Tag Archives: 1920s brassiere

How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 1: Wear a Corset or Corselette

 

Paris designs, Delineator, January 1925. From Left: Doucet, Lanvin, Molyneux, Premet, Chanel.

Paris designs, Delineator, January 1925. From Left: Doucet, Lanvin, Molyneux, Premet, Chanel.

In the July, 1925 issue of Delineator magazine – published by the Butterick Publishing Company — columnist Evelyn Dodge gave the following advice on looking slender while wearing 1920s fashions. I will divide it into three parts — proper corsets, proper lingerie, and proper sizing and styles. I have already exerpted part of her article in Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets.  I will add illustrations from Delineator and other sources, and my own comments.

How to Reduce Your Hips Three Inches – 1925

“My subject this morning, dear friends, I know you will find delightful. My text is ‘How you can reduce your hips three inches in three minutes without diet, drugs or exercise and still eat your way through June without giving up strawberry shortcake, asparagus, and any of the other pleasures of the season. . . .’

“I can’t tell you how you can become slender, but I can show you very easily how you can look several inches slighter and thirty or forty pounds lighter than you do now. Almost any woman can reduce her actual measurements appreciably by proper corseting, proper lingerie and the proper size clothes. Old shapeless corsets with bent and bulging bones, too much lingerie cut on too wide lines and made of clumsy materials, clothes that are too large, too long and too wide for the present fashion will make a mountain out of any feminine molehill.”

[Comment: As a costume designer, I could usually create the illusion that a 145 pound actress weighed 133 pounds (or that my 160 pound self weighed 10 pounds less), but erasing forty pounds is promising a lot! As an opera designer once told me, “You can create visual illusions with costumes — up to a point, but there’s only so much that vertical lines can do for a singer who’s built like a tugboat.” ]

The 1920s Ideal Figure

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

In 1925, when Evelyn Dodge wrote this article, she said, “The boyish figure sans bust and curves and waistline is the ideal silhouette.”

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Tip Number One: Wear a Corset or a Corselette.

“A Few Years Ago Women Took Off Corsets . . . and Let Their Figures Go.” — Evelyn Dodge

Dodge attributed the change in women’s figures to the relatively shapeless styles of the preceding decade.

[I know that fans of Titanic and Downton Abbey may not believe that the styles of the late 1910s could be extremely unflattering; that’s because theatrical costume designers do a great deal of period research and then select the clothing that a modern audience will find most attractive.  If a woman is supposed to look young and appealing, or sophisticated and sexy, she has to be dressed in a way that conveys those character points to an audience that has not done months of period research.] Here are some outfits for women, circa 1917:

Three outfits from the Perry, Dame Catalog, 1916.

Three outfits from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917.

If you were an actress — whose next job might depend on being shapely — which would you prefer to wear?

Even outfits designed by Gabrielle Chanel could add pounds in 1916:

1916 designs by Gabrielle Channel [sic] from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates, cited by Quentin Bell.

1916 designs by Gabrielle Channel [sic] from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates, republished by Quentin Bell in On Human Finery.

Under all that fabric, it would be easy to put on a few inches around the hips without even noticing. (Weighing yourself at home was not an option when scales were huge, heavy machines.)

Then came the 1920s, when the ideal figure was flat in front and flat behind.

Warner’s corset, March 1925. Delineator.

Warner’s corset, March 1925. Delineator.

Sweater Girls, World War I

Young Women Wearing Sweaters, California, 1917-1918

Young Women Wearing Fashionable Sweaters, California, 1917-1918. Note how similar their sweaters are to the ones in the catalogs, below.

Evelyn Dodge continued:

“A few years ago during the vogue of the sweater with its concealing lines, women took off corsets, drew a long breath and let their figures go.

Sweaters from the Perry, Dame Catalog, 1917. Dover Books.

Sweaters from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917. Dover Books.

1922 sweaters from Sears catalog. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Sweaters from Sears catalog, 1922. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

“Some of the results were good, others were bad. The large waist and the resulting lowering of the bust and straightening of the hip has a youthful air.  [!]  But the diaphragm bulge, the middle-aged spread, the very pronounced increase in weight, have proved ugly and stubborn.

Models Photographed for Ads in Delineator, 1917. These figures would be out of fashion in the nineteen twenties.

Models Photographed for Ads in Delineator, 1917. Their figures would be out of fashion in the nineteen twenties. Imagine the woman on the left in a 1920s dress.

“Many women who have tried going without corsets are now wearing them again – not to make their waists smaller, but to flatten the abdomen and lower back.”

Bon Ton Corset Ad in Delineator. April 1925.

Bon Ton Corset Ad in Delineator. April 1925.

The Modart Corset company ran a series of “X-ray vision” ads showing corsets as worn under clothes.

Young woman wearing a Modart Corset under her dress. October 1924, Delineator.

Young woman wearing a Modart Corset under her dress. October 1924, Delineator.

Corsets and Corselettes

Corsets from Sears catalog, 1925-26. From Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Corsets from Sears catalog, 1925-26. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Many women wore a Brassiere or Bandeau to compress their breasts, plus a corset to control their hips and abdomen. (See the “Detachable Ceinture Step-in,” above.) This could leave an uncomfortable and unsightly ridge of flesh bulging out where the brassiere and corset met, so the Brassiere + Girdle combination — also called a corselette — became very popular:

Treo "Brassiere Girdle combination garment" ad from Delineator, May 1925.

Treo “Brassiere Girdle combination garment” ad from Delineator, May 1925. This could also be called a corselette or corsette.

Dodge explains: “Most young girls and practically all women need some sort of figure control . . . . Not all women need corsets. Women with young slender figures find that the corselet, which is a combination brassiere and hip-confiner, is sufficient.”

Butterick corselette pattern #5691, January 1925.

Butterick corselette pattern #5691, January 1925.

The boneless corselet (spelled many ways) would have acted on a woman’s body the way that sausage casing acts on sausage, redistributing her flesh into a tube shape.  Although it had no metal boning, this corselette’s vertical flat-felled seams pass over the bust points, effectively flattening the breasts. Tension between the shoulder straps and the stocking garters would finish the job. (For more information about corsets and corselets, click here. For more information about 1920s bust flatteners, click here.)

Coming Soon: How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 2: Wear the Right Lingerie

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs

Five 1920s Bathing Suits

I intended to make this a short post about two bathing costumes from 1926, but then I worked backward to some swim suits from 1925….

Two Bathing Suit Patterns from 1926

Butterick patterns # 6809 and # 6822. Delineator, 1926

Butterick patterns # 6809 and # 6822. Delineator, 1926

Although knit bathing suits were already popular, these two patterns for the summer of 1926 use printed textiles, with separate fabric or knit shorts or trunks.

The pattern for #6809 includes a wrap skirt, pictured above right. #6822 calls for a blouse of printed silk crêpe, which would have been very revealing when wet. Perhaps it was intended more for sunning than swimming, since it was available up to bust measurement 48 inches, and came in children’s sizes, too. Pattern #6809 was also illustrated in a very Art Deco print version (see below.) 1926 june p 38 prob june text bath suits 6809 1926

Art Deco Swim Suit , 1926

Butterick pattern #6809, 1926

Butterick pattern #6809, 1926

The striking Art Deco fabric illustrated here is also used to trim the trunks, which seem to be made of satin. Her bathing shoes appear to close with snaps, and are probably made of rubber.  These illustrations are from Butterick’s magazine The Delineator; pattern #6809 was illustrated two months in a row. (Click image to enlarge.)

1926 june p 38 prob june bathing suit 6809 text

Three Swimsuits from 1925

Butterick Patterns #6014, #5210, #5204; from 1925

Butterick Patterns #6014, #5210, #5204; from 1925

The pattern on the left, # 6014, looks very old-fashioned next to the two knit suits on the right. The two 1926 bathing suits discussed above are clearly descended from this style, but in one year have become much shorter, simpler, and sleeveless. The little girl’s one piece wool knit suit, #5210, is as un-fussy as the adult’s bathing-suit  on the right, #5204. With hindsight, we know that this is the style that would dominate for the next few years.

1925 july 6014

6014  “Printed surf silks, printed surf satin, foulard or chintz with plain to match; plain surf satin, plain surf filk or taffeta with contrasting are used for this new two-piece bathing costume with its attractive handkerchief cap. Or use wool jersey, or any of these materials plain, without the tucks at the side, and with a belt…. The bathing costume is becoming to ladies 33 to 48 bust; also misses.”

This description mentions fabrics I had never heard of: ‘surf silk’ and ‘surf satin.’ Wet silk would have been very clingy, but 1920s brassieres (flattening, not uplifting) were sometimes advertised as suitable for wearing under bathing costumes. Taffeta, wool, and sturdy cottons had been used in the dress-like bathing costumes of the early 1900s. This costume was also available in sizes up to 48″ bust, so it was expected to appeal to older, larger, and/or more conservative women.

1925 july 5210 swim

5210  Another bathing-suit that plans to give the ocean hard wear this Summer is for the younger feminine members of the family. This practical suit buttons on the shoulders and has attached tights. The suit is both new and smart and should be made of heavy wool jersey. Parents will appreciate the fact that it puts wool next to the youngster’s skin. A simple suit of this type can be very easily made…. The bathing-suit is practical for girls and little girls 2 to 14 years.

This suit is a miniature version of # 5204, with its buttoned shoulders and attached tights. “Parents will appreciate the fact that it puts wool next to the youngster’s skin;” woolen underwear, like Jaeger’s, was part of the 1880s dress reform movement.  (Having worn wool-lycra bathing suits myself in the 1950s and 60s, I think that sending a small child into the ocean wearing “heavy wool jersey” was insane. If you have ever hand-washed a wool cardigan, you know how absorbent and heavy wet wool can be.)

1925 july 5204 swim july 1925

5204  Ready for an active life on the ocean wave is a simple, straight bathing-suit that has nothing in its make-up that might impede or hamper the swimmer. This very good-looking and practical suit is in one piece and the tights are attached. It can be made very easily, and the materials suitable for this style are heavy wool jersey and heavy jersey tubing. It buttons on the shoulders. The bathing-suit is good style for ladies 33 to 44 bust, also misses.

One-piece knit wool suits, without the (modesty) skirt, had been pioneered by Annette Kellerman, “the Diving Venus,” “the Million-Dollar Mermaid,”  who was arrested for wearing one in 1907,  and were used in competitive swimming in the 1920s. Imagine the water-resistance those Olympic swimmers had to overcome!

Notice that the woman in this illustration is wearing a rubber swimming cap – and rolled stockings!

A 1920s Bathing Beauty

If anyone doubts the influence of fashion illustrations, here is a family photo of a young woman wearing a purchased wool knit bathing suit, accessorized with a parasol and a handkerchief cap. If you look closely just above her knees, you can see that she has recently removed her rolled stockings.helenparasolalone

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Filed under 1920s, Bras, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes