Category Archives: Bras

Modart Corset Ad, March 1928

Ad for Modart Corsets, detail, March 1928, Delineator.

Ad for Modart Corsets, detail, March 1928, Delineator.

This color advertisement for Modart corsets caught my eye. I think it’s aimed at women with a “mature” figure, because the corsets have lace-up features, and appear to be boned.

Closer view of Modart corset No. , from 1928.

Closer view of Modart corset No. 9513, from 1928. It has adjustable laces at the side, and creates the 1920’s tubular silhouette, including a flattened posterior and a flattened bust.

At the bottom of the ad, five other Modart styles were shown.

Five Modart corset styles taken from the bottom of the ad. 1928.

Five Modart corset styles taken from the bottom of the ad. 1928. Notice bandeau [bra] No. 0857, at bottom right; it wouldn’t have offered much support, but it has darts. It’s not a flattener. The bra shown with step-in No. 7012, at top left, has breast separation, described as an “uplift” style.

By 1925, many younger women were wearing less restrictive, un-boned foundation garments called corsolettes or corselets. (There were many spelling variants.) By 1928, Bandeaux and other bust-flattening garments were also on their way out. You can see two bras with bust darts worn with waist-high Modart girdles in this ad. By 1929, the new brassieres gave a more natural look.  Some women wore no bra at all; others were adopting so-called “uplift” styles which had breast separation and a “pocket” for each breast.

But most women still needed an undergarment to suppress their curves and give the fashionable, flat-in-back, narrow silhouette.

Evening dresses from Delineator, March 1928, the same issue as the Modart ad.

Evening dresses from Delineator, March 1928, the same issue as the Modart  Corset ad. From left, the fabrics are lace, moire silk, satin, and a print fabric, probably silk or Georgette.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1936 and Butterick 1946. March, 1928.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1936 and Butterick 1946. March, 1928.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1910 and Butterick 1942. March, 1928.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1910 and Butterick 1942. March, 1928.

Three of these patterns were available in bust measure 44 inches, which meant a hip of 47 1/2 inches.

Text of Modart ad, March 1928. Delineator magazine.

Text of Modart ad, March 1928. Delineator magazine.

“Thousands of women now wear with ease the difficult, simple lines of modern fashion … by wearing Modart foundations. Over the rightly proportioned, supported figure, all types of frocks have a new smartness, a new confidence in fashion.”

The horizontal hip line of 1920’s dresses was likely to make a woman’s body look wider, in spite of the ideal of a slender, youthful silhouette. In fact, some of these French designer fashions for Spring, 1928, are really the opposite of slenderizing.

Sketches of Paris designs by Premet, Philippe et Gaston, [Augusta] Bernard, and Worth. Delineator, March 1928.

Sketches of Paris designs by Premet, Philippe et Gaston, [Augusta] Bernard, and Worth. Delineator, March 1928. The designs by Philippe et Gaston and the House of Worth make even a fashion illustration look like a sack of potatoes.

Sketches of Paris designs by . Delineator, March 1928.

Sketches of Paris designs by Lenief, Bernard, and Premet. Delineator, March 1928.

I have written many posts about women’s undergarments in the nineteen twenties. I linked to some of them in this post, but, if you’re a new subscriber with an interest in the nineteen twenties, you may want to check these titles:

Not All Flappers Wanted to be Flat in the 1920s

How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 1 (Advice from an article dated 1925)

Underpinning the 1920s: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners

Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets

Uplift Changes Brassieres, Part 1

Uplift Changes Brassieres, Part 2

Changing the Foundations of Fashion: 1929 to 1934

If you want to see some lovely full color illustrations of dresses from 1928, click here. If you just love twenties fashions in general, searching this blog for 1928 will turn up many Butterick pattern illustrations from that year.

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

Striped Underwear for Women, 1930’s

Van Raalte Stryps underwear in an ad from Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Van Raalte Stryps underwear in an ad from Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

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:

This ad for Ivory laundry soap featured a striped knit undergarment from Van Raalte. Ladies'Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

This ad for Ivory laundry soap featured a striped knit undergarment from Van Raalte. Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

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.

Van Rallte ad from Woman's Home Companion, November 1936.

Van Raalte STRYPS ad from Woman’s Home Companion, November 1936.

Rayon & silk knit bra and panties set from Van Raalte, WHC, Nov. 1936.

Rayon & silk knit Stryps bra and pantie set from Van Raalte, ad in WHC, Nov. 1936.

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.

Van Raalte Stryps "Jigger pantie" with a Stryps bra and a long nightgown. Ad from WHC, Nov. 1937.

Van Raalte Stryps “Jigger pantie” with a Stryps bra and a long nightgown. Ad from WHC, Nov. 1937.

You could get Stryps pajamas, too.

Van Raalte Stryps ad from WHC, 1937. Bra, panties, nightgown, and pajamas.

Van Raalte Stryps ad from WHC, 1937. Bra, pantie, nightgown, and pajamas.

Prices for Van Ralte Stryps lingerie, from an ad in Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Prices for Van Raalte Stryps lingerie, from an ad in Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1937. “For long wear and successful tubbing.” [i.e., washing.]

This ad reminds us that Stryps lingerie was available in many colors…

Prices and colors for Van Raalte Stryps lingerie, May, 1937.

Prices and colors for Van Raalte Stryps lingerie, May, 1937.

… “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:

Ad for a striped slip from Munsingwear, WHC, April 1937.

Ad for a striped slip from Munsingwear, WHC, April 1937. [When an ad mentions youth, it’s usually aimed at older readers….]

In addition to striped undies and nighties, Van Raalte offered a line of plaid lingerie called “Kiltees.”

A Kiltees nightgown from Van Raalte, April 1937. Ad in Woman's Home Companion.

Kiltees lingerie from Van Raalte, April 1937. Ad in Woman’s Home Companion.

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.

A rayon and silk knit Kiltees nightgown from Van Raalte. Ad in WHC, April 1937.

A rayon and silk knit Kiltees strap-back nightgown from Van Raalte. Ad in WHC, April 1937. It cost $3.00.

Plaid knit undies from Van Raalte ad, WHC, December 1936.

Plaid knit undies in a Van Raalte ad, WHC, December 1936. “Run proof” knits were important to women who had been plagued by runs in their stockings.

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!

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, Bras, lingerie, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings

Some Maternity Clothes of the 1920’s and 1930’s

Ad for Lane Bryant maternity apparel, Vogue, 1920, Feb. 1, pg. 141

Ad for Lane Bryant maternity apparel, Vogue, 1920, Feb. 1, pg. 141

I’ve never been pregnant, so I have no experience with wearing maternity clothes. However, a few weeks ago I was trying to learn to use the ProQuest search engine (courtesy of my public library.) Under “Fashion,” I typed in “maternity.”  I now have quite a collection of articles giving maternity fashion advice from the 1920’s and 1930’s — and haven’t even begun to explore the decades before and after. The emphasis on “concealment” is striking.

Ad for Lane Bryant Maternity catalog, May, 1931.

“Designed to conceal condition and to provide for expansion. “Ad for Lane Bryant Maternity catalog, Good Housekeeping, May, 1931.

“Clothes that are designed solely for maternity wear are apt to look the part, and call attention to a woman’s condition. At this time you do not want to be conspicuous in any way. You want to look as much like other women as possible so there will be nothing to draw notice to you. It is much better to choose current styles that can be adapted to maternity wear and use them in preference to special maternity clothes.” — The New Dressmaker, circa 1921, from Butterick Publishing Company via Hearth.

(Nevertheless, Lane Bryant had been selling maternity clothes since the early 1900s. See the company history at Funding Universe. (Caution from McAfee security about some ads on that site.)

AD for Lane Bryant Maternity catalog, Good Housekeeping, May 1930.

“Dresses and Corsets in latest modes, designed to conceal condition.” Ad for Lane Bryant Maternity catalog, Good Housekeeping, May 1930.

Ad for Lane Bryant maternity catalog, Good Housekeeping, January 1932.

“Maternity apparel with no maternity look… conceals condition.” Ad for Lane Bryant maternity catalog, Good Housekeeping, January 1932.

Of course, clothes that could also be worn after the baby was born were a good thing for the budget.

Confinement: Confined to Home

I’ve read enough Victorian novels to realize that women in the upper levels of society were expected to stop appearing in public once their condition became obvious — perhaps because contemporary fashion simply couldn’t accommodate an eight or nine-month baby bump, but also because this evidence of sexual activity was considered distasteful. (Playwright Louise Lewis discusses the old ceremony of “Churching” women to purify them after childbirth here;  however, the ceremony was not exclusive to  Catholics. A much more detailed examination of the practice can be found here.)

Modern mothers who are expected to leave the hospital the day after birth and resume their normal work routine may feel envious of women who once were expected to rest for a few days — or weeks. Depending on the era and region, a woman might be “confined” to her home for several weeks either before or after giving birth. (A brief article summarizing Victorian pregnancy practices for the upper classes can be found here. Queen Victoria herself gave birth nine times.)

In an era when paying and receiving “calls” occupied a good portion of a lady’s week, receiving callers — in a tasteful tea-gown — meant that the mother-to-be was not completely cut off from social activity; friends came to her. Elegant tea-gowns or dinner-gowns were still prescribed in the 1920’s and 1930s.

Store-bought Dinner-gowns suggested for maternity wear; Vogue magazine, 1924 and 1928

Store-bought dinner-gowns or tea-gowns suggested for maternity wear; Vogue magazine, 1924 and 1928. The surplice line, right, (a diagonal front opening closed at the side) was often recommended for maternity wear. (I can just imagine those sleeves trailing through the soup….)

By sheer serendipity, you can read about tea-gowns from 1915 at American Age Fashion.

But what about daytime maternity dresses in the nineteen twenties? That tubular style, the distinctive low waist-line — often accented by a snug horizontal belt or band — how did that work with a baby aboard?

Three semi-made dresses, Good Housekeeping, March 1927, p. 64. The one on the right is a maternity dress.

Three semi-made dresses, Good Housekeeping, March 1927, p. 64. The one on the right is a maternity dress. Sizes 14 to 44, $12.50. [This is a good example of why I hate microfilmed magazines! They do not digitize well….]

Here are three Vogue patterns from 1927. Find the maternity dress:

Vogue patterns 9462, 9457, and 9463. July, 1928. One is a maternity dress pattern.

Vogue patterns 9462, 9457, and 9463. July, 1928. One is a maternity dress pattern.

Vogue, July 1928, page 75.

Vogue, July 1928, page 75. Frock 9463, on the right, is a maternity pattern for sizes 14 to 46. [Sizes 14, 16, 18 and 20 were for teens and small women. Average sizes were sold by bust measure, e.g., 46 inches.] The dress in the middle is for teens to age/size 17.

At least No. 9463 has a hem that dips in front — which would become level as the abdomen grew. It does not appear to have a pleat or seam in back which could be let out for increasing girth. Perhaps the entire bulge was supposed to go above the low belt. No. 9463 was also recommended for “the large woman,” as if a pregnant woman’s weight gain was distributed equally all over her body.

Earlier in the 1920s, Good Housekeeping offered a pattern for this maternity dress in an article about its construction. Oddly, the pleated panels seem to be decorative, rather than a means of expansion.

A maternity pattern from Good Housekeeping, August 1923.

A maternity pattern from Good Housekeeping, August 1923.

“The pattern for this dress is cut in twelve pieces, as follows: two waist [bodice] sections; two sleeves; two skirt sections; a vest; a girdle [sash]; two strips for plaited panels for waist and skirt (front and back); a plaited [pleated] collar; and band for elastic. The front waist [bodice] section has a dart which takes care of some of the extra fullness thrown in to allow for the development of the figure. The front skirt section is wider than the waist [bodice] section after the dart is taken up, but this extra fullness may be adjusted at the hip and under the pleated panels, to be let out when it becomes necessary to open the dart in the waist. The front skirt section also has an extension at the top, which can be let down as necessary to adjust to the figure.”

Adding about three inches to the top of the center front of the skirt in a curve which tapers to nothing at the sides  is actually a clever idea (if you don’t mind taking the dress apart at the waist seam every few weeks) since it adds length at the waist in front, keeping the hem even and untouched.

The girdle [sash] “should fold over at the hips, not tie. The ends should come well down the length of the skirt.” “Have strips for panels hemstitched and then plaited — fine knife plaiting which can be done by any of the small shops or by a department store. Be sure to caution the worker” that the pleats in the two panels should not all run in the same direction, but folding toward or away from each other. — Laura I. Baldt, “How to Make a Smart Maternity Frock” in Good Housekeeping, August 1923.

In July of 1926 Professor Baldt recommended this maternity pattern, also available from Good Housekeeping.

A Good Housekeeping maternity pattern, July 1926, p. 79.

A Good Housekeeping maternity pattern, July 1926, p. 79. (Sorry for the photo quality.)

“It is a loose-fitting model, easy to put on and take off, and, with a few alterations from time to time, it may be adjusted to the figure quite easily.” “When it is necessary, the darts in the waist [bodice] lining may be let out; the plaits in the vest may be let out and also in the skirt, the last one being laid much deeper than the others for this purpose.The hem on the front of the tunic may be let out also, as it has a generous hem allowance to provide for this.”– p. 164

These made-to-order “Practical maternity clothes” could be ordered from Good Housekeeping Shopping Service in 1925.

Practical maternity dresses from Good Housekeeping, February 1925, p. 62.

Practical maternity dresses from Good Housekeeping, February 1925, p. 62.

“The dress above is a dark blue (also comes in black or brown) crepe de Chine coat effect over a beige under-dress, 36 to 46, $20.50. Gown at right is also of crepe de Chine, all colors, 32 to 42, $49.50. Both models are excellent in line for maternity purposes.”

They would have been worn over a maternity corset — thought necessary for healthy support — like these:

"Maternity girdle with front and back lacings is of pink satin, $10. Back-lace maternity corset of brocade damask, $10. Brassiere $3.50. Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1925, p. 62.

“Maternity girdle with front and back lacings is of pink satin, $10. Back-lace maternity corset of brocade damask, $10. Brassiere $3.50. Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1925, p. 62.

Side views of maternity corset,girdle, an brassiere, Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1925.

Side views of maternity brassiere, girdle, and corset. Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1925.

Lane Bryant maternity corset ad, Vogue, Nov. 15, 1925, p. 159.

Lane Bryant maternity corset ad, Vogue, Nov. 15, 1925, p. 159.

Some fun, huh?

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bras, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Hosiery & Stockings, Maternity clothes, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Summer Dresses from Butterick, July 1918, Part 1

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

This color page of dresses (and blouses and skirts) from Delineator magazine shows a change in silhouette, from full to narrower skirts. (Tubular Twenties ahead!) Here are designs by Gabrielle Chanel, dated 1916 [from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates via Quentin Bell] :

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/chanel-1916-bell-plate-39-from-fashion-through-fashion-plates-doris-langley-moore.jpg?w=500

And here is a Delineator sketch of an influential Chanel suit from January 1925 — very a different silhouette.

Chanel design, January 1925, as sketched by Soulie in Delineator.

(You can read about the “Tubular Twenties” here.)

I’ll show the July 1918 images in greater detail below, but first, a few words about underwear and the “ideal” figure.

Ideal figures, July 1918, were thick in the waist, low in the bust, and slightly swaybacked

Ideal fashion figures in July 1918 were thick in the waist, droopy in the bust — even with the model’s shoulders thrust back — and slightly swaybacked.

I’m always unnerved by the emphasis on thick waists and low busts of this period. (How is is possible for a slender young woman to have such a low bust? — The explanation is two-fold: the exaggerations of fashion illustrators, and 1917-1918 corsets and brassieres.)

Corsets for Fall, 1918. Sears catalog.

Corsets for Fall, 1918. Sears catalog.

The brassiere of the World War I era was more likely to smash the breasts than to lift them. The corset of the “teens” did not reach (or support) the breasts at all. It extended down over the thighs and pushed the body very flat in front, causing a posture which made the waist higher in the back and lower in the front, as you can see from these 1917 skirt illustrations.

Women's skirts, Perry Dame catalog, 1917. The waists dip low in front and rise high in back

Women’s skirts, Perry Dame catalog, 1917. The waistlines dip low in front and rise high in back.

Skirts, blouses and dresses, from July 1918 show the oddly high waist in back.

Skirts, blouses and dresses, from July 1918 show the oddly high waist in back.

The beautiful vintage blouses of this period (sometimes called “Armistice blouses”) are often so short in back that they have to have a tail of fabric added before they can be worn without the corset. Otherwise, they won’t stay tucked in.

This vintage "Armistice blouse" is much shorter in back than in front.

This vintage “Armistice blouse” is shorter in back than in front, even allowing for its position on the hanger. It has not been altered; the ties are original.

The thick waists of the WW I era can be interpreted as a reaction to the tiny waists of the previous generation (Here’s Princess Maud in 1906.) (We tend to reject the clothes our mothers wore. Imagine wearing a 1926 dress in 1938…. or a 1906 dress in 1918.)

The page of color fashions (p. 52)  had a half-page of black and white ones, along with all their descriptions, on page 53.

Butterick patterns from page 53, July 1918.

Butterick patterns from page 53, July 1918. Nos. 9932, 1035, and 1037. The two on the right are heavily embroidered.

This month in 1918 marked the start of a new Butterick pattern numbering sequence, from 9999 to the 1000s.

I’m afraid the colors are overexposed in my photos, but still worth looking at. For those who want details, I’ll show each outfit with its original pattern description at the bottom of this post.

Butterick 9992 and 9447, July 1918. Delineator.

Butterick 9992 and 9447, July 1918. Delineator. Belts that crossed over and buttoned in front were a distinctive feature of the “teens.”

Butterick 9989 and 9990, July 1918. Delineator.

Butterick 9989 and 9990, July 1918. Delineator. The dress on the left has a “Peter Pan” collar — very different from the Peter Pan collar of the 50s.

Butterick 9986 and 9973, July 1918. Delineator.

Butterick 9986 and 9973, July 1918. Delineator. There was nothing but fashion to prevent a shapely girl from wearing her belt (or her basque bodice) tighter….

Buttrerick 1005, July 1918. Page 52. Delineator,

Butterick 1005, July 1918. Page 52. Delineator. That’s almost a 1920’s cloche hat.

Dress Details 1918

In case anyone is inspired to recreate these fashions, here are the original descriptions and alternate views.

The high collared blouse fell out of fashion around 1912, when bare necks became acceptable, (cf Lucy Barton, Historic Costume for the Stage) but the V-neck in daytime was a new idea in 1914, so most of these patterns show a high-necked alternative for conservative women.

Butterick 9992, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 9992, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. “For women 15 or 50.”

Butterick 9947, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 9947, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. Transfer 10686 is the pattern for the bag, which seams to have a figure in a kimono on it.

Bag, Butterick transfer pattern 10686 from 1918.

Bag, Butterick transfer pattern 10686 from 1918.

Butterick 9989, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 9989, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 9990, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 9990, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. A “delightful new shirt-dress.”

Left, Butterick 9986, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Left, Butterick 9986, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. It has a side seam opening.

Butterick 9973, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 9973, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 1005, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 1005, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. “It slips on over the head,” like many of the 1920’s dresses that followed.

Butterick 9932, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 9932, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. Without the optional shirring, it becomes an Empire line dress. For maternity wear, perhaps?

Butterick 1035, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 1035, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. This style was available up to bust 46 inches, and the scarf-like “bretelles” end in pockets. Transfer 10674 is the embroidery design.

Butterick 1037, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52.

Butterick 1037, July 1918. Delineator, p. 52. The front panel could be asymmetrical. I’m surprised this dress is not shown without its tabard-like top layer.

More dresses in color from 1918 to come….

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Bras, Corsets, Corsets, Dating Butterick Patterns, Foundation Garments, World War I

“Uplift” Changes Brassieres (Part 2): Late 1920’s Brassieres

This is the second installment of “Uplift” Changes Brassieres: 1917 to 1929.

Woman wearing an early "uplift" style bra, in a January 1929 ad for bathroom scales.

1929: Woman wearing an “uplift” style bra, in a January 1929 ad for bathroom scales.

Ad for Health-o-meter scale, Delineator, Jan. 1929. Having a small home scale was a change from the old "doctor's office" models.

Ad for Health-o-meter scale, Delineator, Jan. 1929. Having a small home scale was a change from the old “doctor’s office” models. Click to enlarge.

The Uplift Idea in Late 1920’s Brassieres

To repeat a concept I got from Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau:

For hundreds of years, women’s breasts were supported by corsets, which pushed them up from below. The innovation of the twentieth century was “uplift” — shoulder straps which supported the weight of the breasts from the shoulder instead of pushing them up from beneath.

When the brassiere as we know it began to appear, the idea of “uplift” and the idea of separation — two distinct breasts instead of one big one (click here or here)– were sometimes confused, with “uplift” referring to separation, rather than support. The word “uplift” is applied to all five of these late twenties’ bras; the “A.P. Uplift” promises to prevent the bust from sagging; two of the others show separation, and the bandeau on the lower right is a variation on the bust flattener. (This suggests that the word “uplift” was used to mean “brassiere” whether it was an uplift bra or not.)

The AP Uplift brassiere, left, was an early Uplift design. The bandeau at lower right, although described as "uplift" is really a bust flattener. From Stella Blum's Fashions of the Twenties, p. 130. Circa 1928 -1929.

The A.P. Uplift Bandeau, left, was an early Uplift design. The bandeau at lower right, although described as “uplift,” is really a bust flattener. From Stella Blum’s Fashions of the Twenties, p. 130. Circa 1928 -1929.

None of these bras indicates a concept of “cup” sizes; they use just one overall chest measurement.  The patented A.P. Uplift, one of the first true uplift bras,  “gives a natural youthful line, firm support and prevents the bust from sagging ….It has elastic at the bottom to hold it in place. An ideal uplift for comfort and support.” By 1926, patents were applied for by at least three “uplift” companies: Model, A.P. (G.M. Poix & Co.) and Maiden Form. By 1928, the old Boyshform bust flattener company was bankrupt.

Trade advertisement for an early Maiden Form brassiere, described elsewhere in the ad as "The Original Uplift Brassiere. It is the "double support pocket brassiere." From Uplift, p. 43.

Trade advertisement for an early Maiden Form brassiere, described elsewhere in the ad as “The Original Uplift Brassiere. It is the “double support pocket brassiere.” From Uplift, p. 43.

As late as 1931, this dress was described as having an”uplift” line, meaning that it has visible breast separation:

An evening gown described as "uplift;" Butterick 4175, inDelineator, Nov. 1931.

“Uplift” in this evening gown means “separation.”  Butterick 4175, in Delineator, Nov. 1931.

Who Wore the New Uplift Brassieres?

Interestingly, research by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in 1924 and 1925 discovered that younger patrons, dubbed “flappers” by buyers and the JWT staff, “were looking for uplift styles of brassiere, in contrast to older women who wanted the flattening styles.” (Uplift, p. 40) This might be because young women were embracing the more form-fitting styles of the later twenties, while their mothers clung to tubular fashions and the relative support of a flattening corselette; or because to the young, “uplift” meant separation and a natural look, not support. “Small sizes sell best — even the little girls wear brassieres now,” one shop told the JWT researchers. JWT also discovered that out of a sample of thirty-nine adolescent girls, twenty-six wore brassieres and another seven wore corselettes in the mid 1920’s. (Uplift , p. 40)

Engineering a really uplifting brassiere was complicated, not only because the size and shape of the “pockets”  — as they were called in early Maiden Form bra advertisements — had to be worked out, but because supporting the breasts from the shoulders requires a snugly fitting band around the rib cage to prevent the bra from riding up, and, before the invention of Lastex in 1931, the available elastic allowed some stretch, but was not a lightweight, shaped, completely elastic fabric band.

Carter's made rayon knit underwear, and ran many ads in which couturiers chose examples of Carter's underthings for wear under Paris gowns. This ad dates to May, 1929.

The Carter company made rayon knit underwear, and ran many ads in which couturiers chose examples of Carter’s underthings for wear under Paris gowns. This ad dates to May, 1929. It shows a “clever elastic insert in back” of the bandeau, worn with some tremendously un-sexy bloomers.

The problem of keeping the band snug enough to prevent the bra from riding up was solved in England by the “Kestos” invented by Mrs. Rosalind Klin around 1927. The elasticized shoulder straps crossed in back, wrapped around the body, and fastened in front, lifting the breasts up and holding the band down.

Kestos brassiere drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in her book Fashion in Underwear.

Kestos brassiere drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in her book Fashion in Underwear.

Elasticized shoulder straps reached all the way around from the back and buttoned to the front of the Kestos under the pockets, which were shaped by darts and seams. In England, “You didn’t buy a brassiere, you bought a Kestos.” — Elizabeth Ewing, in Fashion in Underwear, p. 95.

Caresse Crosby (real name, Mary Phelps Jacob) claimed to have invented the modern brassiere in 1913; in 1914 she patented a bandeau with a gathering string down the middle, which separated the breasts.

Caresse Crosby's 1914 brassiere drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in Fashions in Underwear

Caresse Crosby’s 1914 brassiere as drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in Fashion in Underwear

Click here for a view of her 1914 patent application illustration.

It’s clear that Crosby’s invention may have prevented nipples from showing through sheer clothing, but it was not really designed to lift sagging breasts.

This 1929 ad for Carters rayon underwear shows a bra with gathering at center front. Delineator, March 1929.

This 1929 ad for Carter’s rayon knit underwear shows a bra with side darts and  adjustable gathering at center front. Delineator, March 1929. Such gathering was an attempt to adjust for differences in breast size and shape, dating back to the Crosby bra of 1914.

The Innovative Youthform

This ad for a Youthform brassiere (although the word brassiere is not used) is the most fascinating I’ve found, and I have not found much further information about this bra  — just what the ad contains. [If it was mentioned in Uplift, it’s not in the index, nor is Youth Form.] I had to break the ad into three parts for legibility:

Top image from an Ad for the Youthform brassiere, Delineator, March, 1929, p. 112.

Top image from an ad for the Youthform brassiere, Delineator, March, 1929, p. 112. That seems to be a drawstring at center front. Notice the wide elastic band.

Text of the Youthform bra ad, March 1929.

Text of the Youthform bra ad, March 1929. “Today’s styles clearly define the bust…. Youthform’s secret is in the elastic band which goes around the body…. Not sold in stores because they are made to your individual measure.”

That part about “made to your individual measure” is explained better on the ordering form:

Order form for Youthform bra, 1929. Unlike most bras for sale, it asks for an underbust and full bust measurements.

Order form for Youthform bra, 1929. Unlike most bras for sale then, it asks for two important measurements; “size around body just under bust” and “size around body across center of bust.”

Bra Fit:  It Takes Two (Measurements)

These two measurements — “size around body just under bust” and “size around body across center of bust” — are still the key to finding a bra that fits. Understanding the difference between chest measurement and breast size was still in the future for other companies. (The Youthform company, founded by “one Dr. Alford” in 1923 — or 1925 — was still in business in 1957, as this lawsuit  over the use of the name “Youth Form” shows. In 1928, Youthform mail-0rder sales totaled $16,000, but sales did not return to that level after the Crash of 1929.)

About bra cups:  If a woman wears what is now called an “A cup” or a “B cup,” the problem of support — keeping her breasts from bouncing painfully when she runs, for example — may not be her main reason for wearing a brassiere. But those of us who have what the mammogram technician refers to as “a lot of tissue” expect support and stabilization from our bras.

How Do You Find a Bra That Fits? You Need Two Measurements

In costume fittings, I have seen too many actresses wearing the wrong size bra because they think that a 36 inch measurement over the largest point of the bust means they should buy a size 36 bra. In reality, the difference in the measurement of the band around your ribcage and the measurement over the fullest part of the bust — plus a chart — gives you two sizes: the size of the band (a number) and the size of your bra cup (a letter.) If you’ve never measured yourself this way, click here for a good size calculator that will guide you through it. Clue:  If the band of your bra keeps riding up in back, you are wearing the wrong size. You probably need a smaller number and a higher letter. (Either that, or your bra is old and the elastic is failing…. Or your body has changed: weight loss, weight gain, pregnancy?)

As it happens, the concept of cup size was slow to develop and become an industry standard. In 1929, “cups were not yet sized, and straps could not be easily adjusted in length.” (Uplift, p. 56.)

An uplift bra from the Sears catalog, Fall 1929, looks very much like a modern brassiere.

An uplift bandeau from the Sears catalog, Fall 1929, looks very much like a modern brassiere, but it was sold by only one measurement.

One bright idea from the late twenties was the use of molded knit rayon in bras. Just as “fully fashioned” stockings could be knit into a shape resembling a human leg, rayon knit bra “pockets” could be shaped in the knitting process without needing darts or seams.

Also from 1929, this Delineator article about the latest undergarments shows a foundation that looks surprisingly modern — although today it would be made from elasticized fabric:

1929: The garment in the center is unboned, flexible, and suited to the clinging bias cut dresses coming into fashion. Delineator, March, 1929, p. 50.

1929: The garment in the center, with “uplift brassiere,” is unboned, flexible, and suited to the clinging, bias cut dresses coming into fashion. Delineator, March, 1929, p. 50. Notice how narrow the elastic panels had to be.

“In the semi-circle of figures above, the top model [right] of lace, elastic and silk shows the new deep U decollete worn with evening frocks. Next, a silk faille boneless garment which can be crumpled up in the hand like a glove, used under molded-line afternoon frocks. The uplift brassiere is an important note in this garment.  Third [left], an elastic step-in [girdle] and slight brassiere for sportswear.” Delineator, March 1929.

Of course, fashions rarely change overnight. If you didn’t need a really supportive brassiere, this rayon knit set from Munsingwear — dated 1931 — still looks pretty attractive:

Rayon knit "uplift bandeau" and matching "sketchies" from a Munsingwear ad, 1931.

Munsingwear rayon knit “twin-style uplift bandeau” and matching “Sketchie” set in “two-tone colors of the birds” from a Munsingwear ad, 1931.

Coming (eventually): Ads for Uplifting Brassieres from the 1930’s

 

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“Uplift” Changes Brassieres: 1917 to 1929 (Part 1)

Ad for Maidenform's "Over-ture" brassiere "for firmer uplift." Womans' Home Companion, Feb. 1936.

Ad for Maidenform’s “Over-ture” brassiere “for firmer uplift.” Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1936.

I’ve often mentioned the book Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau. It’s scholarly but also very readable, and packed with related information on women’s lives. It feeds my interest in old advertisements, too — I’ll be sharing a small selection of underwear ads and patterns from the 1920’s and 1930’s in several posts.

Note: This post is not an authoritative history of the brassiere; for that, please consult both Uplift and Fashion in Underwear by Elizabeth Ewing. The topic is so complicated that the Wikipedia entry warns of contradictions.

I’m indebted to the authors of Uplift for this concept:

For hundreds of years, women’s breasts were supported by corsets, which pushed them up from below. The innovation of the twentieth century was “uplift” — shoulder straps which supported the weight of the breasts from the shoulder instead of pushing them up from beneath.

First, a brief visual tour of early 20th century brassieres:

Two ads for "model" brassieres, Woman's Home Companion, 1917.

Two ads for “Model” brassieres, Woman’s Home Companion, 1917.

At the beginning of the 20th century, fashion was still in the “monobosom” or “unibosom” era.

Brassieres with rust-proof boning from the Sears Spring catalog, 1917.

Brassieres with rust-proof boning from the Sears Spring catalog, 1917.

Corset boning probably ran up the center of these brassieres and also over the breasts to create a smooth bulge without any breast separation. “By 1917 brassieres [like those above] had moved from a minority fashion to the mainstream of womenswear.” Uplift, p. 33.

The tubular, boyish ideal of the early 1920’s led to a brief fashion for flattening the breasts. See Underpinning the 1920s: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners. There was even a brassiere company called “Boyshform,” (boyish form) and another called “Flatter-U.”

New corsets and brassieres, Delineator, February 1924, p. 23.

New corsets and brassieres, Delineator, February 1924, p. 23. On the right, a very long flattening brassiere.

When young women stopped wearing restrictive underwear in the 1920’s and allowed two separate breasts to be discerned, those with youthful figures might wear an unstructured brassiere primarily to prevent their nipples from showing through the lightweight dress fabrics that were popular.

September, 1924: a brassiere and step-in pattern, Butterick No. 7080.

1924: a brassiere and step-in pattern, Butterick No. 7080. Delineator, September issue.

Butterick pattern 6472 for a bandeau bra and step-in panties. Delineator, Dec 1925, p. 37.

1925:  Butterick pattern 6472 for a bandeau bra and step-in panties. Delineator, Dec 1925, p. 37.

Butterick pattern 1534 for a bra and matching step-in panties. July 1927, Delineator, 1927.

1927: (right) Butterick pattern 1534 for a bra and matching step-in panties. July 1927, Delineator, 1927.

Butterick pattern 6961 for a bandeau brassiere and frilled bloomers; Delineator, 1926

1926: Butterick pattern 6961 for a bandeau brassiere and frilled bloomers; Delineator, July 1926, p. 38.

For me, there are two interesting things about this pattern. 1) This 1926 brassiere is definitely divided into two separate pockets (The phrase “bra cup” had not yet been invented.) It is not meant to flatten the bust. 2) It appeared on the same page as this pattern — No. 6964 — for two bust-flattening brassieres:

July 1926 brassiere patterns from Butterick. At top, two bust flatteners, pattern . At bottom right a pattern for a brassiere that divides the breasts. Delineator, July 1926, p. 38.

1926 brassiere patterns from Butterick. At top, two bust flatteners, pattern 6964. At bottom right, pattern 6961 for a brassiere that separates and does not flatten the breasts. Delineator, July 1926, p. 38.

Obviously, 1926 was a year of transition. Next, Part 2: The Uplift Idea in 1920’s Brassieres.

 

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The Fascinating Pajama, 1931

Title of Delineator magazine article, page 72, August 1931.

Title of Delineator magazine article, page 72, August 1931.

I don’t have complete copies of the Delineator for 1929-1930, but by 1931 the lounging pajama (also spelled “pyjama”) had moved from beach wear to formal wear. Butterick patterns even included a slip for wearing under pajamas. These pajamas, illustrated on page 72, were for casual wear.

Illustration for "The Fascinating Pyjama" in Delineator, Aug. 1931.

Illustration for “The Fascinating Pyjama” in Delineator, Aug. 1931. From Left, pyjamas for “Lounging,” “The ‘Jama Slip,” “Leisure,” and “Loafing or Working.”

Butterick 4014:  Lounging Pajamas, 1931

Lounging pajamas, Butterick pattern 4014, 1931.

Lounging pajamas, Butterick pattern 4014, 1931. Here, they are worn with a necklace.

1931 aug 4014 text lounging pjs p 72

“4014:  The three-piece type, with swaggeringly full trousers and a knee-length jacket. When made of satin or crepe they look especially smart and are eligible for the run of the house at all hours.”

The bi-color look, with inserts in the legs matching the bodice color, was also seen in this Munsingwear advertisement from April 1931:

Munsingwear ad, Delineator magazine, April 1931.

Munsingwear ad, Delineator magazine, April 1931. The pajamas have “Wide, wide trousers, swank as can be.” The bra is “uplift.”

[Note: “Pyjama” was the usual British spelling; “pajama” was the usual American spelling. Butterick Publishing, which had offices in Europe and aimed at middle-class readers, used “pyjama” in 1931, but its American advertisers used “pajama.”]

Butterick pattern 4037 : The ‘Jama Slip

Butterick 4037, the "Jama slip" for wearing under pajama outfits. Delineator, Aug. 1931.

Butterick 4037, the “Jama slip” for wearing under pajama outfits. Delineator, Aug. 1931.

1931 aug p 72 4037 text

“4037:  The thing to wear under the pyjamas you dance in [!] and the pajamas you receive in at home. [I.e., hostess pajamas.] It is as inevitable as the slip you wear under silk frocks. It has the “two-skirt” fulness that belongs to new pajamas, and it stops short of the ankles.”

The Vintage Traveler recently showed lounging pajamas from the 1920s (click here to see photos); the leg width increased in the thirties.

Butterick Pattern 3937 for One-piece Pajamas. 1931.

Butterick one-piece pajama pattern No. 3937, for "leisure" wear. Delineator, Aug. 1931.

Butterick one-piece pajama pattern No. 3937, for “leisure” wear. Delineator, Aug. 1931.

1931 aug p 72 3937 text undies pjs pj slip

Another — very bare — one-piece pajama, Butterick 3803, was featured in Delineator magazine in April, 1931. It was for sleeping:

Butterick one-piece pajama pattern 3803, Delineator, April 1931.

Butterick one-piece pajama pattern 3803, Delineator, April 1931.

“3803:  The sleeping version of the one-piece pajamas!  Wicked in black georgette with skin showing through in the fagoting, stunning in white crepe, smart in pastels. Wide slit trousers and sash tied waistline.”

The fagoting which joins the yoke to the bodice forms a deep V shape. A glimpse of nipple might be possible:  “wicked.”

Butterick One Piece Pajama Pattern No. 3752, 1931.

Butterick pajama pattern #3752, for "loafing or working" -- but not for working in public. 1931.

Butterick pajama pattern #3752, for “loafing or working” — but not for working in public. 1931. Interesting bare-toed sandals.

1931 aug p 72 3752 text

This one-piece pajama is for housework or lounging, depending on fabric choice. “Cotton for your morning’s work, or in printed crepe for the hours when you want a dressier type.”

Back views of "Fascinating Pyjamas," 1931.

Back views of “Fascinating Pyjamas,” 1931. Nos. 4014, 4037, 3937, 3752. #3752 could have short sleeves. Here are their fronts:

Illustration for "The Fascinating Pyjama" in Delineator, Aug. 1931.

Front views of Nos. 4014, 4037, 3937, 3752.

Evening Pajamas, 1931

These pajamas for casual wear were not the only pajamas illustrated in Delineator that month; on page 65, right beside the formal evening gowns, was an evening pajama pattern:

Pyjamas Now Go to Dances, Too." Pattern for lace pajamas, Butterick's Delineator magazine, Aug. 1931.

“Pyjamas Now Go to Dances, Too.” Pattern for lace pajamas, far right, Butterick’s Delineator magazine, Aug. 1931.

Pyjamas have "Come Out." Butterick pattern 4035, Aug. 1931.

“Pyjamas Have ‘Come Out.’ ” Butterick pattern 4035, Aug. 1931.

“4035:  As modern as a skyscraper, as graceful as a skirt, these wide, wide, lace pyjamas are a gay and amusing thing to wear to country club dances, and to dinners that are not too formal. Satin jacket.”

The same evening pajama pattern appeared in Butterick’s Delineator the next month, September 1931, with a different description and a long-sleeved jacket:

Butterick evening pajamas No. 4035, left, and Butterick lounging pajamas No. 3551, right. Delineator., Sept. 1931

Butterick evening pajamas No. 4035, left, and Butterick lounging pajamas No. 3551, right. Delineator, Sept. 1931

"Pajamas That Go Places" (Butterick No. 4035) and "Pajamas That Stay Home," (No. 3551.) Sept. 1931.

“Pajamas That Go Places” (Butterick No. 4035) and “Pajamas That Stay Home,” (No. 3551.) Sept. 1931.

“4035:  For parties that will be given the bride and for entertaining in her own home — these evening pyjamas with wide, wide trousers are gay and modern. The velvet jacket ties at the waist.” A month earlier the same pajamas were described as suitable for attending country club dances and “dinners that are not too formal.”

“3551:   There are as many types of pyjamas this season as there are dresses. These satin ones are for informal tea parties and afternoons with a book. Wide trousers, sleeveless blouse.” Satin is recommended — probably crepe satin, which is shiny on one side and matte on the other. Wearing pajamas “for informal tea parties” was probably appropriate for the “stay at home” hostess, rather than her guests.

The ” ‘Jama Slip” was also featured again in September, as were these other pajama patterns first seen in August:

Pajamas, left, and a dress, right. Butterick patterns 4014 and 3937. Delineator, Sept. 1931.

Lounging Pajamas, Butterick patterns 4014 and 3937. Delineator, Sept. 1931.

text 4014 and 3937

Butterick 4014:  “At college you may sleep in nightgowns, but you must have pyjamas for lounging. They’re perfect for studying, too. These are three-piece, wide-trousered, with a blouse that is sleeveless.” The long jacket resembles a robe.

Butterick 3937:  “Pajamas are the pet lounging costumes in college circles. The wider they are, the smarter. This is their feminine version, made of plaid silk with godets and frill of plain.”

Here are the August and September versions of these two patterns, side by side.

Two versions of Butterick 4014 and 3937 pajamas/pyjamas. 1931

Two versions of Butterick 4014 (left) and 3937 (right) pajamas/pyjamas. 1931

Butterick three piece pajama pattern 4227 (below,  at left) appeared in December of 1931:

Butterick patterns 4215, 4224,and 4227. Delineator, December 1931.

Butterick patterns 4227, 4215, and 4224. Delineator, December 1931.

1931 dec p 73 pj 4227

This pajamas set was shown with robes, but the suggested fabrics are velvet and lamé, so they are probably not for sleeping! It had wide trousers, a jacket, and a cowl-necked blouse.

Butterick even showed a pajama set for girls in this Christmas issue:

Butterick patterns 4177 and 4223, Delineator, Dec. 1931.

Butterick patterns No. 4177 (“satin crepe gown”) and girls’ pyjamas No. 4223, Delineator, Dec. 1931.

1931 dec p 69 pj text for pj 4223 ensemble

Butterick 4223:  “Much like the pyjama big sister wears, The top part is white and the trouser section and jacket are scarlet. The embroidered motif adds a ‘special’ touch. . . . Sizes 4 to 15 [years.]” The nightgown on the left looks like wide legged pajamas; it’s probably more accurate to say that wide legged pajamas looked like evening gowns.

If you didn’t want to make pajamas/pyjamas for Christmas, you could buy them. Munsingwear advertised that this set (below, top left) was only “One of many new Pajamas.”

Part of an andvertiesment for Munsingwear, December 1931. Delineator.

Part of an advertisement for Munsingwear, December 1931. Delineator.

I don’t know anything about this vintage pajama set — but the fabric says “lounging pajamas” to me:

Vintage lounging pajama set in red and black.

Vintage lounging pajama set in red and black. Private collection.

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Filed under 1930s, Bras, Children's Vintage styles, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers