Fashions for May, 1924. Undergarments flattened the bust and hips and eliminated the waist. Delineator, May 1924, p. 27.
[This is another post in a series offering links to posts some followers may have missed, while I take time to visit the library and collect more photos.]
Some of the most exciting discoveries I made when I started reading old magazines from the 1920’s had to do with underwear. In addition to fashion advice about what to wear to achieve that “boyish” figure, I found dozens of advertisements — a veritable window into the past. In one article I read,
“To be smart this season one must be more than slim. The figure must defy nature and be as flat as the proverbial flounder, as straight as a lead pencil, and boneless and spineless as a string-bean. One must be straight like a boy and narrow like a lady in a Japanese print.” – Delineator magazine, February 1924.
I happened to read a 1925 article by Evelyn Dodge about the new, boneless corselets: “Not all women need corsets. Women with young, slender figures find that the corselet, which is a combination brassière and hip-confiner, is sufficient. It is unboned and is therefore as soft and flexible as the natural figure.” I was delighted to find this one illustrated in an ad:
Treo “Brassiere Girdle — a combination garment” ad from Delineator, May 1925. The Treo brand was sold through Sears catalogs, as well as in stores.
You can read more about it in “Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets.” Click here.
These corselets reshape a woman to look like a tube (or maybe a sausage?)
Another thing that struck me while reading so many 1920’s ads was that the boyish silhouette meant that women aspired to be flat in back and flat in front. This was actually a feature of the “tubular Twenties,” not the late nineteen twenties.
Women shaped like test tubes, probably thanks to their corselets. A blouse (left) and a tunic blouse, right, from the “tubular twenties.” Delineator, 1924. I used to wonder how a thin young woman (right) could possibly have a bust that low! [It was mashed by her undergarment.]
If you didn’t want to wear a corselet, you could opt for a separate girdle, worn with or without a bandeau to flatten your breasts. Corsets and girdles of the 1920s were designed to flatten your posterior: “Underpinning Twenties Fashions: Girdles and Corsets.” Click here to read.
If you are curious about “bust flatteners” or “bound breasts” in the nineteen twenties, click here for “Underpinning the Twenties: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners.” It has lots of illustrations.
If you are curious about what 20th century women wore before the modern brassiere, these two posts give a quick review of brassieres, and their transition from the 1910’s to the 1920’s.
The fact that women have two, separate breasts was hidden by these “monobosom” brassieres. WW I Era. Older women probably continued to wear these in the 1920s.
To read Part 1, “Uplift Changes Brassieres: 1917 to 1929, Part 1” click here.
For Part 2, “Uplift Changes Brassieres: Late 1920s Brassieres,” click here.
The monobosom of the early 1900s slowly gave way to the more natural look — with support — of the 1930s:
From a Maiden Form brassiere ad, Womans’ Home Companion, 1936. “For that all-important line of separation.”
The Book, “Uplift: The Bra in America,” by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau covers other decades in addition to the Twenties. Learn more about this fascinating book here.
Of course, not all women were “bound” to be boyish. Click here to read “Not All Flappers Wanted to Be Flat in the 1920s.”
Between the dress and the flattening girdle, corset, bandeau, or corselet, — or between one’s skin and the dress — were sometimes very delectable silk or rayon undergarments.
Trousseau lingerie from Paris, the house of Doeuillet- Doucet. Illustrated for Delineator, June 1929.
There were also some very awkward looking combination garments. See: Envelope Chemises, Step-ins and Other Lingerie. That post elicited wonderful comments about vocabulary and links for further research.
My mother models her one piece camiknickers and her rolled stockings. About 1918.
Butterick “cami-knickers” 5124 with “envelope chemise” 5059. Delineator, April 1924.
Women also wore some not very sexy drawers or knickers….
Right, knickers for 1924. You can often get a glimpse of these in silent movies — especially in comedies, when a woman does a pratfall or climbs into a vehicle. These knickers have elastic at the waist and above the knees — for undergarments, the words “knickers,””bloomers,” and “drawers” were sometimes used interchangeably.
See “Theda Bara’s Bloomers” for a distinctly un-sexy pair — on Cleopatra!