After writing about the use of golf to promote everything from laundry soap to deodorant in September of 1924, I went to the library to finish reading the bound Delineators from 1917 and found this image of a lady in her underwear holding a putter. (I may be wrong about the golf club’s name. I’ve only played golf once, over 50 years ago.) If asked to name the least flattering period of women’s clothing, ever, I would say “World War I;” these corsets, brassieres, and bust-confiners do nothing to dissuade me.
Corsets for Sports, 1917
It would be fun to make up stories about why this lady is so interested in the golf club that she has just found in her boudoir, but it’s not a clue in a murder mystery; the illustrator probably put it there to indicate that this is a corset for “sports, motoring and dancing, ” “lightly boned and made flexible with rubber gores that give and take.” The corset is shown worn over her bloomers. Judging from the two pairs of straps on her shoulders, she is wearing a corset cover over either a brassiere or a bust-confiner. Her shoes are also interesting; her stockings are held up by her corset, so these straps are not garters, but part of the lady’s boots:
This is a lighter sports corset — on a less substantial woman — from the same article:
The riding crop on the bench, plus the bowler hat — assuming it belongs to the lady — suggest she is going horseback riding. “The bust is very low” indeed, even though her arms are raised.
Brassieres and Bust-Confiners, 1917
The brassiere of 1917 created a mono-bosom, and contributed to the sagging bustline that was illustrated in fashions for young women as well as for matrons.
The stout lady in this illustration is wearing a heavy linen brassiere with her front-lacing corset:
The front-lacing corset was still new. “With the present low bust the corset only takes care of the lower part of the figure. The upper part is no longer corseted by the corset but by a brassiere or bust-confiner. The new brassieres are quite lovely. For stout figures they are made of heavy linen and heavy lace in the filet and Cluny patterns. They come right to the waistline and are boned lightly but firmly. The stout woman has to wear a brassiere. . . . Slender women wear either a brassiere or bust-confiner of silk tricot, crepe de Chine, net or satin ribbon. Under the very thin Georgette crepe blouses and dresses, with only a thin silk shirt and a satin camisole between you and your dress, the bust-confiner is absolutely necessary for even the most slender and undeveloped figures.” A few years later, the brassiere and the bust-confiner had evolved into bust flatteners and bandeaux. Click here for more about early 1920s bandeaux and corsets.
This article about underwear was titled “First Line of Defense of the Figure.” After the U.S. entered the war in 1917, military terms were constantly used by Delineator editors in fashion coverage, in a way that I find shocking today. Of course, the World War I images of horrific slaughter which we have seen were censored and suppressed at the time, so whimsical references to “manouevres,” “holding the line,” and “going over the top” were perhaps not so tasteless then. Perhaps.
6 responses to “Golf and Corsets, 1917”
What interesting attention to language! For some reason, I never considered the origins of “over the top.”
“Going over the top” meant rushing out of your trench into a hail of machinegun fire, etc. Casualties were often very high, and the soldiers ordered to go over the top were well aware that many would be killed or injured. And the “war to end all wars” didn’t.
Interesting! Today a magazine would be criticized highly for making such war-related puns. The Vogue photo shoot about Hurricane Sandy damage comes to mind.
As for the golf club in the boudoir; perhaps she just found the 1917 equivalent of her husband’s text messages to his girl friend and she is preparing to chase him from the house and smash the windows of his Pierce Arrow. (Sorry, but I could not resist!)
I love your story! Thanks for the laugh.
Lovely article, thank you! I’ve just found this site, so I am a bit late in my comment. To understand golf corsets we should remember that the “normal” corset at this time was long, stiff and confining. Certainly not the wasp waist, but still quite tight. Certainly swinging a golf club in a traditional corset would have been difficult – the corset was there to stop unladlylike movements!
For the respectable lady a corset was absolutely essential – it controlled not only her shape, but also posture, sitting and walking. Therefore easier corsets were necessary for motoring, sports and riding. Some flappers gave up corsets completely – and made the headlines doing it. Golf corsets were a considerable step towards freedom.
Thanks! One reason I started this blog is that I found so many interesting ads and articles about corsets in old copies of Delineator magazine. If you search this site for “corset” or “bra” you’ll find lots of pictures of underwear ads from the 1920s and earlier. When I was a girl, women still wore corsets or “Merry Widows” — and, having worn a girdle and stockings to class as a teen, I really appreciated the switch to pantyhose and tights in the 1960s!