a woman having a dress fitted, from an ad for Bon Ton Corsets, April 1925.

500 bonton corset ad april 1925 wide

Two corsets from the same ad for Bon Ton Corsets, Delineator, April 1925.

Sports Girdle, 1924

Warren's Featherbone Girdle for Sports, 1924

Warren’s Featherbone Girdle for Sports, 1924

This Warren’s “Featherbone” sports girdle was for active women, but its “flat back is a noteworthy feature.”

Treo Girdle Ad, May 1925 (Click to Enlarge)

Treo Girdle Ad, May 1925 (Click to Enlarge)

You can compare it with this 1925 Treo girdle for average figures.

The Warren’s Featherbone allows the legs to move more easily, but does not allow for any development of the gluteal muscles.

Back Flattening Corsets for Larger Women

Larger women needed more help.1924 dec p 68 flattening corset top

1924 dec p 81 just bon ton corset flat“The full-figured woman may easily attain the stylish flat back and slender, youthful lines with …specially designed Bon Ton Round-U corsets…. Model 886 is a special design for excessive hips and lower back … [with] wide sections of substantial elastic beneath the corset which checks, controls, and reduces superfluous flesh and creates much desired lines of fashion.”1924 april short photo H W flattening corset p 111

An H & W girdle from 1924 “gives a perfect contour by holding down the hip and holding in the abdomen.” At $10.00, it is also expensive. The average working woman earned less than $30 a week in the 1920s. (Source: Uplift, by Beck and Gau,  p. 39)

Average Measurements, 1925

The 1925 Gossard girdle advertisement, with its embroidered dress from Frances Clyne, which appears at the top of this post contained this description of “average measurements” for an American Girl, 5′ 4″: chest 34″, waist 26″, hips 35″. Presumably, she was wearing a girdle. flat with measurement text


Filed under 1920s, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

13 responses to “Underpinning Twenties Fashions: Girdles and Corsets

  1. Fascinating! I hadn’t thought about the backside of the twenties look.

  2. Pingback: Underpinning the 1920s: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners | witness2fashion

  3. Pingback: Not All Flappers Wanted to Be Flat in the 1920s | witness2fashion

  4. Pingback: Golf and Corsets, 1917 | witness2fashion

  5. Pingback: How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 1: Wear a Corset or Corselette | witness2fashion

  6. Pingback: Changing the Foundations of Fashion: 1929 to 1934 | witness2fashion

  7. Hello!
    My name is Sue Langley and one of my ancestors was EK Warren, who started the Warren Featherbone Company in Three oaks Michigan. When I discovered this fact, while researching our family, and heard the story,…I laughed…using turkey feathers for ‘boning?’

    But then I found this write-up and realized the significance of using much lighter weight and flexible material as feathers to replace the heavy and unrelenting stiffness of whale bone.
    I post the link here as you may be interested!

  8. Pingback: Persuasive Ads for Spencer Corsets, 1930’s | witness2fashion

  9. Pingback: Underneath Those Twenties’ Fashions | witness2fashion

  10. Pingback: Costume Stories – 1920s Fashionable Femme Part 1 – Crooked Stitches

  11. Pingback: More “WTFashion?” Ads from Delineator: Bust Confiners (1900s) to Brassieres (1920s) | witness2fashion

  12. Pingback: From Curved to Straight and Back Again: Corsets 1917 to 1929 | witness2fashion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.