Ferris made mainly underwaists and corsets for girls
and women. This ad shows that they also made a model for boys. There are lots of Ferris waist advertisements in the early magazines but almost always for girls. This ad, which uses the word "manly" prominently, shows that the Ferris company was trying to get mothers to buy Ferris waists for their sons as well as for their daughters. So this ad is one is of historical importance.
Ferris was a well jnown company in the 1900s. The company made mainly underwaists and corsets for girls and women. We note Ferris corset waists in the 1880s. This ad here shows that they also made a model for boys. There are lots of Ferris waist advertisements in the early magazines but almost always for girls. This ad, which uses the word "manly" prominently, shows that the Ferris company was trying to get mothers to buy Ferris waists for their sons as well as for their daughters. So this ad is one of historical importance. We do not know a great deal about the company, except that it was located in New York and the company was operating at least as early as the 1880s.
This ad appeared in The Youth's Companion (February 14, 1907, p. 83) in the midst of winter. 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.
We note major changes in clothing fashions during the early 20th century. One garment that does not appear to have changed much was the undeer waist and other support garments. There were some innovations subsequently, but they seem minor in comparison with changes in clothing fashions.
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.
One occasionally sees boys' underwaists referred to as "corset waists" in sales catalogs. This was in part because some of the manufacturres, like Ferris Brothers, also made women's corsets. This was another term that boys came to dislike in the same way that they detested the term "panty waist". Both terms carried feminine connotations and older boys who had to wear Ferris waists, panty waists, or corset waists were very eager to graduate
into more adult suspender waists or garter waists.
The illustration shows the construction of the waist
very clearly. It is made of "Strong Coutil", a sturdy non-elastic cotton material, and has "movable elastic straps" to which to attach knee pants. On the boy's back you can see the movable straps (mini-suspenders), attached at the top to the waist buttons in the boy's lower back and at the bottom to the knee pants buttons underneath the waist band of the trousers. The waist also
has "fasteners for safety pins that prevent tearing". These of course are for the hose supporters that were attached to special eyeletted tabs on the waist so that the strain of the boy's garters would not tear the fabric of the waist. This waist buttons up the front unlike many girls' models which tended to button in back. The front buttoning made the waist easier for little boys to put on without assistance from mother.
This boys' underwaist was called the "Ferris Good Sense Waist" and was manufactured by the Ferris Brothers, principally a maker of women's corsets. Notice that this Ferris waist is only for boys from 2 to 10 years of age. Some underwaists of similar
design were worn by boys as old as 12, but most boys wore them only to about age 10. Freedom of movement and durability
are both emphasized in this advertisement since many waists could feel restrictive to active boys. The waist came in two colors--drab (a kind of grayish or light olive color) and white. The ad text reads: "Style 279. Price 50 c. Strong coutil with movable elastic straps. Buttons up front. Fits like a vest. Drab and white. Ages 2 to 10 years. Manly Little Men. Anything that interferes with children's movements, intereferes with their grown, strength and health. Ferris Good Sense Waist is a garment that answers every requirement. Shoulder straps take all the weight of the clothing. Allows freedom of movement and supports the back and abdomen. Fasteners for safety pins [of the hose supporters] that prevent
tearing. Inferior imitations are sometimes sold as Ferris Waists. Protect yourself by looking for the name FERRIS on the front of each waist. Sold by leading dealers. Ferris Book Free. The Ferris Bros. Company, 341 Broadway, New York"
Interestingly, the manufacturer tries to counter the feminine
connotation of boys' underwaists by specifying that this particular model is for "Manly Little Men."The Ferris ad here very prominently uses the term "manly". This means that they were trying to make a point that these waists were suitable foe boys. This suggests that some people must have thought that they were not. We can not quantify the relative importance of these two opinions, but the ad does seem to suggest a difference of opinion among parents in the 1900s.
The 1907 advertising text here mentions "Fasteners for safety pins that prevent
tearing". Another ad in the same journal, The Youth's Companion, which
appeared in March, 1906, p. 11, actually illustrates the fastener in an
inset. See the attachment to this email.
The Ferris Common Sense Waist, which was manufactured in different
models for both boys and girls, had garter tabs at each side located
directly beneath one of the waist buttons. The tab was a heavy piece
of cotton tape with a metal device at the end through which the safety
pin of the hose supporter could be inserted and locked in place. The
device was patented by the Ferris company and referred to as the
"Ferris Patent Safety Pin Holder" It was invented to hold children's
hose supporters firmly in place. The text says that the fastener
"Holds the pin [of the supporter] securely and prevents any tearing of
the cloth." In some more primitive underwaists for children, the
garters were pinned directly onto the waistband of the underwear and
could tear away from the garment during rough and ready play or
athletic activity. This Ferris fastener seems to have been the
ancestor of the "pin-tube" that later waists and waist union suits
adopted as a means of securing hose supporters. The Nazareth Waist
Company, for instance, used pin tubes. The E-Z Waist Company (the
competing firm), however made a point of avoiding metal tubes on waists
because they could get crushed in the wringers of washing machines or
perhaps rust during laundering. The E-Z company used tape loops
instead of metal pin tubes as holders for the hose supporters. This
illustration gives us a bit more insight into the developing technology
of holding up long stockings in the first decade of the 20th century.
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