Figure 1.-- Here is a type of underwaist HBC has yet to notice. It's more complicated than almost any we have discussed thus far. These underwaists were designed to hold up long stockings and other garments. Fortunately the illustration, from The Youth's Companion (September 24, 1903, p. 451, is very graphic and makes it clear just how the waist was constructed. As the nam implies it is for boys from 2 to 12 years of age and is called the "Rugby Waist".
Here is a type of underwaist HBC has yet to notice. It's more complicated than almost any we have discussed thus far. Fortunately the illustration, from The Youth's Companion (September 24, 1903, p. 451, is very graphic and makes it clear just how the waist was constructed. It is for boys from 2 to 12 years of age and is called the "Rugby Waist".
The company is Best & Co. Best's "Lilliputian Bazaar" is a reference to the part of their store that catered for small children. The term "Lilliputian" of course derives from Jonathan Swift's famous 18th-century satire, Gulliver's Travels, one section of which describes a race of people (of Lilliput) who are tiny in comparison to Gulliver. Best & Co., the distributor located in New York City, was quite a well-known store at the turn-of-the-20thbcentury, but this waist was only available from the New York store and had to be ordered by mail by mothers who lived in other parts of the country. The company offers its catalog. The ad copy read, "Our Fall Catalogue now ready, will be sent for 4 c. postage. Describes over 2000 articles--1000 of which are illustrated--for the Complete Outfitting of Boys, Girls and Infants. We have no branch stores--no agents. Correspondence
receives prompt attention. Address Dept. 15, 60-62 W. 23d Street, New York."
The ad appeared in The Youth's Companion, (September 24, 1903, p. 451, The publication described itself as "An Illustrated Weekly Paper For Young People and the Family." It was established in 1827. The magazine was published in Boston, Massachusetts, by the Perry Mason Company, 201 Columbus Avenue. It appeared under this title until 1929. It was in the late 19th century one of the most popular weekly periodicals in America and known for the quality of the writing. The magazine catered to teen-age boys and girls especially, containing articles on sports, on hobbies, and on various literary and cultural interests. But it was really a family magazine and had many advertisements for clothing, both adult and children's. The magagazine had a very strict policy about the advertising carried because its readers were mostly children.
Here is a type of waist HBC has yet to notice. A reader writes, "I am not quite sure why this term is applied, but I suspect it is a waist with some analogies to the Rugby Suit and refers in some way to the suspender attachments for holding up knee pants." HBC is not sure about this. Perhaps it was a name to suggest that it could hold up to rugged wear such as might be experienced in energetic sports like rugby. The reference to rugby here, however, seems a little unusual as American boys did not play rugby, except in elite private schools. We do not notice any other company using the term of "rugby waists".
Best describes this garment as a "Rugby waist". A HBC readers know, manufacturers and reatilers used all kinds of different terms to describe their product. They were not always consistent or in somes cases accurate with these descriptions. We would classify the Best waist as a type of underwaist.
Underwaists were another type of support garment. Underwaists (sometimes called panty-waists) were worn by younger boys and girls to support additional underwear (such as bloomers or panties) or outer clothing (such as trousers or skirts). These bodices tended to be worn by boys only until about age 10, although some models came in ages for boys as old as 12. Some models were specifically for girls and others for boys, but the great majority of styles could be worn by both boys and girls. They tended to be made of elastic knitted fabric (and therefore rather form-fitting) or of cambric material and a bit looser. They nearly always were equipped with reinforcement straps, waist buttons, and garter tabs for attaching hose supporters. The popularity of underwaists declined in the later 1930s and early 1940s although they were still available, usually in the preferred knitted style, up until about 1945. When long stockings stopped being worn by school children, the main function of the underwaist ceased to exist.
The underwaist referred to here as a rugby suit is more complicated than almost any we have discussed thus far. Fortunately the illustration is very graphic and makes it clear just how the waist was constructed. This waist is a sleeveless white undergarment, made of a sturdy "twill" material, and obviously worn over the boy's underpants or sleeveless union suit. Like most other underwaists, it has strap reinforcements over the shoulder that are sewn into the garment to take the strain of attached outer clothing such as knee pants and long stockings. But this waist has a novel feature not often seen--namely suspender straps, made apparently of elastic, that attach to the sewn-in reinforcement shoulder straps just below the shoulder blades on the boy's back. These end in three back buttons for the attachment of knee pants. There are also reinforcement strips under each armhole on which additional buttons are sewn and to which white hose supporters are attached. The hose supporters do not seem to be detachable. The protruding tab at the top of the supporters seems to be a means of adjusting their length. It may be a kind of buckle. Although The elastic suspender straps are free of the waist from the back of the shoulders down, thus allowing for greater liberty of movement. The Dr. Parker-style garter waist had a combination belt and supporters and was developed about the same time seems to have had much the same function as the "Rugby" underwaist here.
The Best waist was for boys from 2 to 12 years of age. Since this ad appeared in September, presumably it was aimed at mothers who were outfitting their boys for school. The ad specifies that this waist was for boys as the choice of Rugby waist suggests. underwaists were worn by both boys and girls in 1903, this waist appears to be specifically designed for boys because of the trousers suspender feature. Suspenders would have had no function in the case of girls' dresses. The waist is designed with the athletic freedom of boys in mind, stressing "Free play for all exercises without strain."
Most boys of this period wore black hose supporters, but white was an option for girls and younger boys. White hose supporters may have been preferred by the carriage trade such as Best & Co. appealed to. white supporters may have been preferred by the carriage trade even this early. It's just that in most of our ads for supporters in the first decade and a half of the century, black seems to be the more common color, perhaps because black long stockings were so common. By the 1920s and 30s white had become more popular than black--more
like the color of underwear. And in the 1940s we hardly see black at all.
The Best ad copy read, "Best & Co. Liliputian Bazaar. Rugby Waist. Original and best. Supports clothing from shoulder by three back buttons on suspender attached to patent reenforcement around armholes. Free play for all exercises without strain. Best Twill for Boys, 2 to 12 years. 65 cents."
A reader tells us, "Please note that Best & Co. did cater to the elite, especially at the turn of the twentieth century so the term Rugby waist may be a reference to Anglophile wealthy New Yorkers."
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