Tag Archives: 1920s

Garters, Flappers, Rolled Stockings, and Other Stocking Stories

 Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

It wasn’t till Lynn at americanagefashion.com asked how 1920s roll-on garters worked that I realized many women have never worn stockings, much less rolled garters or garter belts. So I’ll repeat some of my reply, this time with lots of illustrations.

My grandmother still wore 1920s style garters (click link for image)  in the 1950s, when she was in her 70s. The rubber of the garter was tube-shaped, covered in pinkish-tan (knit?) fabric, and sealed into a ring shape with a tubular metal crimp. What this kind of garter  — utterly un-sexy, nothing like a flat, lacy wedding garter — did to the circulation in women’s legs, I don’t want to think about.

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator,  July 1925

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator, July 1925

Grandma rolled the ring-type garter up to the top of the stocking, and then rolled stocking and garter, as one, down to a point above or below her knee. The stocking rolled itself around the garter and created a ridge or bump, but this technique saved women from the runs you can get when you kneel while wearing stocking suspenders attached to the corset and clasped onto the stocking. (Rolled stockings also allowed women the comfort of not wearing a girdle….)

Suspender Style Garters

A Girdle form the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

A Girdle from the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

If those traditional garters (correctly called “suspenders” by the British) weren’t long enough, or you were tall, nylon (and rayon) stockings often “popped” at the knee when you knelt down. I remember coming out of church with my entire knee bulging out of my nylon stocking in the early 60s.

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

This 1924 ad for Onyx Silk Stockings claims that other silk stockings, although naturally more elastic than rayon, popped at the knee, too. “Bending the knee like this puts a heavy strain on any silk stocking.”

Lady’s Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

“Costly runs:”  as discussed in my “Living on $18 a Week” post, women with white collar jobs were expected to wear stockings to work, but stockings were fragile and a constant drain on their budget. (The Great Depression made this problem quite serious. In 2014 it’s widely reported that your chance of getting a job interview is better if you already have a job; in the 1930s, a person who was unemployed long enough to start looking shabby was much less likely to get the same kind of job as the one she had lost.)

Knee-Highs to the RescueLHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high stockings 500 dpi ad

I was surprised to find this advertisement for Holeproof  Knee-Highs in The Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936. “Most good hosiery counters now feature the original Knee-High by Holeproof. In Chiffon, Service, or Dancing Sheer. See it during National Holeproof Knee-High Week, June 13-20.”

[As the writers of Third Rock from the Sun realized, women like me always regarded our knee high stockings as rather embarrassing. There’s plenty of evidence that a woman slowly removing her stockings can be quite erotic, but slowly removing my knee length sox  – or support pantyhose, for that matter – is the opposite of seductive.]

Nevertheless, with the long dresses of the 1930s, knee length stockings made sense.  When you were standing, the tops wouldn’t show. (Although I don’t think many women flaunted them as they do in the top photo below!) Stockings that never had to bear the strain of being stretched between a metal stocking clasp and a girdle were likely to last much longer. And garters of any kind were not necessary with the new Knee-High.

The development of Lastex – thin threads of rubber encased in fabric –  revolutionized undergarments after 1931, and made a self-supporting knee high stocking possible.

LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high top 2 pix stockings ad

“. . . Gives the knee-freedom of rolled hosiery in a smartly styled way. . . The self-supporting Holeproof Knee-High. . . . No more garter runs. . . this revolutionary new-type stocking eliminates knee-strain and garter pull. You can bend, twist or kneel without straining your sheerest chiffons. No garter bumps to show ‘neath sheer frocks.” LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high next 2 pixstockings ad“Air-conditioned knees. If you pursue an active life you’ll find cool comfort in Holeproof Knee-High . . . and amazing economy! With garter runs eliminated, 3 pairs outwear 4 or 5 of long hose. Knit-in ‘Lastex’ garter top keeps stocking trimly in place.”LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high bottom of ad stockings ad“Full-fashioned silk hosiery (knee-length) with knit-in ‘Lastex’ garters.”

Also Introduced in the 1930s: Peds

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

The fine print says “elastic edge” and “non-slip heel.” “Wear PEDS for the beach, sportswear, street wear, around the home.” Peds, which could be worn with shoes while you were cleaning house, etc., were also suggested not just as a replacement for stockings, but as stocking savers: “If wearing stockings, use Peds under or over them! Stops wear and mending.” If your problem was that your toenails wore through your stockings, this might actually work.

Update, 6/29/16: There’s a great post with lots of photos of 1920s rolled stockings with bathing suits at  the Frontline Flapper Vintage blog. Click here.


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1940s-1950s, Corsets, Girdles, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs

Zippers Are Good for Your Children: Ad Campaigns from the 1920s and 1930s

Vanta Self-Help Garments Ad, Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1936

Vanta Self-Help Garments Ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1936

“Your Child’s First Lesson in Self-Reliance is Self-Dressing”

Talon ZIpper Ad, May 1929, Delineator

“Quick Dressing at Camp or Home Is No Longer a Problem.” Talon Zipper Ad, May 1929, Delineator

In Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, Robert Friedel attributes the wide-spread adoption of zippers in children’s clothing in the late twenties and early thirties to the relatively new field of child psychology.  Child psychologists and scientific child-rearing experts began to stress the importance of developing self-reliance and self-confidence at an early age, beginning with children dressing themselves.

Why Children Couldn’t Dress Themselves

Traditional clothing for children in the 1920s made it impossible for a young child, especially a boy, to dress himself. Girls were also afflicted with clothes that buttoned up the back, but little boys needed help several times a day.

Two Butterick Patterns for Boys, 1925

Two Butterick Patterns for Boys, 1925

Little Boy in Skirt, late 1800s. Photo courtesy RememberedSummers.wordpress.com

Little Boy in Skirt, late 1800s. Photo courtesy RememberedSummers.wordpress.com

In the 1800s, young boys as well as girls wore skirts until they were well out of diapers.

Pictorial Review pattern, courtesy of RememberedSummers

Pictorial Review pattern, courtesy of RememberedSummers

But in the 1910s and 20s, boys’ pants buttoned to their shirts, in front and back, where buttons were hard to reach. This eliminated the need for suspenders to hold the pants up, but it must have been impossible for most 4 or 5 year old boys to go to the bathroom — and re-dress — without help.

[Click on images to enlarge.]

Children circa 1924, courtesy & copyright RememberedSummers

Children circa 1924, courtesy & copyright RememberedSummers

Educator Ellen Miller, of the innovative Merrill-Palmer school, wrote that clothing for small boys had “an average of more than seventeen buttons” to be fastened, and some of these buttons were unreachable by small arms and hands. [Cited in Zipper, p. 179.] There could be even more buttons:

Leggings, 1920s

Children Wearing Buttoned Leggings, in a Ford Ad, 1924

Children Wearing Buttoned Leggings, in a Ford Ad, 1924

In the winter, boys and girls wore tight over-the-knee leggings fastened with buttons – lots of small buttons, which little fingers couldn’t fasten by themselves. (I count 11 buttons just on the part of the girl’s left legging that we can see.)

Butterick Pattern for Leggings, Oct. 1924

Butterick Pattern for Leggings, Oct. 1924

Winter months must have been a nightmare for kindergarten teachers.

As sales of zippers to B.F. Goodrich for ’Zippers’ brand boots for women tapered off around 1928,  the Hookless Fastener Company [which later became Talon] decided to develop a new market, and contacted the manufacturers of leggings: “When the New York fabric and corduroy manufacturers Hallett and Hackmeyer were persuaded to enter the market themselves, armed with the Talon fastener to make their offerings distinctive, the market turned around with astonishing speed.” By 1931, salesmen trying to set up a window display that would contrast a new zipper legging with an old-fashioned button legging reported that it was impossible to find a button legging for sale anywhere. [Zipper, p. 176]

Child Psychology and Zippers

Vanta Self-Help Baby Clothes Ad, Ladies Home Journal, October 1936

Vanta Self-Help Baby Clothes Ad, Ladies Home Journal, October 1936

I wish I could find an advertisement that says “4 out of 5 psychologists recommend zippers,” but I haven’t, yet. This 1936 ad for Vanta Baby Garments comes close to saying that children who don’t dress themselves will be psychologically damaged [Vanta did not necessarily use zippers] :

“If you keep on dressing your child when he should be learning to dress himself, you may be forming a habit of dependence upon others that he will never quite overcome. So say leading child psychologists and educators….

“Vanta Self-Help garments are designed to teach children to dress themselves when only two years old. They make a happy game of dressing – a game that the child looks forward to each day. But an important game that teaches him to think for himself, act for himself, do for himself. A self-reliant, resourceful, independent character in the making. ”

Vanta advertised that its buttonholes were large enough for little fingers; all clothes buttoned in the front, never in back; and the red, heart-shaped Vanta label was always on the front and on the outside, so children could tell when their clothes were right-side out. “This famous label is your child’s first guiding mark to independence . . . your own key to precious hours saved for recreation!”

Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, May 1929. Delineator.

Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, May 1929. Delineator.

This 1929 advertisement for Talon Slide-Fasteners also cites psychologists:  “Quick Dressing at camp or home is no longer a problem…. Whether for play or work, all the very young men are dressing themselves these days – and, thanks to Talon Slide-Fasteners, getting pleasure out of it. The reason they enjoy it, psychologists will tell you, is because Talon-fastened garments bring the ‘play-spirit’ into operation. Young minds quickly grasp any plan that affects their daily lives, in which the element of fun is involved…. Even a 4-year-old can quickly and easily work the slider-pull of a Talon Slide-Fastener….You can buy children’s Talon-Fastened garments for all occasions, or you can make them at home, using Talon Slide-Fasteners which you can buy at any Notion Counter.”1929 may zipper boys ad btm text

“Think what a help to busy housewives these features provide….”

Manufactured Items Made with Talon Zippers, Bottom of 1929 Ad

Manufactured Items Made with Talon Zippers, Bottom of 1929 Ad

The bottom of the ad pictures a “Girl’s Play Suit; Child’s Sweater; Ladies’ Hand Bag; Duffle Bag; fitted with Talon Slide-Fasteners.” The smallest Talon zipper available in 1929 was still too large for very small children’s clothing, but by 1933 the #3 Talon zipper was becoming widely used. In the early 1930s a Hookless Fastener employee named Jack Keilly took his four-year-old daughter to stores to demonstrate how easily a child could use a zipper.  She was very impressive — but too young to work! — so eventually a movie was made, and department stores spent as much as $100 a week to show it to their customers. By 1936-37, when zippers began appearing in women’s dresses, they already knew how a zipper worked — so simple, a child could do it!


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Zippers

Flappers, Galoshes, and Zippers in the 1920s

Galoshes, 1922, from Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum

Galoshes, 1922, from Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum

There is a widespread belief that the term “flapper” was first applied to young women in the 1920s because of a fad among college girls for wearing their rubber galoshes unfastened (right).

By the late 1920s, two rubber companies were competing for the women’s waterproof boot market, with attractive, tight-fitting fashion boots and shoe covers.

Ad fo Gaytees overshoes, December 1928, Delineator

Ad for Gaytees overshoes, December 1928, Delineator

United States Rubber Company’s Gaytees Overshoes

Gaytees were made by the United States Rubber Company, and came in a range of styles including waterproofed fabric and even simulated reptile.

Gaytees Overshoes Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Overshoes Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees advertised that their rainboots for 1929 had six new features:

New styles! Cross straps, turn-down cuffs, a new pointed back style.

New colors! The new rosy browns and tans; the tannish grays; black.

New Fabrics! Wools, Rayon-and-wool mixtures. All-rubber.

New lasts that fit the new Fall shoes! New heels – four different heights.

Lighter weight in every pair – yet full protection.

Fast color linings!

Gaytees Ad, November 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Ad, November 1928, Delineator

These are “Tailored Overshoes” because they are worn over your normal shoes. “See the style show of 1929 Gaytees at your own shoe store. Then, when you buy your Fall shoes, ask to have them fitted with the Gaytees that match your new Fall costume.”

Gaytees Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Ad, December 1928, Delineator

The text next to Gaytees worn with a chiffon evening gown (right) says, “Fast color linings. Gaytees won’t rub off on the sheerest evening stockings or the lightest colored evening slippers. And the pointed back adds slimness as well as extra spatter protection….

“Your shoeman will be glad to show you the 1929 Gaytees. Let him fit a pair on your slim ankles. See how snugly they hug the new shoe styles; how well they harmonize with your Winter costumes.” Prices “from $2.50 to $6.” Gaytees usually fastened with snap fasteners, but even when they closed with a ‘slide fastener,’ the ads couldn’t call it a ‘zipper’ because of . . . .

B.F. Goodrich Company’s Zippers

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

In 1921, the B.F. Goodrich Company had quietly begun experimenting with rubber boots that closed with slide fasteners from the Hookless Fastener Company. There were problems to overcome, but by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless 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.

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

Goodrich trademarked the word ‘Zipper.’ At first, “Zipper” referred to a brand of overshoe, not to the gizmo that opened and closed it.

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

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

The text at left says, “But remember, all overshoes that close with a sliding fastener are not genuine Goodrich Zippers. Look for and find the name Goodrich on the shoe . . . only in this way can you be sure of authentic Goodrich style with the famous Hookless Fastener which cannot rust, stick, loosen or cause trouble. . . . Over fifty thousand stores are now ready to show you the correct new colors of genuine Zippers. . . in either snap or Zipper fastener.” The Goodrich ad doesn’t mention prices, and it’s not in color. Presumably, Gaytees had to try harder.

A New Word Enters the Language: Zipper

Goodrich sold half a million ‘Zippers’ in 1923 and bought a million Hookless Slide Fasteners every year after that until 1927. By the late 1920s, the novelty was wearing off (and three to four million women already had Zippers in their closets, not counting the women who bought Gaytees instead!)

The word ‘Zipper’ may have belonged to the B.F. Goodrich Company, but in common usage, Americans were calling any slide fastener a ‘zipper.’ The Hookless Fastener Company adopted an eagle’s talon as its company trademark in 1928, and changed the company’s name to Talon a decade later (Source: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, by Robert Freidel, page 169.)

Talon Zipper Advertisement from Delineator, March 1929

Talon Zipper Advertisement from Delineator, March 1929


Filed under 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Zippers

The Colorful Past

1928 nov ivory soap ad colorful nightwear

The decades which we only know through black and white photographs and movies can always surprise me.  This red-headed woman with her shingle haircut and red and white nightgown — worn with a celery green and yellow (velvet?) robe — makes me realize how much we should treasure old magazines. Those that survive, on paper rather than microfilm or microfiche, are full of windows into the past — in living color! And the colors – and color combinations — are often not at all what we are used to.  This is part of an advertisement for Ivory Soap, from November, 1928.1928 nov ivory soap ad colorful nightwear top

The text at the bottom:

1928 nov ivory soap ad colorful nightwear page

“Up, at the end of the day, to the gleaming white tub, filled full, and the bobbing welcome of Ivory!

“This is content. . . to slip into soft warmth that comes like a blanket up to the chin, while tired muscles let go, while tingling nerves go still! How easy to be a bath-tub dreamer, spinning golden moments of silence. . . with Ivory drifting near your lazy hand!

“Gently you splash; slowly you cover yourself with bubbling crests of Ivory foam. Ivory, so quick to clean, rinses just as quickly away — leaving you lulled and ready for deep and comforting sleep. . . .

“And so from an Ivory bath, you slip drowsily between warm, friendly sheets. Already you are ebbing away on the sweet tide of sleep. To you, a very good night!”

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Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Chiffon Blouse, Early 1920s

vintage 1920s chiffon blouse side viewThe Vintage Traveler recently published the Pantone Fashion Color Report for Spring 2014.

I immediately thought, “I’ve seen that color combination before!” A peachy pinkish color, somewhere between beige and tan, with orange, yellow, pale blue, and aqua accents (plus a touch of darker color for contrast.)
I was able to photograph this blouse while it was in the collection of a friend. [The collection has been sold.]  front vintage beaded blouse

The mannequin was very small, so the blouson above the waistband doesn’t show properly, but this is a very close kin to the blouse pictured in this Pictorial Review pattern, which also uses two layers of sheer material to give opacity over the body and transparency to the sleeves:  Pictorial review #9186 detail

The blouse I photographed has a sleeveless layer of the chiffon – probably ‘crepe chiffon’ – inside the outer layer.  The layers were not connected all the way around the neckline. It has above-elbow sleeves and is decorated with appliques of orange crepe chiffon, hand stitching in silk floss in colors of yellow, aqua, and orange, and pale blue and black beads, plus silvery blue beaded tassels. Appliques, silk embroidery, beads and tasselsIt’s possible that some of the beads outlining the appliques are the same color as the blouse fabric, but those in the tassels have a pearly, light blue tone.  The silk embroidery in aqua and light orange continues the pattern of diamond shapes across the back of the blouse, and accents the sleeve hems. back of vintage blouse

You can see the gathering which creates a sash effect at the front of the blouse. The ties in back are very long.  There was no sign of a manufacturer’s label; it’s possible that this blouse was not store bought. Embroidery patterns were a big part of the pattern business in the 1910s and 1920s, when dress styles were often simple but accented with embroidery and beading.  Pictorial Review pattern # 9186 suggests (Pictorial Review) Beading design # 12511 for the neckline of the blouse – available as a transfer in blue or yellow for 25 cents.  PR 9186 beading at neckline

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Filed under 1920s, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns