Ad for Bien Jolie Corsette, an all-in-one bust flattener and corset. Delineator, March 1926.
Corsets, 1907 and 1926. The garment on the right is a “corsette,” very lightly boned — if boned at all.
I took a detour from corsets to brassieres before writing this post, because brassieres became necessary when corsets became so low that they couldn’t offer bust support.
The female shape as seen in corsets advertised in Delineator: 1907, 1917, and 1924.
American Lady corset ad, April 1917.
In 1918, this Kabo corset and brassiere ad pairs a corset with a brassiere. The two were often worn together. Kabo made both.
Most brassieres of this era did not have two “pockets,” or “cups” as they were later called; they did not lift the breasts, but “confined” them. Click here for bust confiners.
Ad for the Kabo “Flatter-U” brassiere and bust flattener. Delineator, November 1920. “It makes a flatter you.”
DeBevoise brassiere ad, June 1920. Delineator. This mesh brassiere (some would call it a bandeau) produces a low bust with a very gentle curve.
Warner’s Rust Proof Corset ad, February 1922. These corsets are being worn without a brassiere.
These dresses from 1922 are nearly unstructured, like a tube with a belt and sleeves. Butterick patterns. Low busts, slouching posture.
[How were those busts possible? Read on.] The smooth, tubular lines of the Twenties demanded a smooth, all-in-one garment, brassiere plus girdle, and the corsette or corselette was born.
Article in Delineator, February 1924.
This Treo “brassiere girdle” — “a combination garment” appeared in May, 1925.
Bien Jolie corsette ad, October 1924, Delineator.
Some women (especially young or slender ones) wore a girdle without a brassiere. Below, left: a “hip-confiner” of glove silk.
Left, a glove-silk hip-confiner was almost not there. Right, a corset for those who needed more control. Delineator, February 1924.
Some wore neither.
Some slim women wore a girdle or corset with a brassiere…
Brassiere patterns from Butterick’s Delineator, July 1926.
… or a bandeau.
Bust-flattening bandeaux from Sears catalog, 1928.
However, for those larger women who wore a bust-flattening brassiere with a corset, the brassiere needed to come down over the corset to prevent an ugly bulge between them:
Long Brassiere. From fashion advice article in Delineator, February 1924.
Ad for the H & W brassiere with diaphragm control. March 1924. It won’t “Push up” the “flesh.”
Dress patterns from Butterick, April 1924; Delineator.
Those who wanted a completely smooth, no curves, flexible shape under their dresses could wear a corselette.
This corsette gives a perfectly flat silhouette in front. 1924.
(There were many spelling variations: Corsette, Corselet, Corselette, Corsolette….) Most corselettes did not use metal bones, but depended on seams and elastic to shape the body into something resembling an oblong test tube — the “boyish” shape suited to Twenties’ fashions.
Left, a corset; right, a bust flattening bandeau over a waist-high corset. April 1925. DeBevoise ad.
Article in Delineator, February 1926, p. 24.
This corsette is trying to turn a mature figure into a boyish one…. Bien Jolie ad, February 1926.
Corselette for large figures, “boned in the modern manner.” The bottom may be boned, but the top is soft silk jersey! Warner’s ad, April 1925.
A very flat posterior was as important as a flat bosom:
Back view, Bon Ton Corset ad, April 1925.
More corsettes/corselettes from 1925:
Bien Jolie Corsette ad, April 1925.
Bien Jolie corsette ad, June 1925.
Casual dresses from Butterick patterns, June 1925; Delineator, p. 29.
Although you might not see it in these ads, (perhaps because corsette ads were probably aimed at women old enough to have “figure problems”) by 1926 a change was taking place.
Article in Delineator, February 1926. p. 24.
“The younger woman who can keep slim and firm… either wears no corset at all or a tiny girdle of satin or glove silk with an equally ephemeral bust-supporter of lace or net.” Interesting that in 1926 1) the bust is supported, not flattened; and 2) the girdle supports a curve under the bottom. (The illustration does not quite match this description.)
Illustration for article in Delineator, February 1926, p. 24.
Research by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in 1924 and 1925 discovered that younger patrons, dubbed “flappers” by buyers and the JWT staff, “were looking for uplift styles of brassiere, in contrast to older women who wanted the flattening styles.” (Uplift, p. 40.)
Curves gradually returned. For me the interesting thing about these Butterick brassiere patterns from 1926 is that both the flatteners and the brassiere with breast separation are on the same page:
At top, two bust flatteners, pattern 6964. At bottom right, pattern 6961 for a brassiere that separates and does not flatten the breasts. Delineator, July 1926, p. 38. [It does not offer any support, just coverage.]
Bien Jolie corset ad, July 1926, p. 80. Delineator.
Bien Jolie corsette ad, September 1926. (Quite interesting fabric!)
Gossard corset ad, February 1927.** Note the curvy hips and the division between the breasts.
The bust was being worn in a more natural position:
Couture evening dresses by Boulanger and Paquin, illlustrated for Delineator, February 1927. p. 18. Note the high bust.
Modart’s combination, March 1928. Notice her curved bust silhouette. (Not helped by that garment!)
Modart ad, March 1928. Bandeau and girdle, bottom of same ad as above.
This brassiere isn’t even mentioned, but it has separation and a supportive band. Modart ad, March 1928.
Transition: two “foundation garments” featured in the same corset advice article; Delineator, March 1929.
The return of the curve, 1929:
Fashions that show off the female shape: (Butterick patterns) September, 1929. Delineator.
Light, non-restrictive foundation garments, October, 1929. Delineator.
Soft, flexible undergarments from Nemo-flex. Illustration from Delineator, October 1929.
Improvements in elastic, made possible by new Lastex fabrics, came just in time for the change to 1930s fashion.
** Gossard corsets had an ad campaign praising the curve (Hogarth’s “line of beauty”) as early as 1924.
Ad for Gossard “Line of Beauty” corsets, praising the curved figure, Delineator, February 1924.
If you’ve read all the way to here: sorry this post was so long, but there was a lot I needed to get off my chest…!