Category Archives: Underthings

Maternity Patterns from 1907

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The bodice was adjustable:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petticoat pattern 2913 description, LHJ, January 1907.

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

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

Description of maternity corset cover pattern, LHJ 2911.

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

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

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

 

2 Comments

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

Filet Crochet Lace 1917

Filet lace on a camisole, Delineator, April 1917. The same yoke could be used on a nightgown.

A vintage nightgown with a filet lace yoke. Modern blue and red ribbon was inserted, but the original ribbon insertion was probably white or pastel colored. The nightie is white, not pink. (I’m learning to use a new computer….)

There seems to have been a fashion for lingerie trimmed with this crocheted lace during the First World War era.  “Filet lace” is often recognizable by characteristic grid patterns, although quite complex shapes, such as butterflies and flowers, can be created. I know nothing about crochet and very little about lace, but I’ll post these images for those who do have an interest, especially since it may help to date vintage items.

Filet lace crochet. Top, a collar; left, a camisole; and lower right, an underwear bag decorated with swimming ducks. Delineator, June 1917.

A camisole trimmed with a basket of flowers. Filet lace, Delineator, December 1917.

Nightgowns might have a simple crochet lace yoke or a crocheted yoke that includes sleeves. Butterick patterns 8140 and 8552 from Delineator, August 1917.

Below, a different version of Butterick nightgown pattern 8552:

Filet lace trims a nightgown and a combination, Delineator, February 1917.

This vintage nightgown has a simple (see-through) yoke, but the gown is trimmed with patterned crochet lace.

Collars and blouses were also a popular place to display crochet lace:

Lace collars pictured in Delineator, September 1917.

Filet lace collar, Delineator, March 1917. [Note her “Spanish” hair comb.]

This blouse from a Bedell catalog ad has filet pattern lace, including inset medallions: Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917.

An apron trimmed with filet lace, Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1917. This fancy item was suggested as something that could be sold at a charity bazaar.

“Even the baby wears filet.”

A baby cap in filet crochet from a page of needlework projects. Ads for needlework supplies often ran alongside these articles. Delineator, March 1917.

Lace-trimmed jabots were also popular circa 1917.

A filet-trimmed jabot that could be worn with different outfits may have been popular with women who were not quite used to wearing the new V-neck fashions. Delineator, Sept. 1917

Geometric, grid-based filet lace was not limited to the nineteen-teens; this spectacular display decorates the front and back of a slip that shows 1920’s styling.

This slip, circa 1920-1925, has a large amount of filet lace both front and back. It has 1920’s style hip accents, and its length indicates early twenties. The original silk ribbon inserted in the shoulder straps and top of the yoke has a floral pattern woven into it.

It’s possible that the large piece of lace is machine made, but the straps are crocheted.

Filet lace was often pictured along with other forms of lingerie lace trim.

Lingerie lace featured in Delineator, August 1917. Readers could write for the instructions.

Lingerie and insertion lace featured in Delineator, February 1917.

P.S. Happy holidays to all!

2 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

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!

 

 

Leave a comment

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

Bodysuit Combination Blouse and Undergarment, 1927

This is one of those surprises that makes reading old magazines so much fun.

Combination blouse and panties, Butterick pattern 1493, from June 1927. Delineator, p. 34.

Combination blouse and panties, Butterick pattern 1493, from June 1927. Delineator, p. 34.

“Here is a costume that provides its own underclothing…. The two-in-one blouse slips on over the head and extends into panties.” [It would have had a button crotch, like other combination underwear, called “teddies,”  “step-ins,” or “an envelope chemise.”]

I remember wearing a bodysuit — that is, a blouse that stayed tucked in because, below the waist, it became a snap-crotched panty. As the “bodysuit” it was popularized by Donna Karan, and other manufacturers followed suit.

In 1927, Butterick sold this outfit as three separate patterns:  Blouse 1493, Skirt 1480, and Cardigan jacket 1367.

Three Butterick patterns from 1927: Combination blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and jacket 1367. Butterick patterns from Delineator, June 1927, p. 34.

Three Butterick patterns from 1927: Combination blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and jacket 1367. Butterick patterns from Delineator, June 1927, p. 34.

When writing about a 1929 blouse/underwear combination attributed to Madeleine Vionnet, I said, “The problem of wearing a 1920’s wrap skirt which rides far below the natural waistline (the skirt over a satin blouse would have a tendency to migrate around the body as you walk), and the problem of keeping the blouse tucked in when you sit and stand, or raise your arms, are both neatly solved by the “culotte blouse,” as it was called in 1929.

Delineator's sketch of a suit by Vionnet, and the Butterick copy, Pattern 2526. Delineator, March 1929.

Delineator’s sketch of a suit by Vionnet, and the Butterick copy, pattern 2526. Delineator, March 1929. This “culotte” blouse was also a “step-in” panty.

At the time, I was interested in the fact that a couture design using a very visible zipper and attributed to Vionnet in 1929 pre-dated Schiaparelli’s use of zippers by several years. [To read that post, click here.]

However, I was surprised to see this blouse and panties combination (Butterick  1493) even earlier, in June of 1927, when it was called the “Two-in-One Blouse.”

Text, page 34, Delineator, June 1927.

Text, page 34, Delineator, June 1927.

“The two-in-one blouse is more than a blouse — it is a combination tailored shirt and panties…. It is splendid for sports and for riding since it can’t pull up. ” A “printed silk cardigan” — “the most important sport jacket of the year” — sounds pretty nifty, too.

Butterick cardigan 1367 could be made of wool, velvetten, jersey, or printed silk. The skirt fabric was used for binding on the jacket, creating a suit look.

Butterick cardigan 1367 could be made of wool, velveteen, jersey, or printed silk. The skirt fabric was used for binding on the jacket, creating a suit look.

Pattern descriptions, Butterick blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and cardigan jacket 1367. Delineator, June 1927.

Pattern descriptions, Butterick blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and cardigan jacket 1367. Delineator, June 1927.

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Sportswear, Underthings

Sock Suspenders: Garters for Men

Ad for men's stocking garters made by Hickok, Esquire, August 1934.

Ad for men’s stocking garters made by Hickok, Esquire, August 1934.

This garter ad is from 1917:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/1917-jan-p-30-boston-garter-for-men-ad.jpg?w=500

Knitted stockings have been around for centuries. (Queen Elizabeth I liked the silk stockings she was given as a Christmas gift in 1561.) The Bata Shoe museum has a lovely pair of embroidered stockings for a lady which date to the early 1700s. But until the invention of Lastex elastic thread, around 1931, stockings tended to fall down without a garter or suspender to hold them up. (Men’s socks with “elastic ribbed tops” were available before that, although it’s not always easy to tell if the word “elastic” means “stretchy” or “made with latex/rubber.”)

Ad for Esquire silk stockings for men, Esquire magazine, June 1934.

Ad for Esquire Hose silk stockings for men, Esquire magazine, June 1934. These pure-silk-top hose would stay up better with a garter.

Before Lastex, exasperated mothers would yell, “Pull up your socks!” — sometimes, just to get their offspring to stop whatever else they were doing.Boy's patterns, Delineator, July 1917. Two of these children have sagging socks.
When an impeccably dressed gentleman undressed, however elegant his clothing, he eventually revealed his stocking garters. I’ve rarely seen a full illustration of a man wearing underwear, socks, and garters — perhaps because the result is faintly comical.

Men's underwear in an ad for Celanese, a plant-based synthetic fiber. 1934.

Men’s underwear in an ad for Celanese, a plant-based synthetic fiber. 1934.

I was surprised that men’s garters came in a riot of colors.

Men's stocking garters. Detail of Esquire illustration, March 1934.

Men’s stocking garters. Detail of Esquire illustration, March 1934.

Stocking garters for the college man. Esquire, March 1934.

Stocking garters for the college man. Esquire, March 1934. Illustration by Hurd.

Esquire, March 1934.

Esquire, March 1934. [Ripley’s Believe It or Not was a popular newspaper feature.]

A glimpse of stocking was a good thing, but a glimpse of hairy shins was not.

Socks were always on display when a man crossed his legs. Esquire, July 1934. Illustration by L. Fellows.

Socks were always on display when a man crossed his legs. Esquire, July 1934. Illustration by L. Fellows.

The well-dressed businessman wore sock garters to keep his socks from falling down around his ankles, or revealing skin when he sat with his legs crossed.

Distinguished suits for men, February 1934. Accessories include stocking garters, a pocket square, and men's jewelry. Esquire magazine illustration by Oxner.

Distinguished suits for men, February 1934. Accessories include stocking garters, a pocket square, a cuff link,  and a gold collar pin. Esquire magazine illustration by Oxner.

Some stocking garters had one fastener, in center front, but others had a garter on either side of the shin.

Men's sock garters from Sears catalog, circa 1930.

Men’s sock garters from Sears catalog, circa 1930. “Come in the color combinations men prefer.” “Neatly boxed,” because garters were a useful gift.

Ad for Paris Men's Garters. This ad appeared in the January issue, which was on news stands in time for Christmas shopping. Esquire, Jan. 1934

Ad for Paris Men’s Garters. This ad appeared in the January issue, which was on news stands in time for Christmas shopping. Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Judging from the men’s magazines and pin-up illustrations of my teen years, many men enjoy looking at a woman who is wearing a garter belt and stockings. I personally can’t imagine getting a similar erotic charge from the sight of a man wearing stocking garters — even in brilliant blue:

Hickok garters, 1934 ad. Esquire.

Hickok garters, 1934 ad. Esquire.

Fortunately for costumers, you can still buy sock garters — there are plenty listed on Amazon.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Hosiery, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings

Chic Undergarments for Ladies, 1917

Butterick patterns for ladies' underwear, Delineator, August 1917.

Butterick patterns for ladies’ underwear, Delineator, August 1917.

In 1925, Delineator fashion writer Evelyn Dodge recommended three ways to look thinner in nineteen twenties’ clothes. Her first suggestion was to wear a corset or lightly boned corselette. (Click here to read about 1920s corselettes.)
Her second recommendation was to stop wearing the bulky underwear of the previous decade.

Evelyn Dodge, writing in Delineator magazine, July 1925.

Evelyn Dodge, writing in Delineator magazine, July 1925.

The styles of the World War I era were not worn close to the body, so underwear did not have to be sleek or tight.

Some typical, military-influenced women's fashions from August 1917. Delineator, p. 50.

Some typical, military-influenced women’s fashions from August 1917. Delineator, p. 50.

The following images show Paris couture underwear from August 1917, followed by Butterick lingerie patterns from the same issue of Delineator magazine.

Underpinnings of Paris included lingerie by designers Premet, Doucet, and Jenny. Delineator, August 1917, p. 60.

“Underpinnings of Paris” included lingerie by designers Doucet, Premet, and Jenny. Delineator, August 1917, p. 60.

Paris lingerie by Premet, August 1917.

Paris lingerie by Premet, August 1917. This bridal set included “Pale pink voile, pale silver-blue ribbons, and pointed net embroidered with bouquets and baskets.”

Couture undergarments by French designers Doucet and Jenny. Aug. 1917.

Couture undergarments by French designers Doucet and Jenny; Aug. 1917. Left, pink voile combination trimmed with lace; right, cream yellow lace on pink satin knickers, outlined with “cocardes” of satin ribbon. The crotch of the combination is very low.

The simple ribbon straps (“braces”) seem to be a new idea on lingerie. (And they were already falling off women’s shoulders, as shown.) The Butterick corset covers shown later in this post, some of which covered the underarm area, were beginning to look old-fashioned [and they were.]

Couture undergarments by Premet, August 1917. Delineator.

Couture undergarments and nightgown by Premet, August 1917. Delineator.

Lingerie from Paris, by designers Doucet and Jenny. August 1917.

Lingerie from Paris, by designer Jenny. August 1917. Left, a petticoat made of sulphur-yellow “gaze” trimmed with lace; right, a box-pleated chemise of flowered muslin.

It’s impossible to imagine these garments under a narrow 1920’s dress.

A petticoat from Paris by Premet. August 1917.

A petticoat from Paris by Premet. August 1917. “The kilted skirt is …held in by a blue ribbon” at the hem. Pretty, but bulky….

A corded slip by Doucet, designed to be worn under the wide-hipped styles of 1917.

A slip by Doucet, designed to be worn under the wide-hipped styles of 1917. The ribbon-bound ruffles would keep a woman’s skirt far from her body. “Shoulder ribbons for both day and evening wear.”

Nightgowns, negligees, peignoirs, etc., were also shown:

Paris designer Doucet created this pleated nightgown and a peignoir with a classical Greek inspiration. August 1917. Delineator.

Paris designer Doucet created this pleated nightgown and a peignoir with a classical Greek inspiration. August 1917. Delineator.

To modern eyes, the models’ nightcaps (boudoir caps) are not very sexy. More about boudoir caps later….

The August issue of Delineator also showed a selection of Butterick lingerie patterns. The combination on the left has tiny underarm sleeves to protect clothing from perspiration.

Butterick combination 9347 and Butterick chemise 9353. Delineator, Aug. 1917, p. 49.

Butterick combination 9347 and Butterick chemise 9353. Delineator, Aug. 1917, p. 49.

Although called a chemise, Number 9353 has a very low crotch, probably closed with buttons between the knees. Number 9347 has an open crotch, like Victorian drawers. The top of No. 9347 is described as a “corset cover.”

9347-9353

Butterick nightgown pattern 9345 and combination 9343. August 1917.

Butterick nightgown pattern 9345 and combination 9343. August 1917. No. 9343 has a corset cover on top of open drawers.

9345-nightgown-and-9343-combination-500-1917-aug-butterick-p-49

The fact that not all women adopted new fashions immediately is shown by the inclusion of “corset covers;” the corset of 1917 did not cover the bust area, although it was often worn with a “brassiere.”

Bon ton corset ad, Delineator, May 1917. P. 71.

Bon Ton corset ad, Delineator, May 1917, p. 71.

BUtterick corset cover pattern #8478, drawers #9341, and princess slip #8973. Delineator, Aug. 1917.

Butterick corset cover pattern #8478, open drawers #9341, and princess slip #8973. Delineator, Aug. 1917.

corset-cover-8478-drawers-9341-princess-slip-8973-1917-aug-butterick-p-49

About those boudoir caps….

boudoir-caps-1917-delineator

They could be quite elaborate; probably the most lavishly decorated and well-preserved ones were from bridal trousseaux.

This vintage boudoir cap was embroidered with silver thread, which has tarnished to dark gray.

This vintage boudoir cap was embroidered with silver thread, which has tarnished to dark gray. Pomegranates are associated with fertility.

BUtterick boudoir cap pattern 9253, Delineator, August 1917, p. 52.

Butterick boudoir cap pattern 9253, Delineator, August 1917, p. 52. The “Castle cap” is a reference to dancer Irene Castle, a fashion trend-setter in the nineteen tens and twenties.

Vintage boudoir cap, 20th century.

Vintage boudoir cap, 20th century.

This vintage silk boudoir cap is trimmed with "wings" of crochet.

This vintage silk boudoir cap is trimmed with “wings” of orange crochet lace.

1 Comment

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Hats, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Uncategorized, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Wedding Clothes, World War I

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?

4 Comments

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