If you couldn't tell by the topics I cover on this blog, I really enjoy learning about the little everyday things of days gone by. Sometimes though, I get super curious about an area of vintage living that I don't know much about. That is when I need to call in other vintage enthusiasts.
When strapping myself into a garter belt or rolling garters over my stockings I always wonder how woman of the golden era wore these things everyday and just how functional these items actually were. Around this time of pondering Elide of Previously contacted me about being a guinea pig for her line of garters to test the functionality of them in my everyday wardrobe. What perfect timing!
What I found in my back & forth with Elide is that she really knew her stuff about garters and foundation garments, to the point where I almost wanted to take notes while reading her emails! I thought that you, my lovely readers, would also be interested in Elide's garter knowledge so I asked her to write a guest post and she agreed. Below is Part 1 of her guest post on garters.
The process of researching and recreating garters made during the 1920's has led me down a few interesting paths. One question that kept coming up though, was how functional were the garters I was trying to replicate? It seemed doubtful to me that women were only wearing garters such as these to keep up their stockings. If that were the case, what else could they have been wearing?
To answer that question, I starting looking into the types of hosiery that a woman might have worn at that time. Stockings in the 1920s were made from silk in the early part of the decade. The addition of rayon stockings in the later half meant the sheer look that silk provided became more affordable. Both types of stockings were usually fully fashioned and had no elasticity, which meant they needed something to hold them up. In the early 1900's women were wearing corsets, which had suspenders that clipped to the tops of their stockings. I knew that garter belts came along at some point in the first half of the 20th century, but it wasn't an undergarment that I associated with the twenties.
My understanding of 1920's culture was that most women eschewed the corset for greater freedom of movement and the fashionable new silhouette. The Edwardian style of dress emphasized an hourglass figure and the 1910's gradually saw this evolving into a more tubular shape with a dropped waist. I also thought that by rejecting a constraining undergarment, women were making a statement about their autonomy and lifestyle. Consulting Valerie Steele's The Corset: a Cultural History, I learned that more women were wearing some kind of foundation garment in the twenties than not. In her description of the changing garments and body type, Steele writes "although the traditional boned corset gradually disappeared during the 1920's, most women still wore some kind of corset, corselette, or girdle." (pg.152)
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Keep your eyes peeled next week for Part 2. Elide will cover how the corset changed in the 1920s and the entry of garters, complete with patent illustrations of garter inventions.