American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1922--Waists

Figure 1.--Waists were worn by both boys and girls, they appaer, however, to have been most widely worn by girls.

Wards offered four styles of waists. These are worn under the shirt to support other garments such as pants and stockings. The waists are included on a page for girls underwear. The ad copy for one of the waists specifies for boys or girls, there is no reference to gender for the other three. They were available in sizes from 2 to 12 years. There is also a bloomer waist combination.


The different waists included the following.

Knitted waist

Add copy reads: "Combed cotton; low neck; front closing; reinforced seams. Sizes 2 to 12 years. State size wanted. 32 C 7442 - White only ..... 25 cents. Postage, 2 cents extra."

Durable cambric

Add copy reads: "Suitable for a boy or girl. Closes in back. Bone buttons. Sizes 2 to 12 years. State size wanted. 32 C 7418 - White only ..... 25 cents. Postage, 2 cents extra." HBC notes this is the only waist white Ward's indicated was for boys and girls. We are not sire if this meant that the others were for girls only. It may be that the knitted waist was for girls only because it had some lace trim. It seems to HBC that the two two durable cambric waists show below could have also been worn by boys or girls. HBC does not, however, fully understand the features of these waists and perhaps we do not understand the gender conotations. We finf it curious, however, that one of the back buttoning waists was specifided as xsuitable for both boys and girls.

Durable cambric waist

Add copy reads: "Adjustable shoulder straps; reinforced seams. Front opening. Sizes 2 to 12 years. State size wanted. 32 C 7397 - White only ..... 29 cents. Postage, 2 cents extra."

Durable cambric waist

Add copy reads: "Child's skeleton waist. reonforced around waist. Sizes 2 to 12 years. State size wanted. 32 C 7418 - White only ..... 29 cents. Postage, 2 cents extra."

Bloomer waist combination

Add copy reads: "Waist of crossbar nainsook. Bloomers of black sateen. Drop seat. Sizes 2 t 12 years. State size wanted. 32 C 5866 - Black with White top ..... 89 cents. Postage, 2 cents extra."


HBC has the following comments on the waists shown here.


HBC had assumed that the placement of these waists on a page with girls' underthings suggest that they were primarily worn by girls and associated with girl's clothing. As the ad copy specified, however, at least one syle was suitable for both boys and girls. So clearly these were not specifically girls' garments. HBC has noted that advertisments in the 1910s showed these underwaists to be worn extensively by both girls and boys. Actually advertisements in the 1940s clearly show that stocking supporters or waists as they were still being called were bwing worn by both boys and girls. It may well have been that for older children they were more common for girls, but the 1940s adevertising clearly suggest that these waists were very commonly worn by boys and girls. As long stockings were much more common in the 1920s than the 1940s it would seem almost certainly if both boys and girls wore them in the 1940s that the same must have been true in the 1920s.


All of these children were made for children from 2 to 12 years. It may be, however, that the older children wearing them were mostly girls. HBC can not confirm this, but by the 1920s it began to be less common for older boys to wear long stockings, which was the primary reason why older boys would wear these waists.


HBC as stated above does not fully understand the purpose of these waists for boys . We believe that they were primarily associated with holding up trousers and wearing long stockings. The buttons on the waists provided support for both purposes.
Trousers: These waists may have also been used to support a variety of button-on clothing styles, primarily worn by younger boys. Younger boys did not commonly wear belts. Some blouses had buttons that could be inserted in corespnding button holes in the trouses, often knee or short pants. If not, one of these waists could be worn to which the trousers could be buttned. Many pants for younger boys appeared to have button holes in the waistband. If the shirt did not have buttons, which many sailor suits did not, then waists would have to be used. Some sailor suits had back ties which could be used instead of a waist.
Stockings: These waust helped keep up the long stockings up which were still quite common in the 1920s. Some children wore these waists to attach long stocking supporters. The stocking supporters were rather like suspenders and needed something to attach to. Boys shorts were still generally long in the 1920s and long stockings often came just above the knees. Thus the stocking supporters had to be relatively long.

Stocking Supporters

The boys and girls wearing long stockings in the second half of the 19th Century held them up with various styles of stocking supporters. I believe that boys did not wear these supporters commonly in the first half of the 19th Century because kneepants were not nearly as common. Boys wearing long trousers did not commonly wear stocking supporters. It was not until the 1870s when kneepants became more commonly worn that stocking supporters became widely worn. Both boys and girls wore them. They were several different styles, including over the shoulder and waist styles. They were not very comfortable especially for boys involved in strenous outdoor activities. Notably Lord Baden Powell when he designed the first Boy Scout uniform chose kneesocks so cumbersome stocking supporters would not be necessary. Information is available on specialized stocking supporters. Some were designed rather like waists. Other were to be used with waists

Christopher Wagner

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Created: May 29, 2001
Last updated: July 17, 2001