No, not the actual stuff! I am not about to air her bloomers or anything. 😮
My elder grandmother was born around 1908 and got married in early 1930s, with her first child born in 1936, so 1930s was very much “her” decade – the time when she was young.
The 30s remained with my grandmother for the rest of her life in more or less obvious ways, the less obvious one being her undergarments. She liked her 1930s ones and stuck to the style for the rest of her life – her sister was an accomplished dressmaker and made her replacements as time went on. And because of this, I remember what they were like! 😁
A set of undergarments consisted of a bra, a corselette with garters, a pair of stockings and a pair of bloomers. The bra, corselette and stockings formed a single combined garment when worn as they were attached to each other – essential to keep everything from riding up or down as you went about your business. This was very much a comfort-driven outfit, made even better by the choice of materials: the bra and corselette were made of cotton satin, and stockings could be silk, nylon, cotton or wool, according to the weather and occasion. In summer, when it was too hot for stockings of any kind, you wore garter thigh bands where normally the tops of your stockings would be, and you clipped the corselette’s garters to that.
The bra was very much what we wear today, except it had no moulded cups and no elastics of any kind – my grandmother liked to boil her linens, and that would destroy elastics in no time. But it appears that a well-fitting bra made to measure does not require elastics to be comfortable, and shoulder straps can be adjusted with a little slider the same way as we do it today.
The cups were padded and quilted instead of being moulded. The quilt sandwich had soft cotton cloth against the body, cotton batting in between and cotton satin on the outside. Embellished with cotton lace and quilted with cotton thread, the whole thing was boil-proof and lovely to wear. It was fitted snug against the ribs under the bust but not too tight and certainly looser than the recommended bra fitting of today (does anyone else find these recommended sizes way too small or is it just me?).
There was a row of buttons on the band under the bust for attaching the corselette.
A corselette is a kind of corset with very few bones or no bones at all. It appeared in 1920s to help create that lean boyish silhouette. Originally it could be laced quite tight and quickly evolved into tight fitting elastic “shapewear” things that you find in shops to this day – they resemble a piece of a scuba diving suit and provide about as much breathability. I find them absolutely awful, they squeeze my bowels and give me sharp colicks. 😭
In 1930s there was also a movement towards more comfortable underwear, certainly for working women who couldn’t be fainting every half an hour, regardless of how feminine that might make them look. 😝 My grandmother’s corselette was of that type. It extended from the empire line where you buttoned it onto the bra, and down to the thighs ending with garter clips to clip to the stockings. It was snug but not tight, it closed with corset hooks along the front and had laces on the back so it could be adjusted to the daily changes of the figure rather than forcing the figure to squeeze into a hard shell. It had high cut-outs on the central front and back about 2 inches under the hip joint which allowed for full leg movement.
Now you see why you needed stockings – if the legs of the corselette were not attached to anything, they would flap about. There were just a few bones in it to keep the shape and prevent it from wrinkling up around the waist. And it was made of cotton.
Like the bra, the corselette was made entirely of non-stretch cotton, but it was not padded or quilted. There was just the satin upper and the soft cotton lining. The bones could even be plastic because they were removable for washing, just like the garter clips.
This garment was not meant to change your figure. It was simply a piece of underwear to smooth over what you had and to allow your dress to glide over it. Because it was satin, you didn’t necessarily need a slip.
The underpants were worn over the corselette for practical reasons. You could imagine different kinds of knickers to work here, even a thong. 😯 Although in winter long bloomers would be a lot warmer. 😉
I shall only say that the knickers were not high waisted (i.e., not “full brief”), but instead they went up to about an inch under the waist, so just above the central cut-outs on the front and back of the corselette. This was important so as not to add extra layers around the waist as it would be uncomfortable if you were wearing a belt over your clothes, in particular with a separate skirt and top.
The knickers were also made of cotton – you guessed it! 😀 But this cotton was a fine knit like today’s cotton jersey, so they stretched. Fancy knickers could be made of silky viscose or even pure silk – also as a knit, although you couldn’t boil those of course, so no good for everyday use, according to my grandma. ☺
Why am I writing this?
Apart from the saucieness of it, you mean? 😉
I mentioned before that I wear a corset every day to deal with my back sway. It has been working miracles, so I keep wearing it and am always looking for ways to improve it. Recently I stumbled upon thispost about a 1911 corset and this post about a 1930s corset – both by The Rogue of the Thread. I asked questions and a discussion followed, and suddenly I remembered my grandmother’s corsets that I’ve seen so often in the wash! Ah! Now I understood how they worked!! 😀 And of course I had to tell you all about it.