Eaton's Summer-weight Waists (Canada, 1919)

Figure 1.--A waist was a shirt-like undergarment used to support other garments. Eaton offered these three types of summer-weight waists in their 1919 Spring and Summer catalog.

A waist was a shirt-like undergarment used to support other garments. Eaton's offered summer-weight waists in their Spring and Summer 1919 catalog (p. 148). These are three different style waists. One is for girls, one for boys, and another for both labelded as suitable for children.

T. Eaton Department Store

T. Eaton's was a well known Toranto department store. Their catalogs provide a good indication of the styles popular in Canada at the time. This Canadian retailer began publishing mailorder catalogs in 1881, at least that is we begin noticing them. We have catalogs from the 1970s, although we do not know about the company's current status. The 1970s catalgs were full of clothes which look like American styles. Timothy Eaton, founder of the huge all-Canadian department store chain bearing his name, was an Irish immigrant born on a tennant farm in northern Ireland. He was born in 1834 and followed his brothers to Canada in 1854. His brothers had opened a small dty goods store in St. Marys. Timothy Eaton began his business with a small dry goods business in Toronto during 1869. He built a giant retail store in Ontario’s capital city along with a country-wide mail-order business and a big new branch store in Winnipeg, by the time of his death in 1907. The Winnipeg branch was the first of many branches. Eaton Company business establishments eventually spread all across Canada when Timothy’s family successors extended the Eaton empire. Timothy masterminded the company during the crucial period of its early development, spanning nearly 40 years. It was Timothy who implemented the concept of the "Department Store", in Canada, a concept which were already flourishing in London, Paris, and New York.


The term "waists" had two meanings. One was a shirt like garment without tails and often without collars. The other meaning was the one here, a kind of undershirt worn as a support garment.

Waist Types

Eaton offered three different waists. The boy's waist opens down the front whereas the girl's waist buttons down the back. The children's model at the right (for either boys or girls) can be worn either way--buttoned in back or in front. Note also that the buttons around the waistline in these models are designed to hold up underpants, not outerwear skirts or short pants. Another difference from the models HBC has noted.

Strong white cotton waist (girls)

The Eaton's ad copy reads, "Strong White Cotton Waist. Ages 6 to 14. 98-1500 Girls' Waist made of strong white cotton, well-stayed. Two rows of taped buttons for underwear. To give extra strength, the adjustable hose supporters are fastened on a graduated strap which extends from the under-arm. Very light and cool for Summer wear, and at this price a very good value. Price 65 c."

White cotton Waist (boys)

The Eaton's ad copy read, "Boy's Waist of White Cotton. Ages 6 to 12 years. 98-1501 Boys' Waist; the material used is durable White Cotton with a double graduated under-arm section on which strong adjustable hose supporters are attached; well-stayed, taped bone buttons, fastens in front. This garment is exceptionally well made to withstand the strain put upon it by the active, growing boy. Price 65 c."

Practical and low-priced waist(children)

The Eatons ad copys read, "Practical and Low-Priced. Ages 6 to 12 years. 98-1503 Child's waist of fine knitted cotton, well-stayed with tape. May be fastened in the back or the front and worn as a combination vest [i.e. undershirt] and waist during the warm weather. It has two rows of buttons at the waistline to which to fasten the underwear, also fasteners for hose supporters. Suitable for a boy or girl. Price, 50 c."

Gender Trends

ANotice that the the girl's version is not front buttoning while the boy's is. Normally waists solely sold for boy's almost always seem to have front buttoning while girl's or children's (boys and girls) waists varied--almost always adopting the boy's front buttoning style.


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Created: 8:22 PM 9/18/2004
Last updated: 2:24 AM 9/21/2004