Tag Archives: fashion history

Evening Gowns Held up with Straps, 1920

Butterick pattern 2690, evening gown with camisole top, Delineator, December 1920. This pattern was featured two months in a row.

Evening gowns for misses aged 14 to 19; Butterick patterns from February 1920. Delineator.

The 1920 name for these gowns, bare-shouldered and supported only by straps, was “camisole top.”

Paris fashion by Georgette, illustrated for Delineator in February 1920.

Actresses and couturiers introduced these very bare evening looks before 1920, but I am surprised by how many 1920 examples I found when I started looking — and in just one source, Butterick’s Delineator magazine. [I did find a Standard pattern from 1919 with a straight top, simple straps, and optional sheer, cape-like sleeves at the Commercial Pattern Archive: Standard 391, archive No. 1919.65 BWS]

There aren’t even visible straps holding this bodice up, just the beaded hem of the sheer drape:

Butterick evening waist pattern 2083, Delineator, January 1920.

Digression: Serendipity — here is a surprising discovery I made while reading the text of a 1924 corset ad:

Unfortunately, this corset ad mentioned a strapless brassiere but did not illustrate it. Bien Jolie ad, Delineator, September 1924.

The earliest strapless brassiere I found in the Sears catalog was Fall, 1939.

Only slim strands of beads are supporting this gown from 1920.  Delineator, March 1920, p. 128.

The text for this photo concerned the “coils over the ears hairstyle,” and didn’t even mention that very revealing dress. Nor did this photo of a messy “houpette” hairdo have much to say about the beaded straps of this young woman’s gown:

This photo caption did mention “braces over the shoulders,” but was really focused on the “houpette” hairstyle.

“We only meant to show her ‘houpette’ coiffure, but from the braces over her shoulders to the ribbons on her feet she is so utterly engaging that we could find no place to draw the line.”Delineator, March 1920.

While I recover from that admiring description, perhaps I should mention that the 1920s’ “camisole” was sometimes an undergarment for the top of the body, but also referred to the simple bodice that many 1920s’ skirts hung from.

Later 1920s’ skirts didn’t necessarily hang from the waist; a simple bodice (“camisole”) could be basted to skirts so they hung from the shoulder.  Butterick skirt patterns 6601 and 6588, 1926; Warren’s camisole skirt foundation ad, 1924.

One thing “camisole” seems to mean is “a bodice/undergarment suspended from [narrow] straps.” (In 1920, the word “chemise” might also describe an undergarment with narrow straps.)

The narrow straps of these French couture gowns are really minimal: just a strand or two of beads:

Don’t be distracted by her necklace; her dress is ends just above the bust and is suspended from strands of beads. By Drecoll, sketched for Delineator, May 1920.

Evening gown by Beer. Sketched for Delineator, October 1920.

Butterick patterns followed suit:

Butterick 2690, illustrated in November of 1920.

This camisole topped dress came in sizes 32 to 46 bust, and the skirt, embroidered with a spiderweb pattern, seems “vamp”-ish to me.

Butterick embroidery design 10741 is a pattern of spiderwebs.

[Lanvin showed a lacy spiderweb design like this in 1922 (French Vogue, January 1.) ]

The same 1920 issue of Delineator showed a more modest alternate version: sleeveless, with V-neck.

Butterick evening dress 2690, in a more covered-up version; illustrated in Delineator, November 1920.

Yes, this is the same dress as the black, very bare version at the top of this post; that illustration was from December 1920.

Butterick 2690 with the camisole top and the “pleated panels” skirt. December 1920. It seems to be black, but might be any dark color.

Delineator showed women how to make “Paris” trims for evening dresses:

“Making Paris Trims” article from Delineator, March 1920, p. 147. [Several of the dresses for misses have this high waist and a strap top.]

These very bare dresses for misses have beaded straps:

Butterick 2067 for young women aged 14 to 19, February 1920.

Butterick dress 2702-B is a camisole top dress. For misses 16 to 20.  Delineator, November 1920, p. 127.

Butterick 2702-B next to a V-necked dress more usual in the evening wear of the mid-1920s. Actually, they’re the same pattern…!

The “conservative” dress pattern (2702-A) also included a camisole top version (B); what’s more, No. 2702 is the “size 16 to 20 years” version of Butterick 2690! Butterick was really committed to these styles.

Butterick 2702 is a teens’ 16 to 20 version of 2690, illustrated in two camisole versions and a pale blue  sleeveless one earlier in this post! 2702-A is like the sleeveless version of 2690, but with an optional sheer sleeve.

Straps didn’t have to be beaded:

Butterick 2181; February 1920. Two different straps.

Party looks for “debs and sub-debs,” Delineator, Feb. 1920.

The contrast between the covered-up and very bare dress is striking, and reminds me that young men returning from war were more accustomed to the #2151 kind of party dress (above left) than the “nothing under this dress but me!” #2181 (center.)

Two dresses with strap tops, and a slightly more conservative one, right. #2130 is actually pretty revealing, too, since it has a very sheer layer over a camisole top.

The sheer-over-camisole-top versions were probably chosen by girls (or their mothers) who were not ready to show off so much bare skin. All these alternate views include a sheer sleeve.

Paris designer Elise Poret showed a sheer layer over her bare, camisole-strapped bodice in February 1920.

Party dresses for 14 to 19 year-old women. Butterick 2107 and 2238, March 1920.

The dress at left has a gathered sheer layer over a camisole top. Most 1920 evening dresses were not bare, camisole topped fashions. This pattern is another from February 1920.

Butterick evening waist pattern 2172 with skirt 2166. February 1920. The horizontal line of the camisole layer is partially covered by the V-shaped top layer.

This dress, Butterick 2682, does not have the dropped waist of the later nineteen-twenties, but the V-neck and sleeveless bodice are very typical of those years.

However, the popularity of camisole-topped dresses —  bare, revealing dresses — is shown by their appearance in these ads:

Ad for Woodbury soap, for “the skin you love to touch.” Delineator, March 1920.

From an ad for Cuticura soap, November 1920.

From an ad for Cutex nail polish. September, 1920. Two different straps.

From an ad for DeMiracle hair remover, “every woman’s depilatory.” Delineator, January 1920.

Detail, cover of Delineator Magazine, October 1920.

The initial shock of dancing with young women in scanty, revealing clothing didn’t happen in the “Roaring Twenties.” It began with the “lost generation” right after World War I. ” …Members of The Lost Generation had survived World War I but had lost their brothers, their youth, and their idealism.”  They didn’t “discover” sex, but they certainly discussed it more frankly than their grandparents had.

 

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hairstyles, lingerie, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Three Gymnastic Costumes, 1912

Three gymnastic costumes for women and girls, Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, 1912.

There were no gymnastic competitions for women in the 1912 Olympics, and it would be hard to imagine Simone Biles (or anyone else) spinning through the air in one of these “Gymnastic Costumes” from 1912. [If you click on that link you’ll have to watch a short commercial first, but I can’t stop marvelling at the things this young woman can do. Uneven bars isn’t even her best event!]

For some reason, Butterick offered three different women’s gym “costumes” in 1912.

January 1912: Butterick 5169

Butterick gymnastic costume 5169 is based on the classic middy blouse. Delineator, January 1912, p. 46.

Details and back view, Butterick 5169. The bloomers (pleated or gathered) are separate.

For girls, misses, and women, in seven sizes for bust measure from 26 to 38 inches. The bloomers and middy could be made in matching fabric for winter, or a cooler summer middy could be made of linen, etc., and worn with a skirt.

Four children, about 1916. My aunt, at right, wears a middy and a skirt.

March 1912:  Butterick 5256

One piece gymnastic costume; the under-blouse is called a guimpe. Butterick 5256, March 1912.

Here’s a close-up of the stitching:

Butterick 5256 is sleeveless, but worn with an easily washable guimpe under it.

Top text for Butterick 5256, a gym suit for “ladies, misses, and girls. March 1912.

This gymnastic costume was available in nine sizes, from 26 to 42 inch bust measure. It does not have a fitted waist, so there is not even “the slightest pressure on the organs.”

September 1912: Butterick 5625

Butterick gymnasium suit 5625, from September, 1912. Delineator, p. 159.

Butterick 5625 could be made with separate bloomers and middy, if preferred.

Note her black stockings — and imagine the underpinnings needed to keep them from falling down during active sports.This time, the option to gather or pleat the bloomers is clearly illustrated:

Alternate versions of Butterick 5625.

Girls who were going away to school or to college would be relieved to know that their home-made gym suit  “will be entirely presentable and like the best that other girls wear.” [Unless the school required pleats, or a specific pattern or color or fabric, as schools often do.] Available in seven sizes, for girls, misses, ladies with bust measure from 28 to 44 inches.

None of these gym suits looks suitable for the kind of gymnastics women do now, but, in 1912, “We’ve got you covered.” These were also the clothes worn by American girls who took over farm work to free men for military service in 1917-18.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/1918-oct-college-girls-vassar-milk-platoon.jpg

College students from Vassar wore their gym costumes while doing farm work.

In 1915, there was a debate over whether girls wearing gym clothes like these should be allowed to play baseball in public parks. As I wrote in a long-ago post,

“The San Francisco Chronicle runs an article every Sunday called The Wayback Machine,  by Johnny Miller, who goes through ‘the archives of 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago to bring us glimpses of the past.’ On January 4, 2015, he found this article from January 8, 1915, heralding the end of the bloomer ban:

“As far as the Park Commissioner is concerned, ‘the bloomer girls will be allowed to play ball in Golden Gate Park, notwithstanding Mrs. Grundy to the contrary. For some time these young misses have been an attraction on the park diamonds where they could be depended upon to put on a stirring game. And then Mrs. Grundy appeared on the scene and the games ceased. But now they will resume for the park Commission sees no harm in young girls, attired in their gymnasium suits, disporting on the park greens.”

When I first shared this article from the Chronicle, I wrote, “A less sexually provocative outfit would be hard to imagine. Perhaps the fact that the female baseball players’ stocking-clad legs were visible was the reason “Mrs. Grundy” objected to games in Golden Gate Park in 1915.”

Imagine Mrs. Grundy’s reaction to 21st century gymnastic costumes!

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

“Turn Your Housework into Exercise;” Advice from 1926

Vary the way you pick things up from the floor.

No time to go to the gym? That was a problem in the 1920s, too. In 1926, Dr. Lillian E. Shaw had these suggestions for “the housewife and mother whose innumerable duties keep her occupied from morning till night.”

“Her back may be kept straight and flexible, abdominal muscles firm and hips slender by using every day in her work the same kinds of exercises the instructor plans for her classes in the gymnasium.”

Even making the bed is an opportunity to stretch and strengthen muscles. Article in Delineator, March 1926.

Balance exercise: putting on stockings.

[I think I’d put my back against a wall before trying this for the first time….]

Flexing your torso while brushing your hair.

Dust with both hands.  Work from the shoulder.

Making the bed or dusting is an opportunity for deep knee bends.

Making the bed can be an opportunity to stretch side and back muscles.

Use different muscle groups to pick things up from the floor.

One way of picking up a piece of thread.

A different way to pick up a piece of thread.

Don’t think of it as vacuuming; think of it as strengthening exercise!

I’m really sorry I missed the opportunity to photograph page 66! I think these illustrations are charming, ( Look!– realistic drawings of the human figure — in a fashion magazine!) and the idea of doing repetitive tasks using different muscle groups makes sense to me. ( I wish I had been doing squats more often, while my knees still worked pretty well….) When your loved ones leave toys and socks on the living room floor, think of those objects as opportunities to use the four “pick up” positions!

What the attractive young housewife wore in 1926.

From the fashion viewpoint: notice that the typical 1926 housewife in the exercise article is wearing stockings and a dress to do housework, but her shoes are very low-heeled, and her belt is at her waist, not her hips….

A woman proudly shows her new Congoleum kitchen flooring to a visitor. Delineator, 1925.

Advertisements are always a useful reality check when you’re doing fashion research. The advertising agency (and Congoleum executives with ad approval) thought their audience could identify with this look, even if the fashions were definitely out of date by 1925.

3 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Beautiful Shoes from 1930

These I. Miller shoes could be dyed to match your dress. Featured in Delineator, June 1930, p. 28.

1930 was a good year for shoes, especially if you like high heels. Most of these are afternoon or evening shoes, but it’s a pleasure to see the quality of delicate scrolls of piping, or combinations of fabrics and kid….

These high heels are piped with silver kid. From J. & P. Cousins, in Delineator, June 1930.

These high heels from 1930 could be dyed to match your dress.

Pale blue suede & kid afternoon pumps from Laird Schober. Delineator, June 1930, p. 28.

White kid pumps with a flash of colored trim and colored heel. For a color image of gold kid and brocade Laird Schober shoes, click here.

Queen Quality shoes were advertised in Delineator; they are not extravagantly expensive, but not cheap, either.

[In my experience, pumps with that high cut are pretty much guaranteed to make women’s feet bulge over the top after they stand for a few hours….]

Queen Quality shoe prices, May 1928. They range from $7.50 to $12.50., “some as low as $6.” [In 1936, a college girl was expected to spend $12 per year on shoes, @ $3 per pair.]

For more causal occasions, heel heights are varied.

Brown and white spectator pumps from Stetson, featured in Delineator, June 1930, p. 28.

This white linen and white kid sport shoe from Adapto came with piping in various colors.

There’s a lot going on in this perforated tan and white sandal from Walkover. June 1930; Delineator, p. 28.

Delineator may have occasionally featured brands that advertised in the magazine, like Queen Quality, but most of the shoes mentioned in the June, 1930, issue were not made by advertisers.

These are couture-level shoes by famous French designers:

Designer shoes from Paris; Delineator, June 1930, p. 29. Made by Costa. The Met Museum has three pairs of Costa shoes.

The complex heel — are those bands of gold or silver leather, or jewels? — and the graceful curves are a sign of quality.

Ducerf-Scavini was very high-end. For 1928 shoe designs by Ducerf-Scavini, click here.

Even mass-market shoes from 1930 could be elegantly trimmed; in fact, Foot Saver shoes were aimed (as you might expect) at w omen who wanted comfort as well as style.

This ad for Foot Saver shoes appeared in the same June 1930 issue of Delineator as the high fashion shoes. The shoe on the right looks like it’s made to be comfortable, but the style at left is not noticeably dowdy….

Nor is this one:

Foot Saver evening shoe, November 1930.

Foot Saver shoe ad, November 1930.

The 1930 shoe illustrations from Delineator, June 1930, pp. 28 & 29, were by Leslie Saalberg. For more gorgeous shoes see Paris Shoes for April, 1928.

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Vintage Couture Designs

From Curved to Straight and Back Again: Corsets 1917 to 1929

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:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/1926-july-p-38-500-undies-top-left-bras-flattener.jpg

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…!

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bras, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Edwardian fashions, evening and afternoon clothes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

More “WTFashion?” Ads from Delineator: Bust Confiners (1900s) to Brassieres (1920s)

Ad for Gossard Bust Confiners, Delineator, March 1910, p. 250.

As discussed in the wonderful book Uplift, for centuries the breasts were supported from below, by a corset which pushed them up.

In the mid-twenties the uplift brassiere was invented, which supported the breasts from the shoulder (with the combination of bra straps and an elastic band below the breasts.)

No drooping breasts (see the “BEFORE” dotted line) when you wear the A.P. Uplift bra.**** Ad from Delineator, April 1930.

But until the modern brassiere was invented,** women’s breasts were often subject to exaggeration (pushed up and padded in the early 1900s) or suppression — “confined” and flattened. All aboard for the history herstory tour…. *****

Women’s corsets for regular figures, 1907 and 1926. Both from Delineator magazines.

In 1907, the “big bust, big hips” S-curve figure was supported by a corset which covered only the bottom of the breasts.

The Nemo Self-Reducing Corset for stout women, Delineator, November 1907.

This was a problem for large- (even slightly large-) busted women. If the corset hits just a little too low, your breasts droop over the top, or slip out of the corset when you raise your arms. So, like wild beasts or prisoners, breasts needed to be “confined.” Something stronger than the chemise or camisole (worn under the corset) was needed

This Corslette provided boned support to large breasts. Ad, Delineator, November 1907,  p. 856. Corslette made by Arthur Frankenstein & Co. [no, seriously.]

“It holds the bust high or low ….”

Text of the Corselette ad, 1907.  It could be worn without the corset for outdoor sports.

“A boon for the stout. Reduces Bust Measure 3 to 4 inches [OMG– Is this the first Minimizer bra ad?] ….Holds the bust high or low and prevents the flesh overriding the corset…. Double Boned Special deep back for Stout and Long Waisted.”

Front view of boned Corslette bust supporter, 1907. The shadow shows where her corset stops.

Elastic back of Corslette Back and Bust Supporter. 1907.

By 1910, a straight, slim silhouette was coming into fashion, and the top of the corset was getting too low to support the breasts.

Lower corsets appeared in this National Cloak Co. ad. February 1910.

Bust confiners to the rescue!

Gossard Bust Confiner ad, Delineator, March 1910.

Detail, Gosssard Bust Confiners, 1910.

Text of Gossard Bust Confiner Ad, 1910.

“The most striking change in the new corsets this season is the lower bust, which to many women will be a grateful improvement. With the low corset, a bust confiner is indispensable to give graceful contour and the desired straight, slender figure….”

Gossard “bust confiner” Style 54 was made to be sewn over the top of the corset, as shown here.

This Gossard Bust Confiner fastens in the front, like a corset cover, with hooks and eyes.

Unlike a corset cover,*** it was heavily boned.

In 1912, the spelling of the new “brassiere” was flexible. Ad for the Siegel-Cooper catalog. Delineator, September 1912.

“Brassiere” is not what a bust-supporting garment was called in France, but American advertisers chose that word to describe this new garment.

Ad for De Bevoise brassieres, “far superior to any corset cover.” June 1910.

The hook at the center front waist of the brassiere attached it to the corset.

In 1912, Paul Poiret was very influential, introducing a long, straight silhouette with a very high waistline and a raised bust. In 1815, women wore a bust-supporting corset under Empire fashions. This photo of a model wearing a high-waisted fashion by Paul Poiret gives an idea of the problem of a corset without bust support. (Her dress and chemise are doing whatever supporting there is.)

One of Poiret’s models, photographed in 1912. Delineator, June 1912. Her breasts seem to be hanging over the top of her corset.

In his book, En Habillant l’Epoque, Poiret told a story about one of his models (not necessarily this one) that has stuck with me for years:

“Am I the only one to know that this bird of paradise concealed the vilest of bodies, … that her breasts, empty and unspeakably awful, had to be rolled up like pancakes in order that they might be packed into her majestic bodice?” — Quoted and translated by Quentin Bell in his book, On Human Finery.  [I imagine that Poiret originally said they were rolled like “crepes.”]

OK, the brassiere needed to be invented! But…. The brassieres of 1914 through the early 1920s treated breasts as something which needed to be confined, suppressed, and compressed…. (I wish I could come up with a joke about the monobosom and “solitary confinement.”)

DeBevoise Brassiere ad, May 1914. Delineator.

The silhouette … for 1914 … is the straight figure, with small hips, large waist, and no bust,” wrote Eleanor Chalmers. Delineator, April 1914, p. 38. (Surprise: this fashion didn’t start in the 1920s.)

1917 fashion illustrations often show a very low bust (a fashion which would be appreciated by some women.)

By 1917, the low bust was an option for chic women.

The natural, uncorseted look meant that breasts could be worn low, although “stout” women were always advised to wear a brassiere.

Famous dancer and fashion icon Irene Castle, an early adopter of bobbed hair, is obviously choosing to go without a brassiere.

Irene Castle’s breasts are not “confined” in this photo from 1917.

Nevertheless, some young women with naturally high busts would choose to wear a breast-flattening brassiere.

Butterick pattern illustrations, September 1917.

It’s hard to believe that young models could achieve a bust this low and flat without a flattening brassiere.

Couture evening dress by Doeuillet, sketched for Delineator, September 1917. Young face; low, flat bust.

That is not a “natural” figure silhouette for a woman.

By 1917,  advice was that “With a low corset even a slender woman requires a brassiere or bust confiner.”

Delineator article, Sept. 1917.

This DeBevoise low backed brassiere (like the one in the Delineator illustration above) was recommended under thin evening dresses [probably to prevent nipples from showing.] June 1914, Delineator.

Model brassiere ad, Aug. 1917. From Ladies’ Home Journal.

This “Model” brassiere gives a more natural silhouette (although it implies one wide, single breast rather than a pair.) It has seams over the bust points, so it would flatten the bust somewhat.

A [monobosom] brassiere was recommended for all stout women. It supports the breasts by smashing them and pushing flesh toward the sides. Delineator, February 1917.

Sketch of a couture dress by Paquin, Delineator, December 1917. This model’s bust is oddly low, even though her arms are raised.

1920: This DeBevoise brassiere produces a low curve with no separation between the breasts.

As early as 1920, bust-flattening brassieres and bandeaux, designed for that purpose, were being sold. I was excited to find an ad for the “Flatter-U” brassiere, which I had read about but never seen:

Ad for the Kabo “Flatter-U” brassiere and bust flattener. Delineator, November 1920.

“Especially designed to flatten any unlovely bulge at the diaphragm, bust or shoulders. It really does flatter you, and it makes a flatter you.”

The Flatter-U brassiere, 1920.

This “snugly fitting” bust confiner from 1920 came with a lacy camisole. Kabo Corset Co. ad from Delineator, November 1920.

In the same ad:

Kabo brassiere, ad from November 1920. Delineator.

Ad for Warner’s Brassieres and Bandeaux, November 1920, Delineator. For more about bandeaux, click here.

“…From the slim girlish thirty-two to the full figure of mature lines. It retains the flesh in trim, youthful smoothness….”

[“Youthful smoothness?” How “youthful,” exactly? Age ten?] It’s 1920 — not yet what we think of as “the Twenties,” but the “boyish” figure is already starting. (“Boyshform” was another punning brand name like “Flatter-U.”)

The change didn’t happen overnight. These ads are also from 1920:

Ad for Treo Paraknit Elastic Brassiere. Delineator, February 1920. It’s something like a modern sports bra….

“Model” brassiere ad, Delineator, April 1920. It shows a natural curve but promises “slenderized girlish lines.”

Not all 1922 fashion illustrations show this bust shape, but they were the shape of the future in 1922. Delineator, March 1922.

Long brassiere, from an article in Delineator, February 1924.

Left, a bust-flattening “corselette;” right, a long, flattening bandeau worn with a girdle. Detail from ad for DeBevoise corset company, April 1925.

Buttterick brassiere patterns, Delineator, July 1926. For 36 to 52 inch bust.

Girdle, corselette, and brassiere/bandeau with girdle, Delineator, February 1926.

** Not long after the uplift brassiere became popular in the 1930s,  bust padding was reintroduced. (Corset, 1932.) You could buy “Indestructible Breast Forms” in 1939. In 1947, the “push-up” bra was invented by Frederick Mellinger, who started Frederick’s of Hollywood — which is still selling padding to those who think they need it.

*** A corset cover, 1914:

Corset cover, 1914. It is smooth and princess seamed, but it buttons down the front over the corset, so it would have to be very tight to prevent the breasts from popping out over the corset top.

**** By 1926, patents were applied for by at least three “uplift” companies: Model, A.P. (G.M. Poix & Co.) and Maiden Form. (source, Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau.}

***** This post generalizes based on images from Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal — just two sources. [Not good scholarship!] For a scholarly history of brassieres in this period (including patented devices) I recommend the well-researched book Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau.

NOTE: Most of these images are ones I discovered recently, but some appeared in previous posts. I shared many 1920s’ undergarments in “Brassieres, Bandeaux and Bust Flatteners” (click here), “Underpinning Twenties Fashion: Girdles and Corsets” (click here), “Garters, Flappers & Rolled Stockings” (click here.) And “Corsets and Corselets.” For what happened after the Twenties, see “Changing the Foundations of Fashion, 1929 to 1934.”

7 Comments

Filed under 1700s, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Bras, Corselettes, Corsets, Edwardian fashions, Foundation Garments, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

The Rapidly Changing Corseted Shape: Part 3, 1912 to 1914

The corset of 1914 is well below the bust, and is not intended to make the waist look smaller.

There were two big changes in 1914. The corset is no longer expected to support the bust, and the days of the wasp waist are over.

American Lady corset ads from 1912 and 1914. Right: No tiny waist here.

The 1912 corset was higher and longer, and it made the waist smaller; the corset of 1914 is below the bust, and does not constrict the waist. These are both advertisements from the same corset company, less than 3 years apart.

Delineator ran an article about the corsets of 1914, and it may surprise you (as it did me) to see these early references to the natural, girlish figure.

From an article on corsets by Eleanor Chalmers in Delineator, April 1914, p. 38.

“The corset of former years gave a woman a mature, well-developed, matronly figure. The corset of to-day makes her look like a very young girl.” [I find the 1914-1918 figure very un-girlish, but….”fashion writing.”]

“This is the day of the …drooping, boneless pose,” the body “as straight and yielding as a very young girl’s.” That sounds like the 1920s, but it was written before World War I. “The silhouette … for 1914 … is the straight figure, with small hips, large waist, and no bust.”

One big change is that the tiny waists of the Edwardian era are no longer fashionable.

These corsets “compress the hips as much as possible,” “leaving the bust absolutely free, letting out the waist to its normal size….” “Practically unboned, …The softness of the material follows the natural curve of the abdomen, …and in many cases there is even a slight curve in the front bone.”

American Lady corset ad, July 1914.

“Among smart women the size of the waistline has increased three  inches in the past three or four years. Large women still cling to their waistlines, but the corset should only measure two inches less than the waist — a twenty-four inch corset for a twenty-six inch waist.” — Eleanor Chalmers in Delineator, April 1914.

Back lacing of a 1914 corset. Delineator, April 1914. “If necessary you can wear a brassiere with it.”

As seen in the corset back illustration above, a gap between the sides of the corset was customary, so this corset did not decrease the waist measurement at all.

Since the 1914 corset started below the bust, some women felt the need to wear a brassiere. However, the brassiere of 1914 “confined” the bust, rather than supporting it.

DeBevoise brassiere ad, May 1914. There is nothing natural about this silhouette. [“Breasts? What breasts?”]

The back waist of the brassiere was much higher than the front, reflecting the posture of the period, which was changing, but not yet completely natural. (The long center front tab attaches to the corset to keep the brassiere anchored down in front.)

Back view of the DeBevoise brassiere, May 1914. You can see the vertical bones or darts in the front, the front closing, and the tab.

Less constrictive brassieres were available, offering no support, just nipple coverage..

This DeBevoise low-backed brassiere was recommended under evening dresses, which were usually made of thin fabrics. June 1914, Delineator.

Not all women wore brassieres. These fashions suggest the “absolutely free,” natural bust of 1914:

These women are showing a natural bust, probably not wearing brassieres with their low corsets. Butterick pattern illustration, June 1914.

“The uncorseted effect is produced by leaving the bust absolutely free, letting out the waist to its natural size and in the hip-confining sections of the corset using a very soft, pliable, practically unboned material that leaves the figure almost as soft and supple as if no corset were worn.” — Eleanor Chalmers in Delineator, April 1914.

Butterick illustration from April 1914. The natural, uncorseted bust line.

However, stout women were advised to wear a brassiere with the low-waisted 1914 corset:

Stout women were advised to wear a brassiere to avoid looking “slovenly.” DeBevoise brassiere ad, June 1914.

DeBevoise brassiere ad, May 1914. This ad is not necessarily aimed at stout women. That bust shape is an early version of the 1920s’ flattened chest.

“…Appear ‘uncorseted’ without looking slovenly…. Your corset will not make a ‘ridge’ in your gown.” Bulging flesh at the top of the corset (in front or in back) must have been a problem for many women.

La Camille “Ventilo” front-lacing corset ad, April 1917.

Three years after 1914, corsets were still higher in the back than in the front. A ridge of flesh above the corset was often a problem, except for the very slender. A brassiere helped control the back bulge, as well as a possible overflow in front.

The waistline is high and not especially small on these patterns from April 1914. “Slouch” pose at right.

Again, it’s hard to see why the corset of 1914 had to compress the hips during the “tunic” era. But the corset did affect posture. And some women chose a sleeker silhouette, without the tunic:

Butterick patterns in Delineator, January 1914.

Quick comparison 1907 to 1914:

Corset ads 1907, 1910, 1912, 1914. All from ads in Delineator.

Styles to come: The low, natural-waist-size corset of 1914 was still fashionable in 1917, but it was getting shorter and less rigid.

Corsets 1914 and 1917. The woman in the ad on the right has an almost “natural” figure.

For a previous post about the change in fashionable figures from 1914 to 1924, click here.

For corset change between 1907 and 1910, click here.

For corset change between 1910 and 1912, click here.

NOTE: I am not writing an authoritative history of corsets, just offering images from one or two sources in the hope that serious researchers will find them helpful. I have chosen extremes for the sake of contrast, but women could choose from a wide range of styles, and many continued to wear their old corsets until they wore out.

 

6 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Bras, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, World War I