Category Archives: Girdles

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1)

Thanks to reader kellycb for wondering about the brands of zippers sold through the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I thought I could do a quick search through the 1930’s Sears catalogs available through Ancestry.com. [All images in this post which are labeled “Sears” are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC. Please do not copy.]

Zipper brands available from Sears in 1939 included Talon, “Standard”, and Crown. Earlier catalogs also sold Koh-i-noor slide fasteners, snaps, and  hook and eye tape.

I was quickly able to find that Sears sold Talon Hookless Slide Fasteners, and “Crown” fasteners — possibly a house brand, since Sears also sold Crown fabrics. But that’s not what soaked up two days of my browsing time. It was the constant use of the word “Zip” to indicate a slide fastener.

Zip: Slide fasteners sold through the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Sears image via Ancestry.com

Technically, advertisers could not call a slide fastener for a garment a “zipper.” But the American public apparently did refer to them as zippers, so the word “zip” — not copyrighted — appears quite often.

The word “zipper” was owned by the B.F. Goodrich company.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-dec-p-67-500-zipper-boots-ad.jpg?w=378&h=500

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator magazine

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

The word “zip,” indicating speed or energy, was already popular slang.

These 1930 trousers for young men and boys had “zip and dash,” but they did not have what is now called a zipper. The fly closed with buttons. Sears image via Ancestry.com.

You could zip around town in your car or on a bike. “Zip” was also the name of a hair remover that had been in use since the twenties.

Zip hair remover ad from Delineator, November 1924. “Zip — It’s off because it’s out.” “You actually destroy the growth by gently lifting out the roots — painlessly and harmlessly.” [That’s what it says….]

In Akron, Ohio, where Goodrich “Zippers” were manufactured, a college football team is still called the Zips.

The speed with which the name of a trademarked product — the Zipper boot — became the standard American noun meaning “slide fastener” amazed me.

Anyone who is seriously interested in the history of the slide fastener, now usually called a zipper, should know about Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, which has been described brilliantly by The Vintage Traveler. (Click here for her “Currently Reading: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty“. The Vintage Traveler also showed many ads for  zippers in her “Zippers, Part II.”

As Friedel explains, early slide fasteners were put into production and sold before they were perfected [rather like some software today.]  One problem with the early slide fasteners was that they worked as long as they remained perfectly straight — but sitting usually causes the fabric in a skirt placket or trouser fly to bend. Twenty years later, people who had been publicly embarrassed by a broken slide fastener were not eager to try the improved versions in their clothes.

A Hookless Fastener is featured on this man’s suede jacket (called a blouse) in the Sears catalog for Fall, 1930. “Zip it’s on — Zip it’s off! — that’s the quick modern way to dress….”

Menswear quickly adopted slide fasteners in sports jackets and work shirts, but resistance to replacing button-fly trousers with zipped flies continued till the late 1930’s.

Sears offered many clutch bag models with zippered compartments, and handbags with concealed zip interior pockets. Fall, 1930. The Hookless Fastener Company was now better known as Talon.

Slide fasteners worked well on straight openings: clutch handbags, mail bags, boots and leggings, even sleeping bags.

A boy’s jacket from Sears, Fall, 1927, closes with a Hookless slide fastener. “Zip! — just a simple jerk on the patent hooker and it’s snug around your neck. No buttons to bother with and we guarantee it to work every time.” Judging from the need to explain, this really was “Something New” in 1927.

One brilliant approach to selling slide fasteners urged their use in children’s clothing to make children more self-reliant. (See “Zippers Are Good for Your Children.” A bonus: children didn’t remember those embarrassing old zippers!)

“Put in Zips so she can dress herself — Even tiniest tots manage them.” Sears catalog, Spring, 1939.

Regardless of B.F. Goodrich, the word zipper did get used by other sources:

Here, the Sears catalog for Fall, 1929, suggests making children’s winter leggings with a “zipper  side fastener.” (Leggings with dozens of buttons must have been a nightmare for Kindergarten teachers.)

These trousers — which did have a zipper fly — were aimed at young men with waists 26 to 32 inches:  “College Styles” “for youths.”

Sears offered these trousers “featuring the FLASH Slide Fastener” in Spring of 1935. The extremely wide legs — sometimes called “Oxford bags” — were a young man’s fashion.

Slide fasteners also made an early appearance in girdles and corsets.

“Zip! It’s Open!” The woman on the right is enjoying the ease of a zippered girdle; the woman on the left wears a corselet closed with hook and eye tape. Sears catalog, Spring 1932.

Slide fasteners were used in sports clothing and work clothing before 1936, but they seem to be most often used on relatively heavy fabrics, like leather, wool, corset coutil, and sturdy cottons.

This “Pic-Pon Cord” cotton dress from Sears has a “zip closing;” Sears catalog for Spring, 1935.

Also made from corduroy is this woman’s jacket from 1933.

Zipper neckline closing on a “Sporting Life” jacket for women from Sears, Spring 1933. Its “popular, practical zipper closing” uses a “Jiffy” Fastener.

According to the catalogs, this was Sears’ most popular work dress for women, and in 1935 it was offered in the traditional button front or (“More Style! More Comfort!”) with a zip- closed front.

From the Fall, 1935 Sears catalog: a sturdy work dress. The “new, improved” version with the zipper (right) cost more; zippers were relatively expensive.

The 1935 “Zip-Closed Front” work dress cost twenty cents (20%) more — a zipper cost about 20 cents.

By 1937, the “zip close” version was featured more prominently than the buttoned one.

In Sears’ Spring catalog for 1937, the work dress with a zipper was more prominent.

The zipper made a transition from sports and house dresses to dressier women’s clothing by 1937. Several Paris designers began showing dresses with visible zippers in 1935-36; Schiaparelli put visible plastic zippers right on the front of her dresses.  However,  I found a Vionnet design from 1929 that had a prominent zipper front closing. It was copied by Butterick as pattern 2526.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1929-march-p-27-couture-vionnet-zipper-e-skirt.jpg?w=318&h=500

A Vionnet ensemble sketched for Delineator magazine in 1929 has a prominent zipper on its front.

Butterick also offered a different dress pattern that was featured in advertisements for the Talon Hookless Fastener in 1928-29.

Here’s a closer look at Sears’ [rather limited] Slide Fastener selection from 1935:

“Zip;” slide fasteners available from the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Customers were assured that these stayed shut (“locks in any position.”) They were also washable and rustroof — unlike early hookless fasteners which had to be removed before washing your garment.

The concealed “Kover-Zip” slide fastener from Koh-i-noor was available in separating or non-separating versions. Its zipper teeth were completely concealed by a color-fast grosgrain cover. It was a luxury item, more than twice the price of a “Standard slide fastener.” Sears’ Zipper colors were limited to black, brown, tan or white.

In 1935, the zippers were recommended for “finishing sport-wear, blouses [like the man’s suede “blouse” shown above], children’s garments” (the Kover-Zip) or in “sturdy quality for sport coats, sweaters, children’s suits, dresses.” In other words, they were for casual and practical garments, usually made of heavy fabrics.

Men’s shirts with zip fronts; Sears catalog, Fall, 1937.

After the Paris collections of 1935-36, zippers were about to undergo a rapid change for the better. (See “Zip” Part 2, coming soon.)

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, handbags, Men's Sportswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

Doll-Sized Girdles, 1954

Doll-Sized Girdles, Sears catalog for Spring 1954, page.

Doll-Sized Girdles, Sears catalog for Spring 1954, page 314.

This idea seemed so strange to me that I have to share it: “Doll-Sized Girdles” from the Sears catalog for Spring 1954.

At first, I wondered why dolls would need girdles — was it just some grown-up’s nutty idea of a “doll wardrobe?” I was never very interested in realistic dolls, or Barbie, but I was a child in 1954.

Witness2fashion around 1952. I was not thinking about doll sized girdles.

Witness2fashion around 1953. I was definitely not thinking about doll-sized girdles.  I was too old to play with these dolls, and I hated posing for pictures. I still do.

By 1959 I was old enough to wear a girdle and stockings, but it never for a moment occurred to me to associate girdles with dolls.

And, in fact, these are not girdles for dolls.

They are made to fit women with waist sizes from 23 to 30 inches. The “hi-waist”one at top “stretches to 17 in. long on figure.”

Here are some other women’s girdles from the same page:

"Puckerette" girdles for women, Sears catalog for Spring, 1954, page

“Puckerette” girdles for women, Sears catalog for Spring, 1954, page 314. “Big size range… all the way up to 32-inch waist.”

Sally Edelstein, at Envisioning the American Dream, has shown many vintage fifties and sixties girdle ads — they sure bring back memories for me! This one seems to show a woman holding a very small girdle which would stretch to the size of a normal body.

But it’s not quite “doll” size.

True Story: I remember shopping for a long-legged panty girdle around 1963. I tried one that seemed to fit with relative comfort, but the saleslady insisted that I try one in a smaller size. I struggled into it; I couldn’t even pull it up all the way. The saleswoman said, “I’ll hold the waist, and you jump!”

No sale.

Part 2 of Sally’s “A Girl and Her Girdle” can be found here.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, Children's Vintage styles, Girdles, Musings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs

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

Persuasive Ads for Spencer Corsets, 1930’s

A persuasive ad for Spencer corsets shows a woman wearing the same dress, with and without the corset. Woman's Home Companion, November 1936.

A persuasive ad for Spencer corsets shows a woman wearing the same dress, with and without the corset. Woman’s Home Companion, November 1936. [Of course, photos could be altered with a retouching brush.]

Corset advertisements used to be a mainstay of women’s fashion magazines. Usually they simply showed a picture of the product. However, I found a series of ads for Spencer Corsets that seem especially persuasive, since they show “before and after” photographs of the models, and also show how much the corset could improve the look of a woman’s clothing.

Ads for Spencer custom corsets showed "before," "after," and "under" photos; the Spencer corset (center) under a fashionable dress. Woman's Home Companion, Dec. 1936.

Ads for Spencer custom corsets showed “before,” “after,” and “under” photos; the Spencer corset (center) under a fashionable dress (right). Woman’s Home Companion, Dec. 1936.

The fashions of 1936 and 1937 were designed for very narrow hips.

Left, illustrations of Butterick patterns 6668 and 6605, from February, 1936. Right, holiday party gowns illustrated in Ladies' Home Journal, January 1936.

Left, illustrations of Butterick patterns 6668 and 6605, from February, 1936. Right, holiday party gowns illustrated in Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1936.

This Spencer corset ad emphasized hip control. January, 1936. The sleek model in this ad for Simonize car polish shows why women were worried about their hip size.

This Spencer corset ad emphasized hip control. January, 1936. The sleek model in the ad for Simonize car polish shows why women were worried about their hip size.

Spencer corsets were made to order, so they were presumably more expensive than ready-made foundation garments.

Another custom corset company, called Spirella, also stressed hip control.

Two ads for Spirella corsets, August and July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Two ads for Spirella corsets, August and July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal. “Have the Spirella Corsetiere mold your figure to its ideal lines with the patented Spirella Modeling Garment.” “At no cost to you… in your own home. See your figure idealized before your very eyes.”

Like Spirella, Spencer offered corset fittings in your own house: “Have you ever had a Spencer Corsetiere make a study of your figure? …An intelligent woman, trained in the Spencer designer’s methods of figure analysis will call at your home.”

An ad for Spencer corsets, Woman's Home Companion, September 1937.

Top image from an ad for Spencer corsets, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1937.

Ad for Spencer corset, Woman's Home Companion, September 1936.

Ad for Spencer corset, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Just as Listerine warned against “halitosis” to sell mouthwash, this corset ad used “lordosis” — a word which describes the normal curvature of the spine as well as excessive curvature — to sell corsets.

Figure faults included "bulging hips, bulging abdomen, and lordosis."

“Figure faults” included “bulging hips,” “bulging abdomen,” and “lordosis.”

Top of an ad for Spencer corsets, Woman's Home Companion, September 1936.

Top of an ad for Spencer corsets, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936. “Check your figure fault on the coupon below.”

Women were encouraged to identify their “figure fault.”

Spencer Corsets were "individually designed" to correc such "faults" as a normal. curvy derriere.

Spencer Corsets were “individually designed” to correct such “faults” as a normal. curvy derriere.

Notice that the same ad recruited saleswomen who would be trained to become “Spencer Corsetieres.”

Spencer corset ad, April 1937.

Spencer corset ad, April 1937. Notice her flat backside.

Of course, photos can lie; a subtle change of posture — shoulders back, chest up — is noticeable here; but the flattening power of the Spencer foundation garment is also evident.

Corset laces can be seen at the waist of the stretched-out girdle on the left. Spencer ad, WHC, Sepot. 1936.

Corset laces can be seen at the waist of the stretched-out girdle on the left. Spencer ad, WHC, Sept. 1936.

(A flat rear was also important in the 1920’s. Click here.)

The ill-fitting bra and really unattractive girdle on the left would not enhance any dress. Spencer ad, Jan 1936.

The ill-fitting bra and gaping girdle on the left would not enhance the fit of any dress. Spencer ad, Jan 1936.

"her mirror warned her that her figure was slumping...." Spencer ad, Nov. 1936. WHC.

“Her mirror warned her that her figure was slumping….” Spencer ad, Nov. 1936. WHC.

"But her mirro told a different story when she donned a SPENCER." Corset ad in Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

“But her mirror told a different story when she donned a SPENCER.” Corset ad in Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Pretty persuasive — and the personal fitting was free. A price range was not given; finding out the price from a saleswoman who had already spent time locating your “figure faults” in the privacy of your own home put the buyer in a vulnerable position.  But “Your Spencer corset and bandeau will effectively correct any figure fault, because every section, every line is designed, cut and made to solve your figure problem and yours only…. Prices depend on material selected. A wide range to suit every purse.”

Text opf a Spencer Corset ad, Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

Text of a Spencer Corset ad, Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

If you’re curious about the Corsetiere’s fitting kit, The Vintage Post has pictures of a Spirella one from the 1940’s. Click here.

These custom corsets were intended for women whose figures were imperfect (or who thought they were.) Women who only needed a little support, or a firmer silhouette, could wear the relatively new elastic foundations like this one from  Flexees.

A one-piece foundation from Flexees smoothed the figure without boning or tightly woven traditional corset materials.

Thanks to Lastex, a one-piece step-in foundation from Flexees smoothed the figure without boning, zippers, hooks and eyes, or lacing. Ad from December, 1936.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Becoming Dresses and Maternity Gowns, 1930

"Smart Patterns and Becoming Maternity Gowns," Good Housekeeping, February 1930, p. 74.

“Smart Patterns and Becoming Maternity Gowns,” from Good Housekeeping, February 1930, p. 74.

You’d expect fashion coverage from 1930 to be interesting, as women were trying to adjust to natural waistlines and descending hemlines. Caroline Gray, writing in Good Housekeeping, combined her suggestions for the mature figure with suggestions for maternity fashions. (Can you guess which are which?)

“The new silhouette is definitely here! Waists are higher and skirts are longer, and whether we like it or not, if we wish to look smart we must try to adapt it to ourselves and make it becoming…. Find the exact place where a higher belt is most becoming to you and put it there, regardless of whether it is quite as high as the dresses you see…. Nothing will look truly smart on you unless it suits your figure…. When you are determining the length of your skirt, experiment until you find the exact spot where it will add the most to your height and slenderness, for that is what we all want to achieve this season.”

Good Housekeeping pattern F-7 was recommended in February 1930. Sizes up to 42.

Good Housekeeping pattern F-7 was recommended in February 1930. Sizes 34 to 42. Not a maternity fashion.

“A small bolero is always becoming and makes the higher waistline more bearable.” The band at the hips echoes the familiar line of the twenties, but it follows the line of the bolero instead of  running horizontally.

Pattern F-6 is also suggested as a transitional style for “mature” women:

Good Housekeeping pattern F-6 from February 1930, p. 74. The natural waist is there, but not accented.

Good Housekeeping pattern F-6 from February 1930, p. 74. The natural waist is fitted, but not accented. For sizes 36 to 42. The tunic gives both a short and a longer hemline.

Of course, looking tall and thin is a challenge for most women even when they are not pregnant. Many writers in the 1920’s assumed that a woman’s goal was to conceal her pregnancy as long as possible.

“Maternity clothes have two objects: One is to make your condition unnoticeable, the other is to give you every physical advantage possible…. At this time you do not want to be conspicuous in any way.” — From The New Dressmaker, a Butterick book, c1921, p, 72.

To this end, Vogue suggested, in June of 1930, that pregnant women simply buy chic dresses in a larger-than-usual size, and have the neck and shoulders altered to fit.

“At first, concealment is easily effected by any woman with an eye for dress, but, after the figure is obviously changed, it is still possible to achieve, sometimes to the very end, the effect of a normal figure…. One should try to create the illusion of the naturally heavy figure, rather than be conspicuous for a disproportionate one.” — (Vogue, June 1930, pp 83, continued on p 102.) [This is 1930’s “pregnancy shaming:” it was better to be thought “heavy” than pregnant.]

Vogue suggested these fashionable gowns, among others, for the expectant mother in 1930:

Suggested maternity fashions, Vogue, June 1930. The one on the right is a Vionnet tea-gown.

Suggested maternity fashions, Vogue, June 1930. The one on the left was from Bonwit-Teller; the one on the right is a Vionnet tea-gown available from Jay Thorpe.

I’ll devote a later post to Vogue‘s other “just buy a bigger size” 1930 maternity suggestions.

Here are the maternity styles suggested by Good Housekeeping in 1930:

Maternity gown suggestions, Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1930, p. 74.

Maternity gown suggestions, Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1930, p. 74.

The article did not offer a pattern, or say that this suit and rather formal surplice dress could be purchased ready-made.

gh-text-two-maternity-dresses-1930-feb-p-200-end-of-article-proquestdocuments-2016-09-14

It’s hard to imagine how these dresses could be expanded enough, although the assumption was often made that you would constantly open seams, as your shape changed,  and remake the dress as needed from wide seam allowances.

“It is much better to choose current styles that can be adapted to maternity wear and use them in preference to the special maternity clothes…. The slight alterations [!] that you make for maternity use can be changed back to normal lines after the baby is born.” (The New Dressmaker, circa 1921. Page 72.)

There Were Clothes Specifically for Pregnancy

Dressmaker Lena Bryant had found a market niche back in 1905, when her private clients began asking for maternity fashions (She used elastic in the waistbands, among other  devices for making them expandable.)

Lane Bryant ad for maternity corset, Ladies Home Journal, December 1917, p. 112.

Lane Bryant ad for maternity corset, Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917, p. 112.

“By 1904, [Lena] Bryant was successful enough to open her own shop on Fifth Avenue at 120th Street. In the process of obtaining a loan from Oriental Bank, her first name was misspelled, giving birth to “Lane Bryant.”

“Bryant soon turned to producing dresses as well as undergarments for pregnant women, who had a difficult time finding stylish clothes that fit well. Bryant designed a maternity tea dress, called “Number 5” after its place on the order form. According to Figure, no newspaper would run advertisements for her maternity dresses–it was against the mores of the day for “ladies in waiting” to appear in public. When Bryant finally managed to have a small ad run in the New York Herald, she sold out of maternity dresses the day it appeared.” — from Funding Universe  (My McAfee security says it blocked ads from this site.)

Ad for the Lane Bryant maternity catalog, Delineator, March 1917. p. 43.

Ad for the Lane Bryant maternity catalog, Delineator, March 1917. p. 43. “Portraying the prevailing New York fashions, but so adapted as to successfully conceal condition….Fit when figure is again normal.”

The Lane Bryant mail-order catalog passed $1 million in sales in 1917. (Oddly, that was an era that favored thick waists, very full skirts, and smock-type overblouses — one of the rare times when mainstream fashion was perfectly suited to accommodate pregnancy.) Lane Bryant promised that their dresses would “automatically adjust” to fit after the baby was born — making them a good investment.

Chanel styles 1916 from Fashion through Fashion Plates by Doris Langley Moore.

Chanel styles, 1916, from Fashion Through Fashion Plates by Doris Langley Moore.

Teen-aged girls, circa 1918. Waists were thick and skirts were full.

Teen-aged girls in California, circa 1918. Waists were thick (and high) and skirts were full.

However, of the many decades when fashion was cruel to the chic pregnant woman, the early nineteen-thirties may hold the crown. These are maternity dresses. (Seriously.) The mores of the publishing industry meant that they could not be illustrated on a visibly pregnant body.

Woman's Home Companion, August 1936

The illustration shows three versions of Companion-Butterick maternity dress pattern 6948, from Woman’s Home Companion, August, 1936.  To read more about it, see Who Would Ever Guess?

A long, slender ideal silhouette plus soft, clinging fabrics, narrow hips, flat tummies, and (often) a decorative belt at the natural waist — combined with the idea that pregnancy was shameful and had to be concealed — must have made pregnant women feel frustrated in the thirties. Talk about an impossible ideal!

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Maternity clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

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

More Knits From the Thirties

A sweater to knit, January 1936, Delineator. Note the very 1930's toggle buttons.

A sweater to knit, January 1936, Delineator, page 31. Note the big, very 1930’s buttons.

I know nothing about knitting. However, in case you do, here are some more knitted fashions from the thirties — and a surprise.

A suit to knit offered by Delineator magazine (Butterick) in January, 1936.

A three-piece woman’s suit to knit offered by Delineator magazine (Butterick) in January, 1936. Page 31.

It has delightful details, like the knitted-in center front skirt panel:

Detail of knitted suit, 1936.

Detail of knitted suit, 1936. It’s a very snug fit.

How to order instructions for Delineator's suit No. 119.

How to order instructions for Delineator’s suit No. 119, page 31 , January 1936.

The Woman’s Home Companion also offered knitting patterns; this slim two-piece knit is another from 1936:

A knitted two-piece dress pattern from Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1936, p. 55.

A knitted two-piece dress pattern from Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1936, p. 55.

The knitting stitch looks familiar; “frosty cotton yarn” was recommended for this outfit.

Information for WHC knitting instructions, Feb. 1936.

Information for WHC knitting instructions, Feb. 1936. Readers had to write to the Woman’s Home Companion and request number CK-382. It was free, except for three cents postage.

This “dress” pattern from Woman’s Home Companion was a bit different; it offered a paper pattern, not just instructions.

Knitted dress pattern No. 6053, from Woman's Home Companion, February 1937.

Knitted dress pattern No. 6053, from Woman’s Home Companion, February 1937.

Information that accompanied the article about Knitted dress 6053. 1937.

Information that accompanied the article about Knitted Dress No. 6053. 1937.

Was a hand-knitted dress like this stylish or dowdy? I believe knits were in style, mostly because of this ad from an upscale, custom corset company:

"Yes, you can wear knitted suits" says this ad from the Spirella custom corset company. Ladies Home Journal, July 1936.

“Yes, you can wear knitted suits” says this ad from the Spirella custom corset company. Ladies Home Journal, July 1936.

If the desire to wear knitted suits and dresses was a selling point for foundation garments, there must have been many women who wanted to wear knits.

Sweater Girls

Woman in white sweater, Woman's Home Companion story illustration, April 1936.

Woman in white sweater, many-gored skirt, belt, hat, scarf, and gloves. Story illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936.

In 1937, teen-aged actress Lana Turner was dubbed “The Sweater Girl,” and that’s what her New York Times obituary called her in 1995. (She was not really discovered at Schwab’s soda fountain, however….) But the sweater and skirt combination was definitely a popular look for schoolgirls and other women in the nineteen thirties.

A sweater to knit, September, 1934, p. 63.

A sweater to knit, September, 1934, p. 63. Delineator. Decorative wooden buttons trim the collar and the neck opening. Viyella yarn was recommended.

A description of the sweater and skirt from Delineator, Sept. 1934, p. 63.

A description of the sweater and skirt from Delineator, Sept. 1934, p. 63.

More sweaters to knit — one of them very jacket-like, were featured in the August, 1934, Ladies’ Home Journal:

tops to knit, Ladies' Home Journal, Aug. 1934.

Tops to knit, Ladies’ Home Journal, Aug. 1934. Illustration by Dilys Wall. Two of these sweaters have  a diagonal rib.

Raglan-sleeved sweater to knit, Ladies Home Journal, Aug. 1934, p. 37.

Raglan-sleeved sweater to knit, Ladies’ Home Journal, Aug. 1934, p. 37. More big, 1930’s decorative buttons.

“A grand knit blouse for your tweed suit. Its square neck and raglan sleeves are important. We’ve made it in a little checkerboard stitch in Bear Brand or Bucilla crepe boucle or Shetland, if you wish.”

Also from 1934 are these manufactured sweaters from the Berth Robert catalog:

Ready-to-wear knit tops from the Berth Robert catalog for June, 1934.

Ready-to-wear knit tops from the Berth Robert catalog for June, 1934.

Costumers on a tight budget may be glad to know that the twin set was already established in the nineteen thirties, although finding one with set-in pockets may not be easy. The elaborate collar on number J 12 is very “thirties.”

The same Delineator article that showed the snug, three-piece suit (shown earlier) also had photos of the cable-knit that begins this post and this short-sleeved cotton sweater to knit yourself:

A knit pattern from Delineator, January 1936, p. 30.

A knit pattern from Delineator, January 1936, p. 30.

A pattern for this angora sweater was also offered.

An angora sweater to knit, Delineator, 1936.

A yellow angora sweater to knit, Delineator, 1936. It has big navy buttons and a “fringed necktie.” No. 117.

1936 jan p 31 knitting angora 117 text

High school and college girls were especially likely to wear sweaters.

"To wear on campus;" Woman's Home Companion, Aug. 1937.

“To Wear on Campus;” Woman’s Home Companion, Aug. 1937. Note the snaffle bit belt, which could be worn over the sweater.

A sweater set for the college wardrobe, froom "Styles in Stores, Woman's Home Companion, January 1936.

A sweater set and many-gored skirt, from “Styles in Stores,” Woman’s Home Companion, January 1936. The cardigan is checkered and the coordinating “blouse” is striped.

WHC 1936 jan p 55 styles in stores sweater set text

Part sweater, part weskit, and part jacket, with two diagonally set pockets, this one really appeals to me:

A sort of vest/weskit with knitted sleeves and back, ready-to-wear from November 1937. Woman's Home Companion.

A sort of vest/weskit with knitted sleeves and back, this was ready-to-wear from November 1937. Woman’s Home Companion. The front was duvetyne, a brushed wool fabric. It “may be worn for winter sports or after as a topper with slacks.”

But my very favorite 1930’s “sweater set” is deceptive:

A plaid twin set for the college wardrobe. Ready-to-wear from stores in September 1926.

A plaid twin set for the college wardrobe. Ready-to-wear from stores in September 1936.  Surprise:  It’s not a sweater set.

I love the contrast binding, the 3-button collar, the bias pocket detail on cardigan and blouse, the buttoned wrists….  but this is not a sweater set. It’s made of plaid wool flannel.

WHC 1936 sept p 59 college wardrobe text plaid twin set

I wonder;  Was “Twique” prounounced “Twee-kay” to rhyme with piqué?

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc