Knit underwear for women was nothing new in the thirties, but it lost its strictly utilitarian appearance by featuring stripes and plaids, as shown by these lingerie ads. Van Raalte, a major manufacturer of rayon/silk knits, was even featured by Ivory Soap Flakes in this color ad:
The model is swearing a “Singlette,” which, according to another ad, “rounds the bust and smooths the waistline.” The Singlette was recommended for wear under evening clothes, since it gave a smooth line from bust to hip. It cost $2 in 1937.
Under the bias satin evening gowns of the thirties, a perfectly smooth undergarment would be preferable to the lavish lace-trimmed underwear of the twenties, but plain knit undies looked stodgy and utilitarian. Striped fabric (which Van Raalte called “Stryps”) may have been an attempt to be both decorative and sleek.
In 1937, a new style of Stryps panties is shown, with a snug band around the upper thigh instead of the loosely fitting tap pants style. These are more like briefs.
You could get Stryps pajamas, too.This ad reminds us that Stryps lingerie was available in many colors…
… “Petal Pink, Azure, Maize, Nile, Sun Orange, Coral, French Blue, Flame, White and Black.” The slip was available in two lengths. At a time when many families were living on $18 per week, Van Raalte underwear was moderately luxurious. A suggested budget for a college girl (1936) allowed 35 cents for a brassiere and 60 cents for a nightgown or slip — far less than the 75 cents or two dollars Stryps garments cost.
However, they must have been popular, because Munsingwear, a rival in the field of knit underwear, offered its own striped lingerie:In addition to striped undies and nighties, Van Raalte offered a line of plaid lingerie called “Kiltees.”
The “smooth, figure-moulding” singlette appears to act as a panties and bra combination, replacing the “envelope chemise,” the teddy, the “combination,” or “step-ins.” Click here for a gorgeous teddy.
The wide selection of colors, stripes, and plaids in these 1930’s undies surprised me. When Formfit Rogers collaborated with Emilio Pucci to create wildly patterned and colorful slips in the 1960’s, I felt quite daring! (I couldn’t afford the Pucci, but of course, there were copies.)
Incidentally, I have been searching for a photo of vintage Van Raalte Stryps or Kiltees garments — without success. I didn’t even find these ads online under “Van Raalte ad 1930s.” If you have encountered one of these garments, I hope these pictures help identify it. [Maybe they did not survive. Lastex is not mentioned in the ads, but there is s suggestion of “figure-moulding.” Perhaps some Stryps fabric had a rubber content that did not age well?] Comments welcomed!