Category Archives: Underthings

Two Piece Dresses from 1926

Two-piece dresses from Butterick, Delineator, February 1926. These are for teens and small women.

Iin 1926, as far as Butterick patterns were concerned, a dress could be either one piece or a separate top and matching skirt. In fact, some one-piece dresses were made to look like they were two-piece!

The dress on the right, Butterick 6575, has a deep band near the hip (with buttons), simulating the look of a separate blouse and skirt.

“Many slip over one-piece frocks give the effect of a two-piece costume….” Delineator magazine, February 1926.

The pattern on the right, Butterick 6637, is another dress pretending to be a skirt and blouse. Notice the line of stitching that marks a deep tuck at the hip.

Left: one-piece dress 6533 pretends to be a two-piece. Both these dresses make good use of use border prints.

Real two-piece dresses were available for all ages, from pre-teen to adult.

On the right, Butterick two-piece dress pattern 6582. The separate skirt has a lively flare. (6605 is a one-piece dress.)

“The circular skirt is attached to an underbody.” The underbody (also called a “camisole body or yoke”) was one of the tricks of making a Twenties’ skirt and top work well together. I’m going to re-show the two outfits that started this post so you can compare them easily with two very similar skirt patterns that have underbodies:

Two-piece dresses from Butterick, Delineator, February 1926. Left, Butterick 6545; right, Butterick 6562. For misses 15 to 20 and small women.

If you could see through their blouses, you’d see that the skirts have no waistband. They hang from the shoulders, like this:

Butterick skirt patterns 6601 and 6658, also from the February issue of Delineator.

The circular skirt (6588) “may be worn under blouses or as a slip under frocks.” It’s for ladies 35 to 52 inch hip –quite large.

Alternate views of Butterick skirts 6601 and 6588 show a “hanging from the waist” option, with the underbody option shown in dotted lines.

Although some nineteen-twenties’ skirts did have a waistband, the skirt with underbody didn’t need darts or other shaping for a natural waist that might be ten inches smaller than the hips. In fact, the woman aiming for a boyish figure tried to pretend that she had no waist.

Foundation garments (or corselets) designed to minimize the difference between waist and hip. Delineator, February 1926, p. 24.

Obviously, if you turn your figure into a tube shape, any skirt which hangs from your waist will tend to slide down. (And twist around as you sit and walk.) The underbody solved this problem by making the skirt and top move independently of each other. However, as seen above, pattern illustrations did show a waistband option for those who still had a waist….

Alternate views of Butterick skirts 6601 and 6588. Feb. 1926. These are skirt patterns, but 6588 has several lines of stitching at the hem, which would make it stiffer when used as a petticoat.

I’ve been looking for a good underbody illustration for some time. Making a Twenties’ costume this way means that the actors’ clothes will fall neatly into place when they stand after sitting.

Now for some more Twenties’ two-piece dresses:

Butterick 6522 is simple and charming (don’t forget those important long ribbon ties!) Designed for a youthful wearer, 15 or under, the skirt is shorter than for a mature woman — giving it the knee-length proportions that look “right” to modern eyes. The skirt looks much like No. 6601 (and  dress 6545.)

The use of the word “juniors” surprised me.

The dress featured with this girl’s coat is pattern 6582, illustrated in blue above.

You could make this entire outfit from Butterick patterns: Coat 6609, two-piece dress 6582, and hat 5952. February 1926. Butterick also sold the embroidery transfer, No. 10383.

A closer look at that coat and hat:

Butterick coat pattern 6609 with hat embroidered to match.

Butterick two-piece “dress” 6577 uses double-sided, reversible fabric:

Butterick two-piece dress pattern 6577, from February 1926. “The straight skirt, with its inverted plait at each side front and at the center back, is attached to an underbody with a camisole top.” For teens and small women.

Having grown up wearing cotton flannel pajamas, I have to remind myself that flannel can mean wool.

Right, two-piece dress 6597. Left, a simple one-piece dress that uses a border print for impact. February 1926.

Butterick two-piece dress 6581. The stripes are probably a border print. For teens and small women.

“Its straight skirt, attached to an underbody,” has inverted pleats. This particular skirt style keeps reappearing. Dress skirts from the early 1920’s often had all the pleats or fullness in the front, with a perfectly “plain back,” but now the back of the skirt is also pleated or gathered.

Right, the two-piece dress for average-sized women is shown a few inches longer than dresses for under-twenties. These stripes are definitely a border print (See description of its color illustration, below.) Butterick 6608, February 1926, p 32.

The same pattern was illustrated in color on page 29, and without the stripes:

Butterick 6608 from page 29. “The straight skirt, gathered at the front, is attached to an underbody.”

It has a plain back:

Oops: I never supplied the pattern descriptions for these dresses.  Back views of other patterns appear at the end of the post.

Butterick 6545 and 6562 from February 1926. You might not want to include the cutesy animal embroidery, but those decorative pocket hankies appear constantly in fashion illustrations from 1925 and 1926, including several shown in this post.

Bois de rose (rosewood) was a popular color introduced in couture; it’s a neutralized, slightly tan, rose pink — hard to photograph!

Back views of dresses for girls 15 or under. 1926. 658s is a girl’s version of 6562, above.

Back views of one-piece dresses pretending to be separates. Delineator, February 1926.

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Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Sportswear, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Hair Styles from the World War I Era — and Later (Part 2)

Fashion illustration, Delineator, December 1917. That little puff of hair near the cheek was very important. It looked so charming peeking out from under a hat. She still has long hair, piled on her head.

Hats and hair, Delineator illustration, September 1917.

This front and back view shows that the bun on top of her head is supported by a tall comb, and the wispy hair brushed over her ears, like her bangs, has been cut. Delineator, March 1917.

I ended Part 1 of this post with a studio photograph of my mother, taken about 1919, when she was 14 or 15 years old.

My mother’s eighth grade graduation picture, circa 1919. To see the rest of her class, click here. Many of them have long, girlish curls, but she was trying to look grown-up.

She has tried to match the high hairstyles — and those very important puffs of hair over the cheeks — that she saw in fashion images.

But, as this later photo shows,  she actually had long, “Mary Pickford” curls.

Photo of my mother about 1920. Her hair is very long, but now she has cut bangs — with or without her parents’ permission.

Silent star Mary Pickford’s long curls were famous. Here she is in an ad for Pompeiian night cream, 1917.

My mother did other things without her parents’ permission, too.

Girls, boys, cars — Uh-oh! At least we get another view of her long, long  hair….

Here we see that she has cut bangs since her graduation photo, but those long curls are rolled up at the side again. Circa 1920. She is smirking because she was posing in her underwear:

This photo from 1920 says “age 16.” Helen’s friend Irene took this picture; then my mother took one of Irene, similarly undressed.

Irene has also cut bangs, and rolled her long hair up to look short at the sides. This photo was dated on the back: April 18, 1920.

Irene models another type of one-piece underwear:

Teenaged girl practicing naughtiness…. 1920. At least this “combination” has thin ribbon straps…. According to census records, Irene was about 15 in 1920.

Some readers have questioned whether my mother really was a “flapper” in the twenties, with the hint of wild behavior that implies. Ummmm….

Other girls in town also tried to achieve fashionable hairdos, and especially those little puffs that caress the cheeks. (During my youth in the 60’s, a curl on the cheek was called a Guiche; it usually curved forward.)

The woman on the right has cut the front part of her hair short, but probably still has long hair in back, like the woman on the left. Sears catalog, Fall 1917.

Left, short hair in front, with a hint of a bun at the back; right, a tall hairdo supported by a fancy comb. Delineator, April 1917.

The “puffs” or guiches on her cheek are clearly cut shorter than the rest of her hair. Delineator, November 1917.

These girls have also cut some of their front hair — although it could be hard to control the results.

Two California girls, circa 1918. It’s not easy to look like a fashion plate, even in these very stylish sweaters.

Below left, my mother’s friend Ollie had a bad hair day, but later managed an up-do:

Ollie with her hair cut short at the sides; in the second photo we can see that the rest of her her hair is still long enough to pile on top of her head. Circa 1918-1920’s.

From Long Hair to Bobbed Hair

It was my aunt Dorothy who told me that my mother and her friend Irene were the first girls in town to have their hair bobbed — a story she only told decades after my mother’s death. [I suspect that Dorothy, a keen photographer,  developed and printed those naughty photos.]

According to my aunt, their mother was in the hospital, recovering from surgery. With less supervision than usual, younger sister Helen and her friend Irene “snuck off” and had their hair bobbed.  When my grandfather saw his daughter with short hair, he he told her she was forbidden to visit her mother in the hospital. He said (and believed,) “The shock would kill her!”

My mother with bobbed (and permanently-waved) hair, probably 1921 or 1922. I think this picture was taken to show her new look, fresh from the hairdresser.

I can date this picture because she is with her little nephew Gerald, born in 1921:

Helen with bobbed hair and her brother’s baby son, probably in 1922. She was 18 or so.

Here she is wearing a Chinese tunic, and extraordinarily pointy shoes:

Bobbed hair, a Chinese costume, and no-those-are-not-clown-shoes. (She wore shoe size 5 1/2.) Early 1920’s.

Obviously, she got a Marcel wave as well as a hair cut:

My mother with her shockingly short (and suddenly curly) hair, about 1922.

Many people thought bobbed hair was a sign that a girl was “fast.”

Training to be a flapper: my mother is showing bobbed hair, rolled stockings, and bare knees. She was about 18 years old, and wearing an “armistice blouse” that was about to go out of style.

I have two other photos of her friend Irene:

Irene has cut bangs, but only pulled one strand down into a curl on her forehead. It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t think her hair has been bobbed yet. About 1921-22.

Here, Irene, aged 18 — with “her first husband” — has a Marcel wave, and a hairstyle more associated with the 1920’s. “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead….”

Irene with chin length hair, a Marcel wave, and a husband; early 1920’s. I suspect that she’s wearing an invisible hair net for a perfectly smooth finish. Irene was probably born in 1905, making this circa 1923.

Third from left, Irene — now married — and wearing a terrific 1920’s skirt. My aunt said, “She was 18 and he was 25.”

While long hair required the kind of hairpins that mountain roads are named after [“hairpin curves,”] bobbed hair needed a different kind of hairpin — the bobbie pin. What a pity for the wonderfully named Hump Hair Pin Company.

An ad for Hump Hairpins, Delineator, March 1917. These pins for long hair were not shaped like traditional hairpins.

Nothing works for long hair like traditional hairpins — although, if you haven’t used them, you may wonder how they could hold anything in place. Humblebee & Me (dot com) has a good demonstration. Click here.

For more about Mary Pickford, and the headlines she made by finally bobbing her hair, click here. Silentology is a delightful film history site.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, vintage photographs, World War I

Quick Post: Theda Bara’s Bloomers

File:Bara-Cleo2.jpg

Public domain image of Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917. From WikiMedia Commons. She was at ease in very revealing costumes.

Bonus sighting of Cleopatra’s knickers: The 1917 film of Theda Bara’s Cleopatra is lost, but an attempt to reconstruct it from surviving footage and still photos is being made. The lavish and daring costumes make up in craftsmanship what they lack in authenticity. I especially love this sequence, in which Cleopatra rises from her throne to reveal, under her see-through dress, a pair of very un-sexy 1917 knickers. Click here.       (The inter-titles assume you’re a very slow reader; be patient and wait for it….) The elastic seems to have been removed from the legs.

Ladies drawers or bloomers from Sears, Spring 1917.

Image result for theda bara cleopatra public domain images

“Mother was right: always wear nice underwear in case somebody sees it….” Public domain image of Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917.

Since posting about the confusing names for 1920’s undies, I received wonderful comments, including this from The Vintage Traveler:

“Here’s my take, and I could be wrong. I’ve been looking at catalogs from 1918 through 1925, and I’ve found all the terms you’ve mentioned. I have not found anything referred to as a “teddy”. We used that term in the 1980s when the camisole/panty combination had a comeback. I don’t know if it was used in the 1920s.

“From what I can tell using my own sources, an envelope combination is one that has the buttoning crotch flap, sort of in the way an actual envelope has a flap to close it. So the pictured green suit is an envelope combination.

“Step-in combinations are different in that they have to be literally stepped in to. The partition between the legs is sewn rather than buttoned and so the garment cannot be pulled over the head and onto the body. It’s easy to see why the combination was starting to be divided in two pieces. How on earth would one be able to use the toilet without completely undressing?

“For the life of me, I can’t see why Butterick 6194 was called knickers. I’ve read all kinds of explanations about why Americans used bloomers/panties/stepins while the British called the same garment knickers. From what I can see, “knickers” was rarely used in the US to denote an undergarment. But from your example we can see that it was, on occasion, used in that way.

“As for outerwear, bloomers are full, and they close at the bottom with elastic. Knickers are much less full, and close at the knees with a band that buttons.”

And this from Dee, who has a 1931 Home Economics textbook:

“I have a high school home economics book, Fabric and Dress, copyright 1931, which includes a table of materials suitable for underwear. It lists slips, teddies, step-ins, bloomers, shorts, brassieres, shirts, union suits, pajamas and gowns. Shirts and union suits are listed as uses for stockinette, and it is indicated just prior to the table that pajamas and gowns are nightwear. There are also references to previous styles of undergarments: Petticoats, camisoles, and this interesting one “Pettibockers (full bloomers drawn in below the knee) were popular when skirts were long. The style of short skirts changed this undergarment, by shortening it and taking out some of the fullness.”

“I also found it interesting that in the chapter which goes over a bit of fashion history, with an emphasis on the “follies of fashion”, (i.e., 18th century headdress, Elizabethan ruffs, 1860 hoopskirts) there is a reference to “Another more recent fashion, which will probably seem as absurd as many of these when it becomes long out-of-date, is the very short skirt of 1928 and 1929, which was about three inches above the knee.”

Sometimes I love the internet!

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Envelope Chemises, Step-ins, and Other Lingerie, 1924-25

An ad for Royal Society embroidery “package outfits;” Delineator, November 1924, p. 78. It seems that these were kits, ready to be embr0idered.

The variety of lingerie — and the names — from Butterick’s 1924 underwear patterns is amazing to me. It’s a specialized area that doesn’t really make me want to hit the reference books. However, for those of you who love or collect vintage undies, here are some images and pattern descriptions from 1924 and 1925.

The two garments on the right are called “combinations;” The one with birds is Butterick 5030; the one on the far right (“drawer skirt combination”) is Butterick 5050. Delineator, February 1924.

A closer look at combination 5030 and drawer skirt combination  5050. No. 5030 seems to form into legs, but in fact the front and back hems are connected with a strip of fabric.

The back view implies that 5050 has a crotch strap running from front to back [and closed with buttons]. The text doesn’t really explain how number 5050 is constructed. “Tub” means “washable.” 5030 is a “dainty step-in combination chemise and drawers.”

These two patterns were illustrated repeatedly, but not together, with varied descriptions. I arbitrarily referred to this pale green one-piece as a “teddie” in a previous post, but I’m no longer sure that’s the correct term. It might be  “combinations” or a “step-in” chemise. [See comments.]

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/vl037-teddie-72.jpg?w=500&h=477

This pale green, tucked teddy [or step-ins? or combinations? ] has a crotch strap, barely visible. It stops at the edge of the netting lace. You can see a straight line of stitching where it attaches to the garment, about an inch or so above the lace trim.

Edit 1/17/18: thevintagetraveler says this green envelope chemise is not a step-in, because step-ins don’t have a button crotch. See her very helpful comment for more clarifications. That makes this a step-in:

Vintage step-ins; the crotch has no buttons, the sides are open below the waist, and they would not be easy to step into, because your hips would have to fit through the waist — or, rather, the waist has to be as big as your hips.

Detail of leg on vintage combination step-ins. It would not be easy to answer the call of nature while wearing these.

[End of edited section….]

Butterick “Step-in” 4112 and “Envelope Chemise” 5059, pictured in Delineator, June 1924. You can see the button crotch in both of these. But how does a “combination” differ from a “step-in?” Or a “step-in combination” as it says here?

The very low crotch looks uncomfortable to a woman who grew up wearing knitted briefs, but there was probably a notion that “the parts need airing,” as was sometimes claimed by wearers of kilts.

Butterick “cami-knickers” 5124 with “envelope chemise” 5059. Delineator, April 1924.

Munsingwear offered this unfussy, step-in version of a “woven union suit with closed gore, step-in style.”

Ad for Munsingwear knitted underwear for women; Delineator, June 1924. If the crotch strap was close to the hem, that “wide opening at the side” [see below] would be needed.

And the Munsingwear ad mentions bloomers among its underwear selections.

Below, a pair of “knickers” held by a young woman wearing an “envelope chemise.”

The model wearing “envelope chemise” 4137 is holding a pair of “knickers,” pattern 3197. In the U.S., “Knickers” sometimes referred to undergarments in January 1924, and still does in England. Delineator, January 1924. [And Delineator was published in England as well as in the U.S.]

Knickers? Bloomers? Confused? That’s OK. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist….” Incidentally, the pattern numbers give you an idea which were slightly earlier styles that were being continued (3000’s and 4000’s) and newer styles (5000’s and 6000’s.) This knickers pattern (6194) — clearly an undergarment — was new in 1925:

Butterick knickers pattern 6194 was brand new in August of 1925 — and these knickers are definitely underwear.

But, to add to my confusion, Butterick offered knicker pattern 3496 as outdoor wear, also in the summer of 1925.

Woman golfer wearing knicker pattern 3496, from Delineator, July 1925, p. 35.

The number series suggests knicker pattern 3496 was issued back in 1922 or 1923 and still popular in 1925.

Butterick pattern 3496, knickers to wear for sports. Delineator, January 1925, p. 34.

Knickers? Bloomers? Drawers?

Butterick pattern 4974, for step-in “Drawers” was probably issued in 1923 or early 1924. These have elastic in the waist, making them easy to step into and draw up.

Butterick “step-in drawers” pattern 5564, from October 1924. “Under the new narrow dresses you should wear lingerie cut on correspondingly narrow lines.”

This set (“chemise and drawers”) was featured in June, 1924.

A “French chemise” and one-piece step-in drawers, Butterick 3826, illustrated in June 1924. I’m guessing that the pattern contained  a camisole-and-drawers version and an all-in-one version as shown at right. “Width at bottom of each leg 30 inches.”

This vintage step-in [1/17/18 edit: Combination] chemise would look different on a human body. This silky beauty has no waist seam. It does have a button crotch.

“Drawer-skirt combination” (5050, at left,) camisole 4957, and envelope chemise 5059. Delineator, May 1924.

This lovely vintage set of camisole and drawers shows its button crotch clearly:

This vintage set — I love the contrasting lace and embroidery color — has a separate camisole and [not step-in] drawers. Since the waist is not elastic, the “drawers” need to have a button crotch.

A camisole, which covers only the upper body, could be worn with drawers, like the camisole and drawers (or step-ins?)  shown in this Royal Society ad:

Detail from Royal Society ad, November 1924. The camisole costs $1.25 and the drawers [?] cost $1.50.

Different patterns for drawers were issued:

Butterick 4974 was called ” step-in drawers” in January 1924. They have an elastic waist, so they might not need a button-crotch. For hips 35″ to 52.”

A new set of step-in drawers “in a skirt effect” is illustrated in October, 1924: Butterick pattern 5565. These would need a strap-type crotch of some kind. [They don’t have separate legs, so why are they called “drawers?”]

Drawers and knickers were different from bloomers, which tended to be fuller:

 

Bloomers, Butterick 5705; Delineator, March 1925. To read about boneless corselettes, click here.

But bloomers, like knickers, could also be outerwear:

Butterick “combination” 5030 (again) and bloomers for a little girl [or girls 2 to 16 years!] Butterick 5065. Delineator, March 1924. These bloomers are attached to an underbodice, very practical for the years when little girls have tummies bigger than their hips. [I remember needing suspenders on my skirts in first grade….]

Often, “bloomers” were intended to be seen, and were worn by almost all girls as part of their gym suits, or for any active pursuits. The middy blouse would cover the underbodice:

Middy blouse 3849 was a classic. I have photos of my aunt and friends graduating from high school wearing a middy-blouse-plus-white-skirt uniform in 1917. Gym bloomers (“for girls or misses 2 to 18”) were very full, often pleated. Delineator, February 1924. The Vintage Traveler shared a whole middy catalog from the 1920’s here.

Did I learn anything from this adventure in undergarment nomenclature?  Only to avoid making absolute pronouncements about bloomers, knickers, drawers, teddies, chemises, camisoles, combinations, and step-ins! [Please see helpful comment from thevintagetraveler!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charm After Fifty, July 1937

Charm after Fifty is illustrated in these three dresses made from one pattern: Companion-Butterick 7458. Woman’s Home Companion, July 1937.

This Companion-Butterick triad dress pattern from the summer of 1937 is illustrated on three mature women, none of whom has a conspicuously middle-aged figure.

This illustration by Ernst shows pattern 7458 as it might look on three tall, slim-hipped women. None of them seems to have a single gray hair, never mind a sagging chin or a “menopot.”

However, the size range went all the way to bust size 52.

The three dresses have similar skirts, but bodice and sleeve variations range from casual to dressy. [I imagine that the floral print version was made more often in navy or brown rayon than in yellow chiffon, but it’s nice that women over fifty were encouraged to wear bright colors.

From simple to fancy: Pattern 7458 in striped cotton with short sleeves, in a turquoise print with broad shoulders and 3/4 sleeves, and in a soft yellow chiffon floral print with a V-neck and flounces cascading down the front. WHC, July 1937.

White, perforated summer shoes were not just for “old ladies,” and the heels at right are certainly high.

Perforated shoes for summer. 1937.

Ad for Walk-Over Shoes, with prices, from WHC, June 1937.

“Puncho” shoes. Walk-Over, June 1937. These are white kid suede, but the same shoe was available in blue, black or gray.

“Cabana” shoes from Walk-Over also came in white calf, tan, blue, black or red earth calf, or gray sueded kid. 1937.

Sporty “Lariat” shoes from Walkover. Also in brown or gray. The heel is stacked leather. 1937.

The “Mohawk” oxford shoe from Walk-Over could be purchased in all white calf, or white suede with tan calf, as pictured. 1937.

Shoes weren’t the only things that were perforated in the 193o’s:

Ad for a Perfolastic reducing girdle, WHC, February 1936. That’s “lastic” as in latex: a rubber garment designed to help you sweat off the pounds and inches. Did women have polka-dotted skin when they took it off?

Perfolastic reducing girdle and brassiere ad; WHC, Nov. 1937.

Text, Perfolastic reducing girdle and brassiere, WHC, Nov. 1937. “You appear inches smaller at once.”

Perhaps that’s how these women over fifty maintained their impossibly tall, willowy shapes.

Women over fifty: WHC, July 1937. Elongated fashion figures with suspiciously rosy cheeks.

Top of ad for Louis Philippe’s Angelus Rouge Incarnat lip and cheek rouge, Delineator, June 1934.

Text of ad for Louis Philippe’s Angelus Rouge Incarnat lip and cheek rouge, Delineator, June 1934. “In its allure, it is typically, wickedly of Paris. In its virginal modesty, as natural as a jeune fille….” “You use either on both the lips and the cheeks.”

These women over fifty may have also used another product: Brownatone. It had been in use since the 1920’s — possibly earlier.

Ad for Brownatone gray hair coloring, WHC, February 1937. There seem to be only two color choices.

For another “After Fifty” triad pattern, click here.

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Lux for Laundry Ads 1930s

A little social history: A relatively new idea appears in this ad, which I showed last week.

The young woman who says she hates men just needed some advice on how to attract them. Lux laundry soap ad, August 1934.

Here, a friend advises her to wash her underwear after each wearing.

Lux laundry soap advised women to wash their underwear after each wearing. This implies a generally higher standard of living — and assumes more than one set of underclothes, since drying time was unpredictable.

In Victorian England, poor women had to put their children to bed for a day in order to wash their clothes. The family huddled under a blanket while the only clothing they possessed was washed and dried. My uncle Bert, born around 1899, behaved like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian bachelor farmers;” believing that a bath “opened the pores” to harmful germs, he would have remained unwashed, wearing the same set of long underwear from fall until spring, if my parents had not required regular bathing and fresh clothes as a condition of his living with us in the 1960’s.

Our twentieth century American sensitivity to personal odors was developed by ad campaigns like this one.

Ad for Lux laundry soap. March 1933. In this case, “It” is not sex appeal but the smell of unwashed underwear.

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1933. “Perhaps she thinks she doesn’t perspire. But we all do, even though we don’t feel sticky. Frequently over a quart a day, doctors say…. Second day underthings are never safe.”

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1932. “Underthings absorb perspiration. Avoid offending….”

Text from Lux ad, March 1932. “I don’t see how she can be so careless about her underthings … wear them so long without a change.”

“She bathes every day, but she wears her girdle a whole week” without washing it. Lux ad, Nov. 1936, Woman’s Home Companion.

Lux ad, WHC, Nov. 1936. She is wearing the relatively new two-way stretch girdle, made possible by Lastex. “Cake-soap rubbing” is a reference to traditional laundry products like Naptha soap, which came in bar form.

Making women feel insecure about their breath worked wonders for Listerine….

Halitosis ruined her entire evening; she has tears in her eyes. Ad for Listerine, Feb. 1924.

That ad campaign was still going strong ten years later:

Listerine “halitosis” ad, February 1934. “Mostly boys in this picture, but the moral is for girls…. Get rid of halitosis with Listerine.” (The man at right is offering money to any fellow willing to cut in and release him from this dancing partner.)

Why shouldn’t a similar ad campaign work for laundry soap?

Ad for Lux laundry soap, McCall’s magazine, July 1938. The story in comic book format: It’s really unpleasant to be near her, so her friends want the window open; her husband isn’t glad to see her….

“I’m so unhappy. Harry doesn’t love me as he used to….” He wonders, “Why isn’t she the dainty girl she used to be?”Lux ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Having taught women to wash their undies, including girdles, it’s time for them to wash their dresses more often, too. “If she’d LUX her dress the way she does her undies, she wouldn’t offend.”

Progress.

(Incidentally, someone could make a study of the use of the word “dainty” in such ads.)

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Girdles, lingerie, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings

A Mystery Corset: 1820’s ?

NOTE: I thought this post was published on Sept. 16, 2017; I even received helpful  comments and updated it — but it’s not listed as published on my dashboard — so, forgive me if you received two notifications on it. Mysterious, indeed. I added links and categories in October, 2017.

This corset is stiffened by many rows of parallel channels. A busk can be inserted in the center. Parallel rows of diagonal cording flatten the midriff, which, to me,  suggests a date after the 1810s.

When I first saw this corset in a collection that was being readied for sale, I was fascinated by its beauty and its fine state of preservation. At first, I couldn’t believe it was not a reproduction.

Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I took a few quick photos and sought advice, but the collection was sold before I realized that I needed more pictures. I can’t even find detailed notes — just the letter I wrote asking for advice — so apparently I never had a chance to return to this garment, or to photograph several other intriguing corsets.

Back detail of the corset near shoulder.

I believe it was completely hand stitched with shiny brown thread. The stitching is so regular that it looks, at first, like it was done by a machine; however, I believe it is perfectly spaced back-stitching, with visible starts, stops, and knots on the inside of the corset. [Update: it is not back-stitched; Cynthia Baxter suggested that is was stitched with a running stitch, and then stitched on the opposite side with running stitches using the same holes. I have seen this technique used by shoemakers and leather workers, so it makes sense for a corset.]

Inside of the corset. An occasional thread knot implies hand stitching.

The state of the fabric, except for a few spots, was remarkable — if it is as old as I think it is (before 1840.)  It could have been collected anywhere.

Channel stitching, detail of right midriff front. The busk channel is at right of photo.

Detail of front of corset.  The midriff area is stitched from below the bust to just below the natural waist. I think the channels hold cording.  I do wish I’d had time  to photograph the inside!

The corset has a dropped shoulder in the back, tiny close-fitting bound armholes, and an extended shoulder line.

In general, the collection did not include many items of this rarity and quality. However, the collection did include a fine 18th century man’s vest, as well as this dress, from early in the 1800’s.

An early 19th century dress from the same collection as the mystery corset. The chemise under it is unrelated.

Empire dress, early 1800’s, with wool embroidery at hem in three shades of brown.

The corset worn under a dress like this created a very high bust, but a woman’s waist and hips didn’t need to be re-shaped.

Back to the mystery corset: I only took one photo of the back, with a gigantic, modern black lace obscuring the eyelets.

Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed.

Were the holes hand worked or were they metal grommets?  In my ignorance, grommets would have been a red flag to me; if there were metal grommets, I would have assumed that the corset was a reproduction or had been altered to be worn in modern times. But — I would have been mistaken. This English corset from the Museum at FIT is dated 1815. It has metal grommets down the back.

I looked online for Regency Era reproduction patterns; I didn’t find any pattern for this corset. A yahoo search turns up several images of Regency Era corsets. Click here.

There’s a nice overview of early 19th century corsets at Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion. Click here.

A Regency style corset made by sidneyeileen.com has similarities to our mystery corset.

A corset (1830 to 1840) in the Los Angeles County Museum has a similar high waisted (but not Empire) silhouette.

This corded corset, with a channel for a front busk, is at the Metropolitan Museum: it is described as 1820’s. The waist is a little above the wearer’s natural waist. The front straps are spaced as far apart as possible.

Corset from the 1820’s in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

corset met 1815 to 1825

I was going to leave it at that, but couldn’t resist trying to relate the shape of the corset to the clothing that would have been worn over it.

All the following fashion plates are from the online Casey Collection of Fashion Plates at the Los Angeles County Museum.

1800 fashion plate from Ladies’ Museum, in the Casey Collection. The early 1800’s corset pushes the breasts up to a rather unnatural position, high on the chest.

The neckline of our corset is too high for these fashions — and it does not push the breasts up this high.

Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.

Early in the 1800’s, the Empire waist was very high and the dress was often gathered in the front. The fullness moved to the back a few years later, which would call for a smoother midriff area. By 1811, the waist was moving lower:

April 1811, fashion plate from La Belle Assemblee, Casey Collection. A ball dress.

However, not every woman immediately adopted the lower waist, as this mourning evening dress from 1818 shows:

Evening dress for a woman in mourning, 1818. From British Ladies’ Magazine, December 1818. in Casey Collection.

The mourning dress and the Parisian evening dress below might have been seen at the same ball, although one has a much lower waist.

A high bust and a descending waist line, from La Belle Assemblee, January 1820.

These dresses from 1822 show a high bust with a lower, fitted waist, which is still above the natural waistline.

1822: a plate from the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, October 1822. Casey Collection. The shape of the midriff is becoming important, no longer concealed by fullness in the dress.

Bodices from La Belle Assemblee, December 1822. Casey Collection. The trend for wider shoulders and a narrow below-the-bust area is beginning. Belts accent the waist, which is still higher than nature designed.

Fashion plates from 1825 show higher necklines and lower waists, with a widening (and highly decorated) hem.

January 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames. Casey Collection.

February 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames, Casey Collection. The silhouette is wider at top and hem, emphasizing a tiny waist.

November 1825, Ladies’ Magazine. Casey Collection.

By 1829, a tiny waist, rather than a high, full bust, is the focus of fashion:

September 1829, La Belle Assemblee. Casey Collection.

April 1830, La Mode. Sleeves are enormous, the shoulder is widened and extended over the upper arm; a woman is wider everywhere — except her waist. Casey Collection.

So:  where does our mystery corset belong?

High neckline, relatively natural bust, flat midriff, slightly dropped shoulders.

Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed. Notice the line of the shoulders.

I can imagine it being worn under this dress — but that’s only my guess.

Dress from the late 1820’s; Metropolitan Museum.

 

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Filed under 1800s-1830s, Corsets, Costumes for the 19th century, Foundation Garments, lingerie and underwear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing