Tag Archives: Premet

Winter Underwear, 1880s to 1920s

Detail from and ad for Munsingwear knit undergarments, Delineator,  September, 1927.

Frau Buttonbox asked what women wore under those 1920’s dresses in the winter — and how they protected their dresses from sweat and body oils. I have some ads to share!

Just for vocabulary, in the U.S., a one piece knit suit like this was called a “union suit” (proper name) or “long johns” (common name.)

This wool union suit was recommended by dress-reformer Annie Jenness-Miller in 1888.

In 1880’s England, Dr. Jaeger’s theory that wearing wool next to the skin (instead of plant fibers like linen or cotton) was good for health was championed by dress reformers and George Bernard Shaw.

My uncle Bert (like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian Bachelor Farmers”) came from a generation (b. 1899) that believed that a hot bath would “open your pores” to admit disease, so he wore long johns from September to March. My stepmother insisted that he wash them (and himself) from time to time if he wanted to eat dinner with us. Whew!

Women’s union suit from Sears catalog, Fall 1918.
By 1916, skirts were getting shorter, but lace-up boots would have hidden the legs of this underwear. Notice the short sleeves.

Ladies’ shoes from Sears catalog, 1918.

Wool, needed for army uniforms, was hard to get in the U.S. in 1917-1918. Note the overlapping “open” back.

The problem with fashionable clothing is that it is usually the opposite of practical clothing — so women who want to be fashionable usually have to sacrifice some comfort — and common sense.

By the mid-1920s, skirts were reaching the knee, and bare arms were expected with evening dresses and dinner dresses. Nevertheless, many dining rooms (even in mansions) were unheated.

Ad for Forest Mills long underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The union suit on the left could be worn under day dresses. These models look like teens.


Winter clothes for teens and small women, October 1925. Delineator.

Under evening dress, your torso could be warm, but your arms had to be bare.

Combed cotton knit underwear from Sears, 1927 catalog. You could wear a silk or rayon slip over these, under your dress.

Butterick 5755, 5714, 5713, Delineator, January 1925, page 29.

Evening dresses for teens, January 1925.

“It s no longer necessary to shiver through the long winter months in order to be stylishly dressed.”

“Keep your body warm.” Ad for Forest Mills knit underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The ad doesn’t state fiber content, but knits made for a smooth, “no bumps” fit.

“Underwear that will not only absorb perspiration, but will keep your body from being chilled.”

The Forest Mills underwear shown in the photograph is not much different in style from silk underwear (slips, camisole and bloomers) sold by Sears, but knit underwear fit more smoothly.

Silk underwear from Sears catalog, Fall 1927. Silk or rayon bloomers came to just above the knee.

Carter’s, a company that made rayon knit underwear, ran a whole series of ads that showed couture fashions next to pictures of models (in the same poses) wearing Carter’s underwear. I don’t now how warm it was, but it did fit very closely.

Detail of an ad for Carter’s rayon knit underwear, Delineator, November 1926. Premet and Poiret were famous Paris Couturiers. That’s a Poiret model above.

Detail of 1927 ad for Carter’s underwear. The model wears Poiret; at right she poses in her Carter’s underwear.

“Poiret’s black and gold gown” and silk cape, pictured in an ad for Carter’s underwear, November 1927. Poiret was very influential in the 1910’s, but falling out of favor by the late 1920’s.

Detail from an ad for Carter’s knit underwear, November 1927. Smooth, one-piece fit.

Right, back view of a one-piece union suit; left, a camisole “vest” and bloomers. Carter’s rayon knit undergarments, ad from 1926.

Premet’s “Vampire” dress, with Carter’s combination underwear to go under it. April, 1928. That dress would have permitted a much warmer undergarment.

The gold and white brocade hostess gown is by Drecoll; the underwear is Carter’s “vest and bloomer” of rayon knit. Ad from May 1927. The House of Worth also participated in this ad campaign.

As to keeping clothes free of perspiration stains and odor, deodorants were available (and ruined the armpits of many a vintage garment….) A solution still used in theatrical costumes, and by those allergic to certain chemicals, is the dress shield.

1910 ad for Kleinert’s dress shields. Delineator.

Ad for OMO dress shields, a rival to Kleinert’s. March 1910, Delineator.

Dress shields were usually safety pinned or basted into place in the armholes of a dress or jacket.

1920 Kleinert’s dress shield ad. You can see that this shield is curved at the top to follow the shape of the bottom of the armhole; it folds over the underarm seam, extending into the dress and into the sleeve.

Costumers sew in snaps so the shields can be changed and washed.  Some women preferred to wear a bra or guimpe-like washable garment which included the shields.

Top of a Kleinert’s dress shield ad, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937.

The Kleinert’s website (the company is still in business) explains:

“Before The Advent Of Deodorants & Antiperspirants The Dress Shield Was The Way To Protect Your Garments From Sweat & Odor. In 1869 Kleinert’s Invented the Dress & Garment Shield Category Which Is Still In Use Today Protecting Our Clothes & Saving Us From Embarrassing Situations Due To Sweat Stains & Odors. Trust Kleinert’s Quality & History To Keep You Dry Throughout The Day. Choose Below From Our Selection Of Fine Dress Shields.” Kleinerts.com

The shields come in different shapes for differently cut armholes. Now you can get disposable ones — and in a costume emergency I have cut self-adhesive pantiliners to stick in the underarms of a costume.

Bottom of Kleinert’s dress shield ad from March 1937, WHC.

I’ve mentioned this before: actors sweat, and stage actors have to wear their costume(s) for eight performances per week. It’s not good for a wool suit to be dry-cleaned every week; underwear protects the costume, but a changeable shield under each arm keeps the suit from getting wet at all. Undershirts and shirts, etc., are laundered daily — in fact, Equity actors have duplicates supplied so they don’t ever have to put on a shirt that is still damp from the matinee performance. (Ditto for all other items that touch the skin.)

Full page, full-color Kleinert’s ad, March 1924. Delineator.

Unsexy as a dress shield may be, it’s preferable to ruining a $2000 dress or destroying it by too-frequent dry cleaning. Bonus: you can raise your arms and never show a sweat ring.

Camisole and bloomers from Munsingwear ad, September 1927, Delineator.

P.S. [Edited 1/6/2019] Liza D at BVD sent a photo of the Kleinert’s dress shields she found in a vintage garment (Thanks, Liza!) :

Liza D found these used dress shields in a vintage garment. Those ugly stains would have been on the blouse if the woman who wore it hadn’t used these in the underarms. Click here for Liza’s post about it.


Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Late Victorian fashions, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Online Research Tool: UCLA’s Digital Fashion and Costume Collections

Image from Godey's Magazine, 1841, found through UCLA's Digital Image Collection. Casey Fashion Plates  rbc2847

Image from Godey’s Magazine, April 1841, found through UCLA’s Digital Image Collection. Casey Fashion Plates rbc2847

UCLA Library Digital Image Collection: Online Collections Related to Fashion and Costume

While following up recommendations for online Museum collections, I accidentally discovered this wonderful site, which I have barely begun to explore.  It acts as a portal to many online collections and research materials. The entire UCLA Library Digital Image Collection must be huge (click here  to see the Fashion home page), since there are dozens of sites (with descriptions and live links) related to just the site for Fashion and Costume (click here).  For a list of accessible fashion magazines and newspapers, click here. Below you’ll find just a small selection of the extraordinary collections you can find through the Digital Image Collection.

Casey’s Fashion Plates

The image at the top of this page is from the collection of Casey’s Fashion Plates at the Los Angeles County Library — over 6200 images of hand-colored fashion plates. (Click here.)

“The Joseph E. Casey Fashion Plate Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library contains over 6,200 handcolored fashion plates from British and American [and other] magazines dating from the 1790s to the 1880s. All of the plates are indexed and digitized for online viewing.” It includes thousands of dated images from early 1800’s sources, including Ackerman’s Repository, Godey’s Magazine, Ladies’ Museum, Ladies’ Magazine, La Belle Assemblee, Petit Courrier des Dames, and many, many more.

This digitized collection is really user-friendly, grouping the plates by date instead of by source. (You could search by magazine name if you wanted to.) You can search by date, too. Type in a year and pages and pages of plates appear. I chose 1815; this is one of many images that I found.  (Let’s pretend it’s Jane Austen and her sister, Cassandra.)

Fashions for March, 1815; image rbc0500 in the Casey Collection.

Fashions for March, 1815; image rbc0500 in the Casey Collection.

Brooklyn Museum’s Henri Bendel Fashion and Costume Sketch Collection

From the Bendel collection: Design by Lanvin, 1917.

A typical digitized sketch from the Bendel collection: Design by Lanvin, 1917.

Another wonderful collection accessible through the UCLA site is the Henri Bendel Fashion and Costume Sketch Collection 1912 to 1950. (924 images are online at present) This archive is in the possession of the Brooklyn Museum, but you don’t have to go to Brooklyn to see hundreds of sketches of dresses (and even bathing suits), including many designer names. (Click Here.)

It’s also well-thought out: when your mouse hovers over the thumbnail image, a description and date appears. Click to get a larger view and more data. There are over 11,000 sketches in the Bendel Collection, but most of the 924 that are online are for the era 1912 to early 1920s. (They are gorgeous, and most are in color! If you are a fan of styles from the Titanic era and the first years of Downton Abbey, prepare to spend hours here.) I saw designs attributed to Doucet, Worth, Callot Soeurs, Lanvin, Premet, and many other “name designers.” Among the few sketches from the 1930’s that have been put online was this evening gown by Schiaparelli:

From the Henri Bendel Collection online; Schiaparelli, 1934.

Image from the Henri Bendel Collection online; Schiaparelli, 1934.

Bonnie Cashin Collection of Fashion, Theater, and Film Costume Design

“The collection contains Bonnie Cashin’s personal archive documenting her design career. The collection includes Cashin’s design illustrations, writings on design, contractual paperwork, photographs of her clothing designs, and press materials including press releases and editorial coverage of her work.”

Lovers of Bonnie Cashin designs will enjoy the photos and design sketches of many of her classic coats, knits, etc.  (Click here.) The images are under copyright, but you can see a sample sketch for a characteristic tweed coat by clicking here. If you searched a little longer, you could probably find a photo documenting the finished coat. This is a huge archive.

You can also see more about Bonnie Cashin at the next online collection I’ve chosen from UCLA’s Digital Image Collection:

The Drexel Digital Museum Project Historic Costume Collection

The collection is searchable, (and images are under copyright) but this link will take you to the Galleries page — which includes slide shows of Bonnie Cashin clothes and Villager Sportswear textiles! Click here.

“The Drexel Digital Museum Project: Historic Costume Collection (digimuse) is a searchable image database comprised of selected fashion from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC), designs loaned to the project by private collectors for inclusion on the website, fashion exhibitions curated by Drexel faculty and fashion research by faculty and students. To best present and create access to this online resource, the image standards of the Museums and the Online Archive of California initiative and the metadata harvesting protocols of the Open Archive Initiative have been implemented to insure sustainability, extensibility and portability of the digimuse digital archive.” —

A World of Riches, Digitized

I will add some of these links to my sidebar of “Sites with Great Information,” so they will be easy to locate in the future. But first, I’m going take a coffee break and read a copy of the French Vogue, February 1921 (click here) thanks to the UCLA Library’s Digital Image Collection!



Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Exhibitions & Museums, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 1: Wear a Corset or Corselette


Paris designs, Delineator, January 1925. From Left: Doucet, Lanvin, Molyneux, Premet, Chanel.

Paris designs, Delineator, January 1925. From Left: Doucet, Lanvin, Molyneux, Premet, Chanel.

In the July, 1925 issue of Delineator magazine – published by the Butterick Publishing Company — columnist Evelyn Dodge gave the following advice on looking slender while wearing 1920s fashions. I will divide it into three parts — proper corsets, proper lingerie, and proper sizing and styles. I have already exerpted part of her article in Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets.  I will add illustrations from Delineator and other sources, and my own comments.

How to Reduce Your Hips Three Inches – 1925

“My subject this morning, dear friends, I know you will find delightful. My text is ‘How you can reduce your hips three inches in three minutes without diet, drugs or exercise and still eat your way through June without giving up strawberry shortcake, asparagus, and any of the other pleasures of the season. . . .’

“I can’t tell you how you can become slender, but I can show you very easily how you can look several inches slighter and thirty or forty pounds lighter than you do now. Almost any woman can reduce her actual measurements appreciably by proper corseting, proper lingerie and the proper size clothes. Old shapeless corsets with bent and bulging bones, too much lingerie cut on too wide lines and made of clumsy materials, clothes that are too large, too long and too wide for the present fashion will make a mountain out of any feminine molehill.”

[Comment: As a costume designer, I could usually create the illusion that a 145 pound actress weighed 133 pounds (or that my 160 pound self weighed 10 pounds less), but erasing forty pounds is promising a lot! As an opera designer once told me, “You can create visual illusions with costumes — up to a point, but there’s only so much that vertical lines can do for a singer who’s built like a tugboat.” ]

The 1920s Ideal Figure

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

In 1925, when Evelyn Dodge wrote this article, she said, “The boyish figure sans bust and curves and waistline is the ideal silhouette.”

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Tip Number One: Wear a Corset or a Corselette.

“A Few Years Ago Women Took Off Corsets . . . and Let Their Figures Go.” — Evelyn Dodge

Dodge attributed the change in women’s figures to the relatively shapeless styles of the preceding decade.

[I know that fans of Titanic and Downton Abbey may not believe that the styles of the late 1910s could be extremely unflattering; that’s because theatrical costume designers do a great deal of period research and then select the clothing that a modern audience will find most attractive.  If a woman is supposed to look young and appealing, or sophisticated and sexy, she has to be dressed in a way that conveys those character points to an audience that has not done months of period research.] Here are some outfits for women, circa 1917:

Three outfits from the Perry, Dame Catalog, 1916.

Three outfits from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917.

If you were an actress — whose next job might depend on being shapely — which would you prefer to wear?

Even outfits designed by Gabrielle Chanel could add pounds in 1916:

1916 designs by Gabrielle Channel [sic] from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates, cited by Quentin Bell.

1916 designs by Gabrielle Channel [sic] from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates, republished by Quentin Bell in On Human Finery.

Under all that fabric, it would be easy to put on a few inches around the hips without even noticing. (Weighing yourself at home was not an option when scales were huge, heavy machines.)

Then came the 1920s, when the ideal figure was flat in front and flat behind.

Warner’s corset, March 1925. Delineator.

Warner’s corset, March 1925. Delineator.

Sweater Girls, World War I

Young Women Wearing Sweaters, California, 1917-1918

Young Women Wearing Fashionable Sweaters, California, 1917-1918. Note how similar their sweaters are to the ones in the catalogs, below.

Evelyn Dodge continued:

“A few years ago during the vogue of the sweater with its concealing lines, women took off corsets, drew a long breath and let their figures go.

Sweaters from the Perry, Dame Catalog, 1917. Dover Books.

Sweaters from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917. Dover Books.

1922 sweaters from Sears catalog. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Sweaters from Sears catalog, 1922. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

“Some of the results were good, others were bad. The large waist and the resulting lowering of the bust and straightening of the hip has a youthful air.  [!]  But the diaphragm bulge, the middle-aged spread, the very pronounced increase in weight, have proved ugly and stubborn.

Models Photographed for Ads in Delineator, 1917. These figures would be out of fashion in the nineteen twenties.

Models Photographed for Ads in Delineator, 1917. Their figures would be out of fashion in the nineteen twenties. Imagine the woman on the left in a 1920s dress.

“Many women who have tried going without corsets are now wearing them again – not to make their waists smaller, but to flatten the abdomen and lower back.”

Bon Ton Corset Ad in Delineator. April 1925.

Bon Ton Corset Ad in Delineator. April 1925.

The Modart Corset company ran a series of “X-ray vision” ads showing corsets as worn under clothes.

Young woman wearing a Modart Corset under her dress. October 1924, Delineator.

Young woman wearing a Modart Corset under her dress. October 1924, Delineator.

Corsets and Corselettes

Corsets from Sears catalog, 1925-26. From Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Corsets from Sears catalog, 1925-26. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Many women wore a Brassiere or Bandeau to compress their breasts, plus a corset to control their hips and abdomen. (See the “Detachable Ceinture Step-in,” above.) This could leave an uncomfortable and unsightly ridge of flesh bulging out where the brassiere and corset met, so the Brassiere + Girdle combination — also called a corselette — became very popular:

Treo "Brassiere Girdle combination garment" ad from Delineator, May 1925.

Treo “Brassiere Girdle combination garment” ad from Delineator, May 1925. This could also be called a corselette or corsette.

Dodge explains: “Most young girls and practically all women need some sort of figure control . . . . Not all women need corsets. Women with young slender figures find that the corselet, which is a combination brassiere and hip-confiner, is sufficient.”

Butterick corselette pattern #5691, January 1925.

Butterick corselette pattern #5691, January 1925.

The boneless corselet (spelled many ways) would have acted on a woman’s body the way that sausage casing acts on sausage, redistributing her flesh into a tube shape.  Although it had no metal boning, this corselette’s vertical flat-felled seams pass over the bust points, effectively flattening the breasts. Tension between the shoulder straps and the stocking garters would finish the job. (For more information about corsets and corselets, click here. For more information about 1920s bust flatteners, click here.)

Coming Soon: How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 2: Wear the Right Lingerie



Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs

Elgin Watch Ad, 1928: Art Deco Designer Watches

‘…An Elgin watch at Christmas has always been a perfect … and permanent … expression of Christmas sentiment.’ — Elgin ad in the Delineator magazine, December, 1928.1928 dec elgin watches ad top

Any lovers of Art Deco or ‘le style moderne’ would be happy to find one of these watches in their Christmas stockings, but we’d need another kind of time machine to buy one at 1928 prices.

[I’ll post the full page ad first, then break it into smaller sections for legibility.]1928 dec elgin watches ad full

1920s Pocket Watchespocket watches Elgin

After World War I, wrist watches began to replace pocket watches for men. Only three pocket watches are shown here, all with white gold cases.

The watch at top is priced at $100; the center watch has a 19 jewel C.H. Hurlburd movement and cost $350, and the bottom watch, with ‘a smart cushion case’ cost $50.

Art Deco Designer Watches for Women

I would love to own any of these Art Deco designer wristwatches. [I have labeled them in the photo.] 1928 designer watches

Pierre Cardin may hold the record for the most ‘licensed products,’ but 6 of these 1928 ladies’ watches have designer names attached to them. Lanvin and Molyneux are the most familiar names today, but Agnes, Jenny, Premet, and Louiseboulanger [always written as one word] were successful couturiers whose work was often pictured in the Delineator.  All of these ‘Parisienne’ watches are priced at $35.  They are costume jewelry. That may seem very inexpensive, but consider this ad from the back of the magazine, March 1929: Be a Nurse, March 1929Men’s and Women’s Watches in ‘le style moderneMen's and Women's wristwatches top of page

A. (top left) Set with 2 genuine diamonds; 2 synthetic sapphires — $68

B. (top rt) An Exquisite Elgin — $35

C. (ctr left) Ladies’ Sports Model — $10

D. (ctr rt) Set with 16 genuine diamonds. 17 jewel movement — $200

E. (btm left) Case set with 20 genuine diamonds. 17 jewel movement — $260

F. (btm rt) The Famous Elgin Legionnaire — $19


G. (top left) The hours are enamelled on the outside of the case — $95Men's and Women's Wristwatches btm of pg

H. (top rt) A smart restrained style — $35

I. (ctr left) Modernistic case. 17 jewel movement — $50

J. (ctr rt) Lady and Tiger case. 15 jewel movement — $65

K. (btm left) Case inlaid with enamel. 15 jewel movement — $65

L. (btm rt) Another distinguished Elgin Legionnaire — $25


Elgin Watch Price List, December 19281928 dec elgin watches price list


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Vintage Accessories