Tag Archives: lastex

Changing the Foundations of Fashion: 1929 to 1934

"Make us look like this!" Sears catalog, Spring 1934, featuring Lastex two-way stretch girdles.

“Make us look like this!” Sears catalog, Spring 1934, featuring Lastex two-way stretch girdles: “Boneless! Bulgeless!”

Many changes in fashion were taking place between 1929 and 1934, in addition to the fall of the hemline and the rise of the waistline.

For the first time in centuries, fashions followed the natural shape of a woman’s body. Bias-cut dresses, which clung to every curve, were already chic in 1929.

November, 1929. Form fitting gowns from French designers Louiseboulanger and Jean Patou. Delineator sketches by Soulie.

November, 1929. Form fitting gowns from French designers Louiseboulanger and Jean Patou. The Delineator.

Makers of bosom-flattening brassieres — such as the “Flatter-U” and “Boyshform” bandeaux — were losing younger customers to companies like “Maiden Form” and G.M. Poix’s “A-P Uplift.” The word “uplift” was applied rather freely.

"Uplift bandeau" and Foundation with "Uplift rayon jersey top. Seaers catalog, Fall, 1929. Page 218.

“Uplift bandeau” (left) and Foundation (right) with “Uplift style bust.” Sears catalog, Fall, 1929.

Farrell-Beck and Gau, authors of the book Uplift:  The Bra in America, point out that in previous centuries, corsets pushed the breasts up from below; now, brassieres with shoulder straps lifted the breasts up.

After the mono-bosom years earlier in the 20th century, the word “uplift” seems to include the idea of separation. Women were finally acknowledged to have two breasts, one on either side of the sternum.

"Empire Gown" with "uplift line of the bodice." Butterick pattern # , Nov. 1931.

“Empire Gown” with “uplift line of the bodice.” Butterick pattern #4175 , Nov. 1931.

The garment that had been called a “corset” (or “corselette,” if it was unboned) became a “foundation.”

This illustration of the latest foundation garments appeared in The Delineator as early as March, 1929.

This illustration of the latest foundation garments appeared in The Delineator as early as March, 1929.

“Out went the whalebone. In went elastic. . . . The ‘foundation garment’ or ‘costume foundation’ . . . has definitely supplanted the word ‘corset’ and earned universal approval.”  — Editorial in The Delineator, March 1929.

Several months later, this article appeared, with illustrations more typical of 1929 undergarments:

"Facts and Figures About the strikingly feminine new silhouette." Article by Lucile Babcock in Delineator, October 1929.

“Facts and Figures about the strikingly feminine new silhouette.” Article in The Delineator, October 1929.

“Gone are the days of the straight-line, belted-about-the-hips frock which concealed many of our figure deficiencies. Snug fitting hips, slightly raised and occasionally nipped-in waists, a frank recognition of the bust line, are characteristic of autumn styles.” — Lucile Babcock, in The Delineator, Oct. 1929.

Two mid-twenties' corsets: La Camille ad, 1924, and Bien Jolie ad, 1925. Both Delineator.

Before the change: two mid-twenties’ corsets. Left, a La Camille corset ad, 1924, and right, a Bien Jolie corset ad, 1925. Both from The Delineator.

The corset went through other changes after 1929.

Bias-cut satin dresses like these would have revealed every bump, boning channel, and lacing of an old-fashioned corset.

Bias-cut gowns from August and October, 1921. Butterick patterns 4039, 4093, and 4097. Delineator.

Bias-cut gowns from August and October, 1931. Butterick patterns 4039, 4093, and 4097. Delineator.

In 1929, the Sears catalog shows “boyish”/bust-suppressing corsets on the same page as corsets with soft, non-flattening tops. 1929 sears Fall p 218 page 500

 

The foundation on the left  is a typical 1920's corselet, turning the body into a tube shape.

The foundation on the left is a typical 1920’s corset;  bust-flattening boned seams and no waist indentation turn the body into a tube shape.

Significantly, the 1929 corset on the left below has rayon jersey (knit) in the bust area. Although not truly cup shaped, the soft fabric was not designed to flatten the breasts,  unlike the boned garment on the right.

Fall 1929 Sears catalog, p. 223. (Look at that deco fabric!)

Fall 1929 Sears catalog, p. 223. (I love that art deco fabric on the right!)

Several of Sears’ 1929 corsets/foundations use soft rayon jersey over the bust.

Foundation with "uplift" rayon bust; Fall 1929 Sears catalog p. 218

Foundation with “uplift style” rayon bust; Fall 1929 Sears catalog, p. 218. It’s hard to believe that this did much “lifting.”

But the chief problem of late 1920’s corsets (or foundations, as they were now being called)  was that their stretch panels had to be made from something like surgical elastic (similar to the Ace bandages used for sprained wrists and ankles.) At the time, elasticized fabrics were limited in size, so the fronts and backs of corsets had to be made of traditional, non-stretch corset materials, like coutil or thick satin; they needed hook-and-eye or  zipper closings, and the seams (and fastenings) were never smooth enough for wearing under thin, bias-cut gowns like this one:

Bias-cut satin gown in a Kotex ad, July 1931. Delineator.

Bias-cut satin gown in a Kotex ad, July 1931. Delineator.

Lastex Changes Corsetry

The revolution came in the early 1930’s, when a new method for processing rubber was invented. According to Elizabeth Ewing’s Fashion in Underwear, before 1930 the sap of rubber trees (latex) was dried and compressed into bricks for shipping. When it reached England, the bricks were liquified, and long sheets of rubber were made. These sheets would then be cut into strips and incorporated into fabrics, but the strips were never long enough to be effectively woven into material suitable for the mass production of corsets.

Fall 1930 Sears catalog. Before the invention of Lastex, elastic panels had to be used sparingly. (However, the bust is back!)

Fall 1930 Sears catalog. Before the invention of Lastex, elastic panels had to be used sparingly or pieced together. (However, by 1930 the bust is definitely back in style.)

“About 1930,” a new chemical process allowed latex to be shipped in its liquid form. The liquid latex could then be extruded into fine threads — called Lastex —  which were as long as threads of traditional materials, which meant that elasticized yardage could finally be made in lengths and widths suitable for mass produced garments. As soon as weaving and knitting machines had been adapted to use Lastex, a new kind of undergarment became possible.

Munsingwear's 'Foundettes' two-way stretch girdle ad, March 1937. Woman's Home Companion.

Munsingwear’s ‘Foundettes’ two-way stretch girdle ad, March 1937. Woman’s Home Companion.

My question was, “How much time did it take for undergarments made with Lastex to become available — and affordable — to working class women?”

The answer: Hardly any time at all! The Sears, Roebuck catalog for Spring 1932 proudly introduces Lastex and “Clingtex” garments made of “new, cloth-like elastic (Lastex.)”

Sears catalog for Spring 1932, introducing "Sensational new garments of marvelous Lastex ."

Sears catalog for Spring 1932, introducing “Sensational new garments of marvelous Lastex .”

Early Lastex foundations combined the new stretch fabric with traditional corset materials —  for extra control over the abdomen, for example.

Clingtex foundation, Spring 1933, Sears Catalog.

Clingtex foundation, Spring 1933, Sears Catalog.

By Fall of 1933, however, Sears was offering “Two-Way Stretch Softies” made entirely of stretch fabric.  The “roll-on” girdle, which required no fastenings,  “dates from 1932 in England and probably a year earlier in the U.S.A.” [Ewing]

"New Two-Way Stretch Softies." Seamless girdles and foundations from Sears Catalog, Fall 1933.

“New Two-Way Stretch Softies.” Seamless girdles and foundations from Sears Catalog, Fall 1933.

These “step-in” stretch foundations, which pull on, were made on a circular knitting machine; not only did they have no zippers , they had no seams. 

A foundation garment that made a woman look firmer, smoother, and younger — which improved her natural figure without distortion — was perfect under the bias gowns of the 1930s. This 1933 “Softie” All-in One from Sears (on the left) )looks very much like the Spandex “smoothers” available in stores in 2015.

A seamless, Lastex knit foundation garment, Sears, Fall 1933. This foundation cost $3.69; the "roll-on" girdle cost just $1.98.

A seamless, Lastex knit foundation garment, Sears, Fall 1933. This foundation cost $3.69; the “roll-on” girdle (right) cost just $1.98.

Literally for the first time in hundreds of years, the purpose of a corset was not to distort a woman’s body.

The purpose of the nineteen-thirties’ foundation garment was to create the impression of a perfect, nude body under the clothes. It firmed the hips, flattened the belly, and supported the breasts, but all in imitation of nature, giving its wearer the firm, flexible figure of a healthy young woman.

Softies, Fall 1934. Sears catalog. "Not a bone! Not a bulge!" Seamless, circular-knitted two-way stretch foundation.

“Softies,” Fall 1934. Sears catalog. “Not a bone! Not a bulge!” Seamless, circular-knitted, two-way stretch girdle or foundation.

The End of the Boyish Figure

One more (less encouraging) thing about changes in fashion after 1929:

By Fall of 1932 women were already made to feel self-conscious about having small breasts.

1932 fall sears 500 help for flat chested pushup

"Are you boyishly flat-chested? . . . Wear our 'Form Bust' and be neat, smart, up-to-the minute, and so be happy." Sears catalog, Fall 1932.

“Are you boyishly flat-chested? . . . Wear our ‘Form Bust’ and be neat, smart, up-to-the minute, and so be happy.” Sears catalog, Fall 1932.

That didn’t take long, did it?

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bras, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Zippers

Stockings for the Beach, June 1917

Luxite Hosiery Advertisement, June 1917

Luxite Hosiery Advertisement, June 1917. Illustration by Coles Phillips.

Stockings Worn with a Swimsuit, 1917

This charming illustration by Coles Phillips might have been titled “Sand in His Shoes.”  You could make up a story about why the girl is wearing a knit swim suit — possibly wet, since it’s shiny — but the man is still wearing a necktie. Fine print at the bottom of the ad says that a “beautiful color print of this illustration” measuring 12 by 11 inches, “will be sent upon receipt  of 15 cents in stamps.”

Luxite Stockings

Ad for Luxite Hosiery, June 1917

Ad for Luxite Hosiery, Delineator magazine, June 1917

1917 june p 50 Luxite hose ad text

“Hosiery, today, is regarded more important to the charm of personal appearance than ever before. Look your best — not on state occasions only — but always; that is the modern idea. Hose of Luxite have the spirit of luxury — yet they are not extravagant. Shapely, shimmering, and closely woven — the product of beautiful materials, pure dyes and specialized methods. Long wear and elegance are combined in inseparable union. ”

Luxite Hose were available in “Japanese Pure Silk” or “Gold-Ray (scientific silk) [i.e., rayon], lisle, and cotton. “Prices as low as 25 cents per pair, for Men, Women and Children.”

Truth in Advertising

What interested me in this ad, aside from the lovely, Maxfield Parrish style golden light on the figures, is the imperfection of the woman’s stockings. The artist has drawn all the irregularities of the woven fabric. 1917 june p 50 Luxite hose ad woman bathing suitI’m sure that’s what the product really did look like. Many women wore their stockings rolled over a garter when wearing a bathing suit, but special corsets — sometimes rather like a boned garter belt — were available for wear under swimsuits. Lastex wasn’t available until 1931; the wool knit swim suit itself did not support the figure at all, and was very revealing on a cold, wet body.

Love That Green Striped Shirt

1917 june p 50 Luxite hose ad man shirt

Yet another reminder of the colorful past — black and white photos just don’t convey these bold, exuberant textiles.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Bathing Suits, Hosiery & Stockings, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Swimsuits

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.

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

Who Would Ever Guess?

Companion-Butterick Triad pattern #6948, 1936

Companion-Butterick Triad pattern #6948, 1936

These Are Maternity Dresses from 1936

Woman's Home Companion, August 1936

Illustration by Ernst. Woman’s Home Companion, August 1936

I look at those slim 1930s hips, those flat 1930s bellies, and, even after reading the full text, it’s hard to imagine how these dresses expanded to cover the ninth month of pregnancy.

However, it’s important to remember that women did try to conceal their pregnancies as long as possible in this time period.

How to Look Smart Before the Baby Comes

1936 aug p 62 maternity pattern 6948 dress jacketThe text says “You can be just as smartly dressed as ever and perhaps a little prettier than usual in a maternity wardrobe that is well-chosen and carefully planned.  All you need as a guide is Triad Pattern No. 6948.  The style is a straight concealing wrap-around with three flattering necklines and a separate jacket.  One version is your afternoon dress of dark pure silk with a soft shirred blouse and pastel collars.  The second dress of sheer wool has a more tailored look with a squared-off button bib.   The third gives you a simple and attractive house dress of sanforized shrunk cotton.  Add to these essentials comfortable kid oxfords, soft all-Lastex brassieres, one of the special new adjustable elastic girdles and underwear that is wrap-around or two sizes larger that usual. Be sure that your coat has a wide lap-over and your hat a becoming brim.  You’ll be surprised to find how well you look.”

1936 aug p 62 closup back 6948 back tiesThe back views of pattern #6948 show that all three versions tied with a sash behind, and there is a deep pleat or fold of material which presumably could be released to expand the dress as needed. (I wish there was a pattern layout illustration! Exactly how it worked is not very clear, since the fold seems to run up into the bodice only on the dress at left.)

A Lane Bryant Maternity Dress, 1934

This 1934 catalog from the Lane Bryant company, which had pioneered maternity clothing in 1904, shows that Companion-Butterick patterns were not alone in designing clothes which expanded only from the back and tried to look as much as possible like normal fashions for as long as possible. “Designed to conceal condition. . . .”1934 march p 80 lane bryant maternity catalogFashion-incubator.com discusses the early Lane Bryant Maternity catalogs and how they handled sizing — ingeniously!

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Maternity clothes