Tag Archives: middies

Musings, Jan 2015: on Corsets, Mini Skirts, Bloomers, etc.

I’ve been getting some wonderful comments on older posts, so I want to share some related pictures.

Twentieth Century Corsets for Girls:

Girl's corset, 1917. Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, Dover Books.

Girl’s corset, 1917. Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, Dover Books.

“10A19:  Girl’s flexible corset waist with light, flexible boning. Designed to hold the immature figure within trim lines without in any way binding it. . . . Sizes 18 to 30. [Misses’ corset waists should be ordered 2 inches less that your waist measurement over your dress — p.146.] A corset waist every girl should have. 79 cents.”

This girl’s corset was sold by Perry, Dame & Company, in their 1917 catalog.

Dinah found photos online of more corsets for girls — not from the turn of the century, but from a Sears catalog dated 1923! The image is in Google online, so the number of times it can be viewed is limited. Instead of using a link, I found it by doing a google search for the words “sears corset for girls 1923 Olian.” The image is from  JoAnne Olian’s Children’s Fashions 1900-1950.) [Caution: My McAfee Secure Search says do not click on the Sears Catalogs Online links — there may be security issues! ]

How to Sit in a Mini Skirt:

Nancy N remembered many of the disadvantages of wearing a miniskirt.

“I wore my hems somewhere between the mid knee and micro mini length — long enough so that when you sat down your underwear wasn’t sitting on the chair! Then I discovered how flattering the extra long midi was, so it DIDNT hit the fattest part of the calf. Short skirts were cute but such a challenge .. What to do climbing stairs in the mall? Sitting for long stretches with your knees together is tiring! And bending down to file papers all day is no fun. Thank god for the pantsuit!”

One discomfort was that you had to sit with your knees clamped firmly together. This photo of a group of Sea Scouts shows the [more modest end of ] the range of problems miniskirts caused:

Sea Scouts, post 601, 1968. Photo by Bill Owens, from Alison Lurie's book, The Language of Clothes.

Sea Scouts, California Post 601, 1968. Photo by Bill Owens, from Alison Lurie’s book, The Language of Clothes. Note that the girls are wearing an officially approved uniform — usually more conservative than teenagers’ ordinary dress.

In the 1960s, I thought of this as “the candidate’s wife” problem; when a woman in a short skirt sits on a raised platform, with her knees or ankles at the eye level of the audience, she has to sit very carefully. These young women seated at the far right are not yet ready for the campaign trail:

How not to sit in a miniskirt. Photo by Bill Owens, 1968.

How not to sit in a miniskirt. Photo by Bill Owens, 1968.

The girls in the center have crossed their legs at the knees, which is  also not wise if you’re sitting higher than the audience — unless you want them to see up your skirt to the hip:

Sitting like this hides your crotch but sometimes exposes your stocking tops.

Sitting like this would hide your crotch, but sometimes exposed your stocking tops, your garters, or worse, your thigh control panty girdle.

Sitting correctly: Knees together, ankles crosses.

Sitting correctly: Knees together, ankles crossed, skirt tucked under your thighs.

These girls have mastered the basics of sitting in public in a miniskirt. The more advanced miniskirt posture requires you to also sit at a slight angle, so your crossed ankles are not directly under your knees. Tucking your crossed feet under the chair tilts your knees and thighs downward, too.

Members of the Kennedy clan demonstrate graceful sitting here. Scroll down to the group pictures.

The Scandalous Can-Can

Dinah also made some interesting points in a different comment on Underpinning the Twenties — about how difficult it was for parents raised in the 1890s to accept the fashions of the 1920s, which were so radically different from their own corseted and restrictive youth. Also, she mentions that [like the young women above] Victorian women dancing the can-can had to cross their raised leg — because they were wearing crotchless bloomers. These are more formally called “open drawers;”

Open drawers, circa 1860, illustration from Ewing's Fashion in Underwear.

Open drawers, circa 1860, illustration from Ewing’s Fashion in Underwear.

A pair of open drawers that belonged to Queen Victoria were sold at auction for over 6,000 pounds in 2014 (read the article in Victoriana  here ); this article in the Telegraph shows some of her underwear, now given “national designated status.” These garments date from the 1890s, when the queen had a very large circumference.

Women in Gym Bloomers Allowed in Golden Gate Park: 1915

College girls doing farm work in their gym bloomers and middy blouses, Oct. 1918. Delineator.

College girls doing farm work in their gym bloomers and middy blouses, Oct. 1918. Delineator.

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.”

More college girls doing farm work in their gymnasium outfits, 1918.

More college girls doing farm work in their gymnasium outfits, 1918.

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.

That brings us back to Dinah’s comments about the conflict between Victorian adults and their 20th century offspring:

“Another problem was that in the 1920s there was a break from the 19 century view that even adult children must do as their parents dictated. The fact that adult young girls were ignoring their mother’s advice about proper corsetry was in itself terrible. Do the sums – a 21 year old girl in 1925 would have been born in 1904, to say a mother aged 25; The mother would have been born in 1879. When the mother was a teenager in the 1890s the wasp waist was in full swing. She probably expected the same rigid and tight corset for her daughter?”

Thanks to all you wonderful readers who share your knowledge and keep these conversations going!

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Costumes for the 19th century, Girdles, Hosiery & Stockings, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

College Girls Become Farmers During World War I

Volunteers for Food: Vassar Girls Prove Themselves at Agriculture. Delineator, October 1918

Volunteers for Food: Vassar Girls Prove Themselves Adepts at Agriculture. Delineator, October 1918

This full page photo essay shows one way that young women contributed to the war effort in America. With young men going off to war, young women stepped in to tackle some previously male jobs. (AmericanAgeFashion has also written about “Farmerettes.”)

Lower half of the page. Vassar Girls Doing Farm Work, 1918

Lower half of the page. Vassar Girls Doing Farm Work, 1918

Here are some of the photographs at an easier-to-see size:1918 oct college girls vassar crosscut saw

1918 oct college girls vassar haying1918 oct college girls vassar milk platoonThe captions may seem patronizing, even though the Delineator was a woman’s magazine. However, I think they are intended to be light-hearted and morale-boosting. These patriotic college women are cheerfully sawing logs and harvesting crops as their contribution to the war effort. They are not wearing uniforms, as the following pictures show; these dark wool middy tops and bloomers are their normal gym suits or hiking clothes.

A gym suit (left) and a hiking outfit (right), 1925. These sport outfits remained constant for schoolgirls and teens for many years.

A gym suit (left) and a hiking outfit (right), 1925. These athletic outfits remained constant for schoolgirls and young women for many years.

1918 oct college girls planting timeThese gardeners show a variety of clothing. The standing woman in a skirt and jacket is presumably a teacher.1918 oct college girls higher mathDo you suppose the black arm band means the girl on the right is in mourning? The girl on the left (like the one below) is wearing a gardening smock.

College girl wearing a garden smock, 1918.

College girl wearing a garden smock, 1918.

It looks like a more substantial — and practical — version of the one illustrated here:

Garden smock, Delineator, July 1917.

Garden smock, Delineator, July 1917.

I used this illustration in my post about fabric shortages during World War I; the editorial that accompanied this drawing in 1917 emphasized how different America’s experience was from that of our European allies.

Some Grim Statistics

Girls and women in England did hard labor on farms and in factories for years.  For them, the war began in August of 1914. In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson was elected to a second term in 1916 on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” The U.S. did not officially enter the war until April of 1917.  By the end of the war, on November 11, 1918, nine million soldiers and an estimated five million civilians were dead.  116, 516 American soldiers died, out of more than four million American mobilized forces. But the United Kingdom lost between 702,917 and 888,246 men in the prime of life, and another two million were injured. France, Russia, and Romania suffered military casualties of more than 70%.  When the war ended, many women realized that they would never marry, and would have to be self-supporting for the rest of their lives. One such family of women founded the Avoca Handweavers in County Wicklow, Ireland. You can read about them in a lovely post by The Vintage Traveler.

The Study of Fashion Can’t be Separated from the Study of More Important Things

This is just one example of the way the thread of fashion runs through the fabric of history — and a pastime that seems trivial connects us with larger issues. I began by thinking about gym suits and garden smocks, and wound up learning more about the First World War. How appropriate that Memorial Day is being observed this weekend — a time for reflection on all the costs of war.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Children in Grammar School Photos, 1916

Miss Worthington's Class, "Low Seventh and High Sixth, August 1916."

Miss Worthington’s Class, “Low Seventh and High Sixth, August 1916.” Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

Miss M. L. Roche's Class, "High Eighth Grade, 1916."

Miss M. L. Roche’s Class, “High Eighth Grade, 1916.” Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

One difficulty of doing research from old photographs is that we can’t always trust the information written on them. Remembered Summers found these vintage class photos pasted into an old album that was in poor condition. Even though both pictures have dates written on their fronts — either 1914 or 1917– the inscriptions on the backs of both photo postcards, in the same hand and the same ink,  date them to 1916.

EDITED 2/9/16: Remembered Summers wrote two posts featuring other grammar school classes. Click here for eight graders circa 1914 or click here for first graders earlier in the century.

Depending on the angle of the light, this date is either 1914 or 1917.

Depending on the angle of the light, this date is either 1914 or 1917.

August 1916, Miss Worthington's Class

Photo back: “Low Seventh & High Sixth, August 1916, Miss Worthington’s Class”

Some of these children look quite mature (their teachers are also pictured.) For many, an eighth grade education was considered adequate, and they were ready to join the workforce. The lucky ones went on to high school (only 16.8% of 17-year-olds graduated from high school in 1919), and about a third of those went to college. Then as now, children dressed up for their school photos; here are some better views of their clothing.

Miss Worthington's Seventh Grade, 1916; left side

Miss Worthington’s Seventh Grade, 1916; left side. Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

 

Miss Worthington's Seventh Grade Class, 1916. Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

Miss Worthington’s Seventh Grade Class, 1916; right side. Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

Miss Roche's eighth grade class, 1916; left side. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

Miss Roche’s eighth grade class, 1916; left side. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

Miss Roche's High Eighth Grade Class, 1916; right side. Click to enlarge/

Miss Roche’s High Eighth Grade Class, 1916; right side. Photo courtesy of Remembered Summers.

Many of the girls are wearing stripes and/or the sailor-style overblouse called a “middy.” Striped dresses, middy blouses, and striped middy blouses were popular during World War I, 1914 to 1918.

Striped dresses, Delineator, 1917 & 1918.

Striped dresses, Delineator, 1917 & 1918.

Middy and striped skirt, Delineator 1918; Striped Middy Blouses, Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917.

Middy and striped skirt, Delineator 1918; Striped Middy Blouses, Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, vintage photographs