Traditionally, fashion rarely made allowances for pregnancy.
“New models … have the effect of the uncorseted figure”? Well, not exactly….
That American Lady corset ad above (showing the corset which is under her dress) shows the fashionable figure for 1912 — obviously not a good year to be pregnant if you were a slave to fashion.
“Gives a trim and stylish figure — without the slightest endangerment to the well-being of either the mother or the child…. Particularly desirable in convalescence or after surgery.”– H&W maternity corset ad, 1912.
My grandmother, born in 1875, was still wearing a long corset like that fashionable “American Lady” when I shared her bedroom in 1950. It was true that women who had grown up wearing corsets did not have well-developed “core” strength — and they certainly couldn’t do sit-ups in one of those corsets! So, they did experience backaches if they tried to go without the support they were used to.
Even when pregnant, they thought they needed a corset. And maybe they did…. I’ve never been pregnant, so reader comments are welcome. You can still buy a stretchy support garment — does it help that aching back?
Lane Bryant (actually, the woman behind the stores was Lena Bryant) was an early — but not the only — company catering to pregnant women in the 1910s.
There was still a suggestion that pregnancy ought to be concealed — imperceptible — as long as possible.
This H & W maternity corset from 1920 promised a “stylish appearance” and “safety for the little one.”
In 1924, you could buy a Butterick pattern and make your own maternity belt / abdominal supporter.
In 1927, Vogue magazine was recommending these:
The Sears, Roebuck catalog for 1930 showed several maternity corsets — in keeping with 1920’s styles — and, yes, a supportive “breast binder.”
They were still around in 1938:
In a 1935 article called “Heir Apparent,” Vogue explained the choices in maternity undergarments; by then, corsets were only recommended for women who “habitually” wore girdles or who had weak abdominal muscles.
Corsets for abdominal support were also sold for women whose jobs required heavy work — “war work” for many women in factories and munitions plants.
I didn’t find many maternity corsets in Sears catalogs after 1945 — but perhaps I didn’t look hard enough. Or perhaps in the Post-War baby boom, women no longer felt they had to hide their condition from public view.
Quite a change from this “maternity skirt” from 1907: