Category Archives: Maternity clothes

The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings

Pantyhose from Sears, Roebuck. 1960.

The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings

Further reading: I am indebted to this excellent article about the history of L’Eggs and pantyhose in general by Jake Rossen at Mentalfloss. For the story of how pantyhose were invented, see this article in Smithsonian.

1959: McCall 4936, maternity pattern. According to Smithsonian, panty hose were invented because pregnant women found the garter belt or girdle too uncomfortable.

Pantyhose (sheer, stretch tights) were available in 1959, but not in all markets, and not in all sizes. There wasn’t much demand for them, because skirt hems were still mid-calf in the late fifties, so the thick stocking tops and garters we wore were not likely to show.

Dresses this long hid the tops of our stockings and “garter bumps” quite adequately. No need for pantyhose.

Also, really stretchy stockings didn’t exist yet.

Seamless stretch nylon stockings from Sears; Spring 1958.

Opaque tights from Sears, Fall 1959 catalog.

Opaque tights from Sears, Fall 1959 catalog. Popular for winter sports and dance classes.

Opaque tights were available before 1959, but for most women of my generation (and those before) wearing sheer stockings with seams up the back marked the beginning of adulthood. In 1958, I was in eighth grade, and “dress up” clothing suddenly included seamed stockings (held up by a garter belt) and shoes with “high” heels.

If you were born in the 1960s or later, you may not believe how hard it was to buy stockings in the 1950s (and earlier.)

1) Most stores were not open on Sundays. In a country where most citizens were nominally Christian, Sunday was the official Sabbath, and most businesses (except for essential services like hospitals) did not buy or sell products or require employees to work on the Sabbath. Buying or selling on the Sabbath was generally against the law. Saturday had been the “market” day for centuries; weekdays were also shopping days, but not as they are now because….

2) Even in big cities, stores were not open after 5:30 or 6 p.m. “Designated shopping nite” was a very Big Deal in my childhood circa 1950 when all the major department and clothing stores in downtown San Francisco agreed to stay open until 8 p.m. — every Thursday night. (That’s right, they were open late once a week.)

Working women might have a chance to shop during their lunch break, if they worked near the stores. But a run in your last pair of stockings was a small crisis: When and where could you buy new ones?

“It was 1968, and the recently-appointed president of Hanes Hosiery Mill Co. observed a growing number of pantyhose customers were grabbing cheap stockings at grocery stores for the sake of convenience. While a woman might shop for food multiple times a week, she would likely only head to a department store once every month or two. Rather than wait, she would purchase undergarments when it was most convenient.” — Jake Rossen

When grocery stores and supermarkets began staying open at night, and they began to sell hosiery, the lives of working women took a turn for the better. This was mostly possible because improved technology gave us really stretchy stockings and tights.

Cling-alon seamless stretch pantyhose from Sears really were stretchy: only three women’s sizes were needed.

Cling-alon size chart, Sears, 1968. The women’s sizes are Petite, Average, and Tall. (The sizes at top are for girls.)

Improved stretch meant that stores no longer had to carry stockings in eighteen sizes.

Companies like Hanes made L’Eggs pantyhose specifically packaged to be sold in supermarkets. The improved stretch meant you no longer needed to sell stockings in seven sizes and four lengths. Basic L’Eggs came in just four sizes, but they fit a really big range of heights and weights. Stores were happy that a display of the full range of L’Eggs colors and sizes took up less shelf space than a display of canned olives or jelly. And working women like me could pick them up any night on the way home from work! No more Saturday trips to a department store. No more panicky mornings when I got a run in my last pair of hose.

Cotton Crotch Introduced

One problem: women who adopted the new stretch-nylon pantyhose soon began advising their friends that the nylon did not let moisture evaporate as silk or cotton underwear did. We advised each other to wear cotton briefs under nylon pantyhose to avoid unpleasant rashes and worse. Soon the manufacturers figured it out, and began making pantyhose with “cotton crotch” proudly specified on the package labels.

Thigh Bulge and Garter Bumps Eliminated

Pantyhose did eliminate a problem for women whose legs were not slim and muscular: with the old stocking suspended from one garter in front and one in back, the stocking top would sag, leaving an unpleasant bulge of flesh at the top.

Stocking tops sag at the sides in this illustration from 1930.

This model has lovely legs, but you can see how the stocking top is curving downward at the inside of the thigh. For women who didn’t have slim, firm thighs, the flesh bulged out over the stocking tops. In hot weather the bulges rubbed together, which was especially unpleasant.

Also, the garters themselves had a rubbery part that went inside the stocking, and a metal part that went outside the stocking.

When you sat, the metal dug into your leg at the back, and the rubber part created a bump in front that was visible through light-weight dress fabrics.

Garters could be purchased separately and attached to elastic loops on the girdle.

The metal garter was detachable and inserted through these loops.

With pantyhose: Bliss! — no more garter belts or panty-girdles.  And no bulges.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Maternity clothes, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

A Visit to January 1920, from Delineator Magazine

Ice skaters in an ad for Ivory Flakes laundry soap. Delineator, January 1920, page 4.

One hundred years ago, the January Delineator offered Butterick patterns, advice for the working girl (and her mother), sketches of Paris couture, and all kinds of advertisements. Enter the time capsule:

French couture from Doucet and Paquin. January 1920.

Butterick sewing patterns inspired by French designer styles.

Butterick sewing patterns, January 1920.

These are not what we usually think of when we hear “Twenties’ style,” but the decade was just getting started. Page three began an essay on the dangers awaiting naive young women who went out to work in offices….

“A Warning for Business Women…”

The “young, ignorant girl” applies for a job….

Her boss tells her that “he would go mad unless he could find a young girl who could understand him and care for him….”

Here, he offers her alcohol….****

And then, he escorts her home….

Her mother needs to warn her…. (Author: Josephine Stricker)

It was 100 years ago, but all of this sounds painfully familiar in the 21st century. At least we now acknowledge that saying ‘no” isn’t always enough.

If you had to work as a housemaid, the difficulties might be considerable. This little article about the life of a housemaid in England shows that even Delineator was shocked by their working conditions:

Delineator was aimed at middle and (aspiring) upper class women, but the plight of British housemaids was shocking.

Back to fashion: These Butterick patterns for misses (age 14 to 19, in most cases) show a hint of what women wore in the later 1920s:

A selection of Butterick patterns for misses in their teens. The schoolgirl’s outfit at right shows the straight, low-waisted trend of the future.

Dresses for grown women also offered some styles without exaggerated hips:

Daytime styles for women from Butterick, January 1920.

The bare arms of evening dresses, even for girls in their teens, surprised me. For more “very bare” gowns from 1920, click here.

For young men returning from WW I, these uncorseted young women in bare-armed dresses must have been a pleasant surprise.

What did women do about underarm hair?

Ad for DeMiracle hair remover, January 1920.

A prized gift in 1920 was a “Spanish comb,” often made from celluloid, “the first synthetic plastic material.  In this ad, a celebrity endorsing fingernail powder (yes, nails were buffed to a shine by most women) wears a Spanish comb:

Actress Kitty Gordon wears a Spanish comb in her hair while endorsing Graff’s Hyglo powder nail polish.

More Spanish combs. These are from 1922.

You could order your camisoles, nightgowns, bloomers, and combinations from Dove and other companies.

Ad for Dove Undergarments, January 1920.

WW I had made knitting more popular than ever; this is an ad for Fleischer yarns:

Knit yourself this aqua sweater with Fleischer Yarns.

The obsession with boyish figures has not yet appeared.

You could wash your woolens and fine lingerie with Ivory Soap Flakes.

Well into the Twenties, women shaved their own soap flakes from bar soap, so this was a modern convenience product.

Also convenient: Rubber shoe covers.

Rubber shoe covers slipped on over your shoes in 1920. The shoes might be worn with gaiters that laced up the front. Some shoes had built-in gaiters.

Later in the 1920s, the B.F.Goodrich rubber company introduced a winter shoe cover with a slide fastener closing, giving us the word “Zipper.”

Mothers could find ads for maternity corsets in 1920:

The H & W maternity corset ad, January 1920.

And safety pins had been around for over a century:

Changing diapers was easier after the rust-proof safety pin became widely available. January 1920 ad.

It was appropriate that a magazine designed to sell sewing patterns should have ads for sewing machines.

The Davis sewing machine was portable and electric.

The Davis portable electric sewing machine was operated by a foot pedal. [I made clothes on a (non-electric) treadle sewing machine in the 1960s. Wish I still had one, even though it took up a lot of room.]

This ad should hold a special interest for all us who love Daphne DuMaurier’s novel Rebecca. In a scene often described as the most un-romantic marriage proposal ever, Maxim de Winter includes the information that “I prefer Eno’s.”

Ad for Eno’s Fruit Salts, a laxative. January 1920.

(Let’s hope it wasn’t the Washington Monument in this ad that attracted his attention.)

Eno’s Fruit Salts ad, January 1920.

To see the marriage proposal scene from the excellent (and faithful) 1979 TV adaptation of Rebecca, starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett, click here.

**** I am irresistibly reminded of the limerick about “the young lady of Kent/ who said that she knew what it meant/ when men asked her to dine/ over cocktails and wine….” Perhaps her mother had explained it to her after reading the article in Delineator.

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Filed under 1920s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Maternity clothes, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Binge-Watching The Pallisers: A Guilty Pleasure

From a late episode of The Pallisers, a 26 part TV series available on DVD. Picture copyright of BBC via the International Movie Database.

A Guilty Pleasure ….because I couldn’t watch just one!

I took a hard fall in September and wasn’t able to sit at a desk for several weeks. Fortunately, I had purchased the first six episodes of the 1974 BBC series The Pallisers and finally got around to watching them when I was spending my days in the recliner. After the first six, I definitely wanted more!

Thank heaven I eventually found the entire series on YouTube — all 26 glorious episodes.

If you want better picture quality, the 40th Anniversary reissued edition won’t fit in your Christmas stocking, but ask Santa, anyway. (Under $50 for over 20 hours of entertainment.)

It may take you a few episodes to get addicted to the plot; meanwhile the excellent costumes will keep you intrigued — although I was hooked by an early episode in which two horrible old Victorian ladies explain that, after her forced marriage produces an heir to the dukedom, a married woman is permitted to follow her own inclinations….

The novels on which the series is based cover several decades of fictionalized English history.  Anthony Trollope, who published them between 1864 and 1879, was as cynical about the workings of Parliament as he was about romance.

The costumes, therefore, progress from crinolines to bustles, and (surprisingly) through several pregnancies. Yes, the ladies have zippers down their backs — They are wearing costumes, and costumes are made to be re-used as rentals. But they are lavish and character oriented, as well as befitting a duchess and her circle of acquaintances. (And Susan Hampshire has always worn period costumes  — any period! — with complete naturalness.)  Raymond Hughes is the only costume designer credited. It was a massive undertaking.

Cover of the re-issued DVD series — 26 glorious episodes. Image copyright BBC and Acorn via Amazon.

Will passionate, romantic Cora give up the man she loves to marry the stiff, unemotional heir to a Dukedom, as their families have arranged? If so, will she be faithful? Will her husband survive a career in politics and marriage to Cora with his (and her) honor intact?

Can the son of an Irish country doctor afford to be a Member of Parliament — and how many women will be sacrificed to his ambition? (Money and Politics — still a timely topic! Ditto, Love and Loyalty.)

Will a slimy newspaper editor with political ambitions ruin men and women while paving his own way to power? (Long before the internet!)

Will the next set of costumes be even more lavish than the last?

I started watching for the costumes, and ended up unable to ration myself just one episode per day. (“I’ve been sitting her for three hours? even though I haven’t had dinner? How could I?”

But I regard those 20 hours in the recliner as time well spent. One quibble: not all the actresses were corseted properly. Nevertheless…. I loved it.

(P.S. I am walking normally now.)

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 19th century, Late Victorian fashions, Maternity clothes, Menswear, Mid-Victorian fashions, Musings, Resources for Costumers

Ferris Corsets for Women and Girls, 1914, 1917 and 1910

Mother and daughter both wear Ferris Corsets in this ad from March, 1914. Delineator, page 65.

The Ferris Corset Waist was often stiffened by channels of cording, rather than exclusively by steel bones. In its day, it was a sort of “reform” or “good sense” garment, more flexible and less rigid than the usual boned corset. Nevertheless, it’s dismaying to read:

“Made in more than 100 styles to properly fit all ages, infants to adults.” Ad for the Ferris Waist; Delineator, March 1914.

The full ad for Ferris Waists, March 1914.

The girls at the bottom seem to be teens. The one at left appears to be leaning forward while using some kind of exercise equipment.

The tiny waist at left seems more 1910 than 1914. It may have been a “sport” corset.

The straps help to “teach” correct posture — and hold up your stockings. Even young girls needed something to hold their stockings up… especially when they were too young to have a waist and hips.

Text of Ferris ad, March 1914. “Ferris Waists take the place of corsets.”

Two girls wear Ferris waists in this ad from April 1917.

Ferris Good Sense Corset Waists were “lightly boned and  beautifully corded” to naturally develop the growing body into a more perfect figure in later years.” Ad from April 1917. Delineator.

Ad from May, 1914, featuring a maternity corset. Maternity corsets were sold by several companies, including Lane Bryant [click here to read more about Lane Bryant;]  Sears, Roebuck; and Berthe May.

Ferris Maternity Corset, May 1914. Delineator, page 73. [Why is she wearing her slip under her corset? Because the upper thigh was not usually shown in ads even in the 1950’s, which always led me to wonder how those stocking suspenders reached the stocking tops.]

A rival to the Ferris maternity corset was this more traditional boned corset from Berthe May. January 1914, Delineator. It “allows one to dress as usual and preserve a normal appearance.”

In this ad from 1910, Ferris assured buyers that their products were made “under the cleanest conditions.”

Ferris assured women that the Ferris Good Sense corset waist was not made by exploiting women workers in sweatshop conditions or by piecework in tenements. Ferris ad, 1910.

However, this Ferris maternity corset from 1910 does show fashionable constriction of the waist:

A Ferris Good Sense maternity corset/waist from 1910 clearly was intended to maintain the then-fashionable hourglass figure as long as possible.

Ad for Ferris Waists from Delineator, May, 1910.

Ferris ad, May 1910.

“Good sense” or not, corset-wearing started early:

Ferris Good Sense Corsets for girls, starting at age 6 months. If it buttoned up the back, a girl couldn’t get out of it without help.

Ferris Good Sense corsets for girls and teens, 7 to 15 years old. “[…Pleated] busts soft as silk. Specially adapted to growing girls 11 to 15 of slender form.”

Ferris waist for girls 12 to 17. May 1910 ad.

Those hose supporters (stocking suspenders) are really long!

An adult corset from 1910 sold by waist size: 19 to 30 inches. Ferris ad, Delineator, May 1910.

You can read more about the Ferris Brothers here.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Children's Vintage styles, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Hosiery, Hosiery, Maternity clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, World War I

A Mother’s Day Meditation on My Mother’s Hair (and Maternity,) 1940s

An evening hairstyle from a Vogue fashion flyer, May, 1939.

My mother’s friends joked about her vanity, calling her “glamourpuss,” but she stayed with this 1939 hairstyle for at least ten years.

My mother’s hair, worn in two rolls over her forehead from the late 1930s until about 1950.

I’ll admit, it suited her. In this picture, she’s dressed for the Fourth of July, always a big occasion in our town, with a parade and rodeo.

Edit: 4/10/19:  Glamourdaze has posted a 1943 photo of actress Patricia Morison wearing this professionally styled version of the same hairdo. Click here to see more “victory rolls.”

Her hair, without a hat.

If you’re interested in World War II era hairstyles, I can tell you  how she did hers:  she parted it down the center from forehead to nape, then sectioned off the front. In back, her very long hair was braided into two braids, each long enough to wrap over the top of her head, or around the base, from ear to ear and back, where the ends were tucked neatly under the wide part of the braid. The braids were kept in place with both bobby pins and hairpins, as needed. The rolls were curled in toward the center and secured with pins.  Oddly, I never saw hairspray until the 1950s. She didn’t use it.

The style worked well with hats, and, until I came along, she worked as a secretary for a tobacco company in San Francisco, so she wore a hat to work every day, commuting by train.

My mother in a wide hat, during World War II

Although she had been one of the first girls in town to bob her hair in the early 1920s, she didn’t adopt a short 1950’s Toni perm until a radical mastectomy made it impossible for her to raise both arms over her head.  She couldn’t manage this braided hairstyle any more. Although she hated to cut her long hair, in fact the perm made her look much more youthful because it wasn’t an outdated style, but the latest thing. But that’s not why I’m writing this for Mother’s Day.

While looking through old photos for examples of this hairstyle — which I was stunned to actually find illustrated in that Vogue fashion flyer…

My mother wore her hair in the style illustrated with this 1930’s evening gown pattern from Vogue.

… I was equally surprised to find this photograph of my mother (and me.) I’ve been writing about maternity fashions of the twenties, thirties, and forties. And here is my mother wearing a smock, a few months before I was born:

Maternity wear, 1945. Before motherhood, her hair was a long pageboy in back. Once she had a baby to take care of, she grew long braids and pinned them up.

The fact that this photo exists surprises me. I remember overhearing her bragging that out-of-town friends who came to visit her when she was six months pregnant didn’t realize that she was expecting a baby. (My cynical adult self wonders if they were too polite to mention her weight gain.) On the other hand, no one expected her to have her first child at the age of forty. Also, this was a period when fashion magazines still advised pregnant women to be “inconspicuous” — it wasn’t until Lucille Ball wore maternity clothes on America’s most popular TV show in 1952 that the media stopped being embarrassed by visible pregnancy. The Post-War baby boom ushered in attractive maternity clothing — clothing that celebrated instead of concealing. But that’s a topic I mentioned in my last post.

Probably because my existence put a new financial strain on the household, I don’t think my mother — now that she didn’t have an office job in The City — allowed herself many fashion extravagances. Nevertheless, here we are around 1946. She still looks good in a hat:

My mother, a proud parent at age 41. Her hat has a veil, her knee-length coordinating dress is decorated with metal studs, her figure is back to normal, and her love of pretty new clothing seems to be directed at her offspring’s outfit. 1946 or 1947.

To everyone who makes those willing sacrifices — Happy Mother’s Day.

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Hairstyles, Hats, Maternity clothes, Musings, vintage photographs

Asian-Influenced Maternity Pattern, 1956

This chic maternity pattern appeared in the Butterick Fashion News store flyer in June, 1956.

Butterick 7795, a maternity pattern from June, 1956. Available in three versions.

[I apologize for the poor quality photos — my new computer won’t run my old photo program!]

Pattern description for Butterick 7795, from 1956.

The sleeveless version of Butterick 7795 was illustrated in pale green. The dress at left was for “Expecting company.”

The “Party time” version was a skirt and blouse with three-quarter sleeves and side slits; brocade material was recommended.

A glamorous Asian-influenced brocade maternity outfit for parties. 1956.

These 1950’s outfits — which assume that the mother-to-be will lead a normal life, entertaining, shopping, attending parties — are a refreshing contrast to the attitude of previous decades, which suggested that pregnancy should be concealed as long as possible, and that a pregnant woman should try not to attract attention in public. (See Who Would Ever Guess? (1930’s), Some Maternity Clothes of the 1920’s and 1930’s, and Maternity Fashions for December 1942, etc.)

1934 march p 80 lane bryant maternity catalog

“Designed to conceal condition,” 1934.

I remember the maternity fashions of my own childhood, the fifties, as being pretty — and making the wearer look pretty, too — distinct from the tight-waisted dresses of those days, but available in many versions, from “suitable for church” to “picnic in the back yard,” which included trousers instead of the narrow pencil skirts worn in public. (Trousers were strictly casual — not for school or PTA meetings.) This McCall pattern is from 1959.

McCall maternity pattern 4936, dated 1959. A pencil skirt, tapered “Capri” pants, and Bermuda shorts were included.

Back of pattern envelope, McCall 4936. From 1959. The “kangaroo” front of the pencil skirt and the waist of the trousers are adjustable.

There is no nonsense about concealing pregnancy in these fifties’ outfits. Hooray!

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Maternity clothes, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Maternity Patterns from 1907

Top of a full page article about Maternity styles from Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1907, top of page 60.

Since Mother’s Day is approaching, this 1907 article about maternity fashions from the Ladies’ Home Journal seems appropriate. I accessed this article through ProQuest. The images were very faint and the text hard to read, so I have enhanced them.

A surprise on the same page was this 1907 advertisement for a “book” of maternity skirts, from Beyer and Williams Co., which could be purchased “made to order.” Lane Bryant is usually thought of as creating this niche market.

Ad for Fine-Form Maternity Skirt catalog, Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1907, p. 60. “If not in need of a maternity skirt, remember our famous B & W dress and walking skirts….”

Back to the maternity patterns and advice available from Ladies’ Home Journal:

Since pregnancy was not mentioned in polite society, and was usually concealed as long as possible, 1907 maternity clothes looked as much as possible like current fashions. Ladies’ Home Journal patterns 2914 (bodice) and 2915 (skirt.)

The bodice was “designed by R.C. Pond,” the skirt by E. L. Phelps, and the drawings were by Anna W. Speakman. [Sometimes the ProQuest search terms are yellow-highlighted so thoroughly that the word is obscured.]

 

Back view of 1907 maternity bodice and skirt; LHJ patterns 2914 & 2915. [Here, “girdle” means belt or sash.]

Maternity clothing should be “inconspicuous in color, dark blue and black being preferable.” “Albatross” fabric could be worsted or cotton.

The bodice was adjustable:

The drawing shows the laced-up under-bodice and the hook and eye, side front  closings of the fashion fabric. [“Waist” is another word for “bodice.”]

The inner lining or foundation was tightly fitted, but laced up on each side of the front, so it could expand as needed. The fashion fabric was pleated and it also expanded. How it was possible to maintain the fashionable S-curve silhouette is not discussed.

“Maternity waist [i. e., bodice]” LHJ pattern No. 2914.

At left, an illustration of the expandable waist of the ten-gored skirt, LHJ pattern 2915.

Although the pattern was sold in waist sizes from 24 to 30 inches, the skirt could expand as much as fourteen inches at the waist and more at the hip.

Undergarments were also important; there is an emphasis on light-weight fabrics, since the usual layers of ruffled petticoats of 1907 could be heavy enough to cause a backache, even if the wearer was not pregnant.

Maternity undergarments, Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1907, bottom of p. 60. Tucks running around the petticoat and drawers could be let out as the front hem was pulled up by the baby bump.

Petticoat pattern 2913 description, LHJ, January 1907.

LHJ pattern 2913 for maternity undergarments, designed by H. C. Routery. 1907.

As an expanding abdomen lifted the skirt in front, the entire flounce could be lowered. From what I have seen, this problem was completely ignored by maternity dresses in the 1930’s.

Description of maternity corset cover pattern, LHJ 2911.

A maternity corset cover and maternity drawers (underpants), LHJ patterns 2911 and 2912 from 1907.

Description of maternity drawers pattern 2912, LHJ, Jan. 1907, p. 60.

There is the expectation that, after the baby is born, its mother will want to continue wearing these garments — they can be returned to her pre-baby size. Of course, most women probably did resort to wearing a “wrapper” housedress during the later months.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Maternity clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage patterns